HomeBUSINESSMbarara Central market fish vendors issued a one-week Ultimatum

Mbarara Central market fish vendors issued a one-week Ultimatum

Joshua Nahamya

06 September 2023

Mbarara city has so far lost over 18 Mln supposed to be collected from fresh fish vendors in

Mbarara central market.

While carrying placards, and chanting on the streets of Mbarara on Monday, fish vendors have

vowed not to pay 100,000 shillings rent as levied by the city council. The vendors added that

they are not willing to quit the central market, a facility they have occupied for over 20 years.

Justine Natukunda, chairperson of fish vendors confirmed that since September 2022,

the fresh fish dealers have not been paying the monthly market rental fees to the city council

citing the high cost as a burden on their low incomes.

“After occupying the modern market in June 2022, the minister for local government Hon.

Raphael Magyezi gave us two months without paying to get used to the new facility, also Lord

Mayor Robert Kakyebezi added us another free month meaning that we were supposed to start

paying in October 2022 but I want to tell you that since then we have never paid anything to

the city council as landlords” she said

Natukunda explained that previously council was charging them rent of 30,000 shillings but

After reconstructing the central market, rent fee charges have increased to 100,000 shillings

per kiosk.

She said the new market was constructed for low-income earners thus claiming that they

won’t remit such high rent fees.

“We petitioned the city council to reduce it to at least 50,000. They refused. We cannot afford

that pay and that is the reason why we have spent all this time without complying” Natukunda


Robert Kabare, a fish vendor also said they can keep suffering at the expense of the city council

authorities in the market that was constructed by the government.

“We are in great pain and fear because the enforcement is threatening to come for us at any

time. We’ve written several letters to the city town clerk but they have adamantly refused to

listen to us therefore we appeal to the president to help us” Kabare said

“They warned that on Friday they will come and lock our kiosks but if they do, we are ready to

match to the president” he added

Crash Rugema, the publicity secretary for fish vendors, appealed to the minister of local

government Raphael Magyezi and premiere Robinah Nebanja for their rescue.

“We are 15 fresh fish vendors being oppressed by exorbitant rent fees because those that were

paying 200,000 were reduced to 100,000 but for us instead of reducing they increased to

100,000 shillings and we were only given one week to get out of the market so we are asking

why this this imbalance?” Rugema said

He said the daily fish business is an income source for widows, and orphans in Mbarara thus

appealing to the mentioned officers to revoke the one-week ultimatum.

“Without fish, our mothers, and grandmothers won’t have what to feed their children and where to

get school dues for their children so to the concerned we request your support”

Abas Nsengimana, who occupied the central market in 1970, said he was not ready to fight back but

will not quit the government facility.

 “If it means dying we are ready to die from this market because we don’t have anywhere else

to go. Some of us have traded from this facility for the last 50 years, it is where we spend the

day looking for what to eat and educate our children” Nsengimana said

He said they are ready to pay 100,000 shillings rent if the council can pay for their water and

electricity bills.

“Our deep freezers consume 10,000 shillings every day if you multiply by 30 days a month that

is 300,000 shillings, a unit of water here is 11000 and we usually use two units meaning 22000 a

month if you add on that rent of 100,000 then it means every month a fresh fish vendor spends

422000 and that is a lot of money that we don’t get from this kind of business”. Nsengimana


He added that they are challenged by limited transport means of getting fish from Kalangala

Island to Mbarara which the government should address.

Abas Nsengyimana vendor that has operated in centrla market for over 50 years.

“If you don’t get a bus with little luggage it means you have to wait for the next day and through

different means of transport you find us spending around 30,000 shillings every on transport

alone” Nsengimana said

Fatuma Katiti also said, “I came to this market in 1982, and it’s where I have spent all my entire

life. Now you chase me to go where”.

“I am a single mother I have children and grandchildren so chasing me from this market I don’t

know where to go” Katiti said

A kilogram of fish is now bought at 11000 shillings and a big fish is sold between 25000-30000

while a small fish is between 8000-12000 shillings

Simon Smith Mwijuka, chairman Mbarara City Traders Association (MBACITA) also said he will

stand with fish vendors to get justice.

“These vendors can’t afford the 100,000 at least they are ready to pay 50,000 but if council

insists then we shall follow the necessary suit to oppose this level of oppression from council”

Mwijuka said

“Why would you increase a low income earner from 30,000 to 100,000? Even if you are the

landlord, you don’t increase rent abruptly like that unless when you are telling someone to

vacate your premise” he added

Mwijuka said “he will push the matter to the relevant higher offices to see that vendors get


“We don’t want bloodshed we only wish to see sanity in Mbarara central market”

Mbarara Central Market Association chairman Emmanuel Muhumuza retaliated that fresh fish

vendors are not special from all the vendors thus appealing to them to clear the council dues.

““As a chairman I have no mandate to collect any fees from the market mine is to fight for the

rights of the vendors. Even myself I am paying rent who are the fish vendors that have

refused to pay rent for all this time I blame the council that has failed to enforce” Muhumuza said

He said they negotiated with the council and had to reduce the rent fairs at first thus appealing

to them to comply.

“The issue of fish vendors has not just started today it has been on and we negotiated council

reduced their rent from 150,000 to 100,000 but instead of paying they have gone for strikes

and demonstrations which is not the way government works” Muhumuza explained

He added that other vendors who have been complying since October 2022 are threatening to


“It is true rent was a problem and we made an alarm, council sat and reduced the fees but since

October 2023 up to today fish vendors have never paid anything yet other vendors in the

market are paying. And we are wondering why council would enforce and leave the fish

vendors operating without paying” Muhumuza said

He also blamed the council for failing to consult vendors when levying the rent fee structures.

“Council just sits and puts charges without coming on the ground to know how these businesses

are running to address such impulses”.

Assy Abirebe Tumwesigire, the city town clerk, explained that the council is charging the rental

fees from the stalls and lockups to get money to maintain the utility bills in the market.

“We cannot reduce the rent fees, if we do; we shall not have enough money to maintain that

market like paying for utilities such as lighting in the open space and where possible to clean

the market” Abirebe said

Ideally, the current potential collection from the Mbarara central market is 38mln shillings per

month and spend about 30 mln on utilities.

“We are operating minimally and what they are paying is just a maintain fee because overall we

collect 38 mln shillings and spend 30 mln to pay security guards, lighting, water bills and other

defects in the market so if we reduce again, we won’t get money for maintenance” Abirebe


The town clerk emphasized that they will not compromise anyone, and any vendor failing to

comply should be forced to leave the market by Monday.

“We have given them an ultimatum at the end of this week up to next Monday that those who

will not have complied they have a choice to walk out to a place where they can do their

business. We shall take over our facilities with effect from next Monday” Abirebe said

Mbarara Central Market is one of the newly constructed markets across the country, with

support from the African Development Bank under MATIP to enhance market economic and

social infrastructure to increase vendors ' income and revenue generation in urban areas.



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