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Kisekka market: beyond rioters, seeing innovators

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Kisekka Market traders gather after a riot earlier that day. The market has become known as the place where city centre riots in Kampala start. However, there is more to it than rioters and tear gas like a vibrant industry for mechanics and spare parts dealers. PHOTO BY Abubaker Lubowa 

By FARAHANI MUKISA

Posted  Monday, May 5   2014 at  01:00

In Summary

A few days ago, traders in Kisekka Market were in running battles with the police over demolition of kiosks. While this has become commonplace in the market, that is not all that happens there.

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Kisekka market.
You must be thinking of the hotbed of rioters and demonstrations in Kampala’s central business centre. It is the image the market has created. It is where a crowded pool of ordinary mechanics and syndicated dealers in used auto spare parts are said to sell stolen spare parts. This group comes in handy by any group that wants demonstrators in the city.
However, Kisekka market also has its good side. Ronald Ssegawa 33, alias Balikola, says it is only here you find all affordable assortments of spare parts. He does not deny that some are stolen parts, but also adds, many are genuine second hand accessories.

“For us we are ‘dealers’. If one comes with ‘yiriiba’ [stolen items], we buy them without questioning where and how you got such, even when I know that you have stolen it,” reveals Balikola, a motorcycle spare parts dealer.
“That’s why an expensive item that could be purchased from a shop at Shs1m, costs about Shs500, 000 here,” he says. The market is a hive of coordinated jua kali.

“I know people call us hooligans, but we are the engineering gurus that Kisekka market is. We make the heart of Uganda’s mechanical engineering,” says Moses Ssebiranda, 56, one of the pioneers of the market.
Most of activities at Kisekka used to take place in Katwe along Entebbe Road. Kisekka has since replaced Katwe as the centre of vehicle mechanics.
“There is no car model that operates in Uganda that cannot be serviced or repaired here,” he boasts.
It is a lively morning with the sun rising. The sound of car testing, murmurs of car cleaners and drills of cutting machines form a cacophony of noise in and around the market.

Changes
Whereas the market is up for reconstruction into a modern market, traders are fearful that the redevelopment might displace them.
“This place has liberated many of us who could have lost hope in life. It’s a host of people from all walks of lives, the needy people from Kampala streets to the orphans in various homesteads,” states Stephen Kayemba arias ZayaWire, 25, also a singer in the music outfit No Stress Group.
Kayemba says the redevelopment is a good plan for the city, but he is worried it could affect majority of traders.

“I see it as a ploy intended to displace the poor from the city, as the case was for the underprivileged that used to work at Shauriyako market before its reconstruction to the current Shauriyako Shopping Mall. Not everyone can afford a stall in that mall,” he opines.

Similar sentiments were echoed by other traders. However, their leaders say the redevelopment is simply to set the market to a new level that meets the trend and standard set by Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA).
“What will change will be the structure, but we shall maintain the working conditions of the market. Everyone will get back to business but in an orderly manner, unlike the way we operate today. People should not worry about the redevelopment,” says Mubarak Kalungi, the Kisekka Market Vendors Limited publicity secretary.
Kalungi says the market in its current state is a quick attraction to all kinds of evil elements.

Current state of the market
“The redevelopment will protect traders from losing their land [work place] since there are many hungry city moguls interested in the market’s land,” he says.

Kisekka market, which seats on 3.7 acres of land, is divided into five blocks from A to E, which are further subdivided into streams from A to Z. Each stream forms a local council headed by a chairperson who answers to the top management of the market.
According to Kayemba, the market has two main departments; the workshop, which is basically for repairing vehicles, and the sales and service department, which is mainly for selling spare parts and giving technical advice to customer.

The workshop department comprises mostly mechanics that formed the Bangawa group that was later renamed Benghazi.
Kayemba says the Benghazi group is the market’s trusted “army” wing, which is youthful and ready to respond to any call for a given cause.
“Their characteristics are that they are young, easily excitable, some use drugs users and have few responsibilities,” he explains. “It is these people constituting the groups behind every riot that emanates from this market,” he states.

“We believe this is where change will come from if Uganda is to have a next president,” Rogers Kimbowa, a mechanic and dealer in motorcycle spare parts says. “That’s why we have nicknamed this part of the market after Benghazi victory in Libya,” he explains. Beghanzi was the capital of rebels that deposed Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
Because of its easily excited young population, Kalungi says, some opposition leaders have made it their go-to place whenever they want to stir political activism in the city of Kampala.
Kimbowa, just like many other dealers in Kisekka, says government should support their efforts of transforming the country’s technological sector.
“Our country needs hands-on-skills, government should release support to small scale industries,” he says.

A training place
According to Ssebiranda, proprietor of the SM Engineering, the market has absorbed and trained youthful populations with no opportunity for school.
“We train many (poor) children with zero knowledge of engineering to become professional mechanics. These in turn train others from universities such as Makerere and ignore Uganda,” he asserts.
Ssebiranda explains that on several occasions they have received requests and guests from as far as Sweden seeking collaboration with them in knowledge exchange.

“Recently,” Ssebiranda said, “we entered into a partnership with the Seda Salic, a Swedish non-governmental organisation, under which we shall be sharing expertise and research.”
“Government leased us land along Salaama Road and very soon we are constructing a multimillion – talent sourcing and skilling institution that will be called Katwe Metal Cluster [KMC],” he says.

Ssebiranda says besides serving as an internship centre for students from different technical institutions such as Kyambogo and Makerere University, Kisekka market is also a training ground for many needy people from impoverished families, which he says if no efforts are done to protect such entities, “many live are bond to lose their livelihood and future.”
With programmes to help Kisekka rise from its informal setting to a modern innovation centre, the rate of restless youth in the market and the numbers of absorption of the unemployed can be addressed.

About Kisekka market

Kisekka Market was started in the early 1990s by a handful of vendors evicted from land currently housing the new taxi park during the reign of Kampala City Council Mayor Christopher Iga.

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