The Police charge at the rioting vendors who had gathered outside their shops in Kisekka Market yesterday
By Chris Kiwawulo
and Steven Candia
SEVERAL schools in Kampala were yesterday forced to close as the Police battled rioting vendors at Kisekka Market for a second day. Anxious parents were seen rushing to Ramgharia Sikh, Muslim Girls and Agakhan Primary School to collect their children.
Some pupils were affected by the teargas fired by the Police to disperse the rioters. The schools closed their gates to bar rioters from taking refugee in their premises.
Yesterday’s rioting started at around 10:00am when the Police ordered the vendors, who had gathered outside their closed shops, to disperse. “What have we done? This is our market,” they shouted.
The Police charged at them and started beating them. In retaliation, the vendors pelted the officers with stones and hurled insults at them.
The Police fired live ammunition in the air to disperse the rioters. About 180 policemen, backed by SPCs, had been deployed overnight to guard against a recurrence of violence.
Kampala Police boss Edward Ochom rushed to the scene at around 10:30am and ordered for the arrest of the police officers who were shooting as he tried to broker a truce.
When his mediation efforts failed, the vendors resumed throwing stones, while others lit bonfires along Namirembe Road and at the entrance to the New Taxi Park, which bellowed thick clouds of smoke.
Ochom then ordered anti-riot Police to disperse the rioters, which they did by lobbying teargas canisters and clobbering them. At one point, Ochom narrowly missed being hit by a big stone. The military Police, led by Capt. Fred Asaba, later beefed up the Police.
A total of 14 people were arrested. They face charges of inciting violence and malicious damage to property, said Kampala Extra Police spokesperson Simeo Nsubuga. Another three Police officers were arrested for shooting without orders.
Yesterday’s clash came as the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative, in a release, condemned the Police for using excessive force to quell the riots of the previous day, in which five people sustained gunshot wounds.
The problems started on Tuesday when one group of vendors, led by Robert Kisembo, discovered that Kampala City Council (KCC) had leased the market to Rhino Investments, owned by retired Col. John Mugyenyi. Kisembo insists the only way to solve the conflict is to cancel the lease.
But Mugyenyi said he followed the right procedures to acquire the 49-year lease to redevelop the market. “Both KCC’s contracts committee and the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets approved the lease,” he told The New Vision.
He promised he would not evict any traders. “I will give first priority to the sitting tenants. I am not going to build a church or a residential house but shops for traders. The problem is that KCC has not come out to explain this to the traders,” he said.
Asked for a reaction, Mayor Nasser Ntege Sebaggala said KCC could not intervene since it was no longer responsible for the market.
“As far as we are concerned, the market is no longer in our hands. KCC as the landlord leased the market to the vendors and Rhino Investments,” Sebaggala said.
Rhino Investments, he added, had already paid a premium and cleared the vendors in order to redevelop the market.
Rhino was given 2.2 acres, while the vendors got one-and-a-half acres. The entire land was leased at sh1.52b as premium and sh76m as ground rent.
Debating the anarchy that has engulfed the market, MPs yesterday said the Government should give the vendors the land title for redevelopment under its policy of giving sitting tenants first priority. They blamed the Government’s indecision for the chaos.
Among the rioters arrested yesterday were Michael Kisitu, Sulaiman Kato, Musa Musende, Michael Kirabira, Patrick Rwomunyoro and Ronald Kalema.
Other suspects taken in were Eddy Zirimwabagambo, Hakim Nsubuga, Paul Ssekabira, Adam Ssembatya, Frank Ndawula, Ibrahim Kiwewa and Robert Mwesigye.
Of the five vendors who had been arrested on Tuesday, two were released on Police bond yesterday.
Additional reporting by Florence Nakaayi, Cyprian Musoke and John Odyek
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