City traders protesting against foreigners engaging in petty trade have called off their strike after the trade minister agreed to meet them and address their concerns.
By lunchtime yesterday, nearly all shops in the affected areas were re-opened. The chairman of the traders, Mr Daudi Lwanga, said they called off the strike because they are set to meet Ms Amelia Kyambadde, the trade minister, on Monday to discuss the issues central to their protests.
“We were supposed to meet her today (Thursday) but it wasn’t be possible because she was engaged in other meetings. We were given another appointment on Monday and we were told to come with a write up of our concerns. That is what we are working on now,” Mr Lwanga said yesterday.
On Wednesday, traders dealing in hardware products on Market Street, Snay Bin Amir Road and part of Dastur Street and Entebbe Road in Kampala closed their shops as they protested what they described as unfair competition by Asian traders.
It is alleged that the foreign traders come into the country as big investors, but use their privileged status to import goods without paying all the taxes as are imposed on the local traders.
The protests on Wednesday forced a meeting of the traders with government officials at Kampala Metropolitan Police Headquarters.
Ms Nakiwala Kiyingi, the minister for Youth, told the traders that the Cabinet had established a committee comprising five ministers to draw up a plan on how the foreign business people would be barred from operating retail businesses in Uganda.
Ms Kiyingi told the traders that without an enabling law, throwing out foreigners from the retail business would lead to legal suits. Some traders agreed with the minister to call off the protest while other insisted on exerting more pressure on government.
Those who didn’t agree with calling off the protests are now accusing their leaders of betraying them.
During the State of the Nation address, President Museveni hinted on barring foreigners from investing in the retail businesses. He said the foreign traders should only invest in industries and leave retail business to the local traders.
The recent slump in business and high taxes have hit the local traders hard and are sensitive to any issues they deem will undercut their fortunes.