The leadership of Kampala City Traders Association has said some of its members are afraid that the heavy military presence on the streets of Kampala is scaring away potential customers.
They say government should employ less intimidating methods of guaranteeing security in the city.
The heavy deployment of security personnel on the streets of Kampala started days before the country went to the polls last week.
Those in charge of security have, however, told the business community leadership that the army and police will continue to be visible on the streets of Kampala and elsewhere deemed prone to insecurity and lawlessness.
When contacted yesterday, the chairman Kampala City Traders Association (Kacita), Mr Everest Kayondo, said: “I have received complaints from some of my members, especially the vendors, that the presence of the military on the streets is making it difficult for them to do business because it is scaring away customers.”
He continued: “They said the image of armed soldiers in military fatigue spatrolling the streets is not good for business as it invokes fear in potential customers and also creates a panicky kind of environment.”
Mr Kayondo suggests that instead of having soldiers in military gear all over the streets, plain clothed security operatives should be deployed, saying this would be a win-win situation for both the traders doing business in Kampala and the security agencies doing their work.
He continued: “We are yet to raise the red flag over this matter…we are still being patient, but if it persists we will seek audience with those responsible over the security of this country so that we solve this matter.”
When contacted over the same matter yesterday, the executive director Uganda Manufacturers Association (UMA), Mr Ssebagala Kigozi, said he shares the concerns raised by the traders, but called for more patience until the seemingly tense situation calms down.
Kigozi said: “I have received the same concerns from a few people already. Look, if the traders are impacted in anyway as a result of the heavy military deployment on the street then we (manufacturers) are also affected as our production capacity will eventually go down.”
According to the Private Sector Foundation (PSFU), government assured them that as long as there is threat to peace and security, there is nothing they can do but abide by the security measures put in place by those who manage security of the country.
“There is no way the government can withdraw security now because it thinks the situation could be volatile and anything can happen. Even if we engage them I don’t think it will be any different,” said PSFU executive directorGideon Badagawa yesterday.
He continued: “As long as they (security personnel) do not beat up people I think all is ok and we should be patient, except the only hiccup are the roadblocks we go through as we enter town. I think that is unfortunate and inconveniencing.”
When asked about the traders’ concern, the Defence and Army spokesperson, Lt Col Paddy Ankunda, said before abruptly hanging up the phone: “Their presence in uniform on the streets means peace and security.”
Impact on sales
School resumed early this week after a long holiday. Normally around this time traders realise increased sales as parents and guardians purchase all that is necessary for the school goers to return to school. But for Hassan Kakande, a trader in Kikuubo, Kampala’s busiest shopping lane, all is not well. Unlike in the past about this time, Mr Kakande said this year’s sales are low by nearly 30 per cent or even more.