The construction of Kasese main market into a modern one hangs in the balance as Kasese municipal authorities have failed to relocate the vendors to a designated place four months after the ultimatum was issued, leaving more than 620 vendors stranded.
In July 2016, municipal authorities met the vendors in the main market, commonly known as Kasindi, and instructed them to vacate the facility in order to pave way for the construction of a modern market effective September 1, 2017 but up to now, there are no signs of relocation.
Kasese main market is one of the markets that are supposed to be constructed under the World Bank funding at a cost of more than Shs23 billion but it may miss out on the opportunity.
The market was to be among the first phase shopping areas that were constructed in the country in 2012 but it failed to take off due to a court case between businessman Paul Asaba and the Kasese Municipal Council over the ownership of the MTN container plot since it was supposed to be the parking yard for the market.
Due to the land wrangle, Kasese was pushed to benefit in the third and the last phase of the project.
Vendors were instructed to relocate to Rwenzori Square on condition that Kasese Municipal Council was to improve the area with lighting, demarcate it into stalls, provide security fence as well as putting temporary structures but to date, nothing has ever been done.
Mr Godfrey Kabbyanga, the Kasese mayor, says vendors have not been shifted because the council was supposed to receive Shs70 million from the Ministry of Local Government for relocation, which it is yet to receive.
“It is true we instructed the vendors to vacate the market to Rwenzori Square to pave way for construction but we [council] were supposed to prepare the venue for them using the money from the Local Government, which we have never got. We are also stuck, that is the reason we have kept quiet,” Mr Kabbyanga said.
He added that the major challenge has been between the Ministry of Local Government and World Bank after failing to agree on who takes up the tender to construct the market, saying the company that is cleared by the ministry to carry out the construction was rejected by Bank of Uganda.
“Everything is set and the bidding process ended but the challenge is Bank of Uganda has refused to give a letter of no objection for the work to start because the contractor that was okayed by the Local Government ministry was rejected by the World Bank after failing to complete many projects, but the ministry has insisted on it. Otherwise we are ready to kick-start the process,” Mr Kabbyanga said.
The mayor noted that because of such holds up, Kasese Municipal Council has lost local revenue from the market, which he said had hindered the efforts of the authorities to deliver services to residents.
“We stopped collecting licence and rent from the market effective the last financial year because we wanted them to transit to a new life. We have lost over Shs160 million from the market and over Shs200 million from the taxi park due to the new law and because of that, we cannot deliver at all,” the mayor said.
Mr Kabbyanga identified garbage collection and cleaning of the town as some of the services affected.
“We [council] are looking for other avenues to enhance the local revenue. We are looking at implementing the local hotel tax, we have introduced the parking fees in order to assist us deliver services, otherwise garbage will choke the town as we have no option at the moment,” he said.
Mr Zedekiya Kayiri Kambasu, the assistant town clerk for Central Division where the market is situated, told the vendors that countrywide, nine markets were constructed in the first phase, 11 in the second phase and one will be constructed in the third and last phase.
“Other districts like Mbarara have already demolished the market and vendors have relocated, it is us who have not,” Mr Kambasu said.
“We have been getting Shs40 million every quarter from the market meaning that in a year we collect Shs160 million and Shs750,000 from buses and Shs150,000 from omnibuses per month, but now we get Shs80,000. We have no money to provide certain services,” he added.
Ms Teddy Tabaro, a trader, is still skeptical the council is going to allow them put up their own structures in the open space in order to protect their businesses.
“It is unfortunate to see that our bosses are telling us to relocate to an open space without a single structure. How shall we operate under the harsh weather of Kasese like that,” Ms Nalongo said.