Kampala. On their field cars, they sit menacingly in excess numbers. They drive against traffic and do not pay attention to parking regulations because they are busy cleaning the city. They leave a whiff of damage to property and people everywhere they go.
During an eviction of residents in Luzira in 2012, Mr George Agaba, the KCCA director physical planning, and his bodyguard Santos Makmot shot at residents with live bullets, killing one and leaving several others injured.
The deceased’s family is yet to get justice but the former director was acquitted of any wrongdoing.
The most recent is the two-year-old child, Ryan Ssemanda, who was run over by a KCCA vehicle at City Hall where his mother, Madinah Namutebi had been incarcerated after being arrested for hawking oranges.
In Parliament, Butambala MP Muwanga Kivumbi (DP) condemns the law enforcers and describes them as brutal, uncouth and lack respect for human dignity and life.
“But why do they do the things they do?” Mr Kivumbi asked recently.
KCCA spokesperson Peter Kaujju acknowledges the mess and says the institution is in a growth process.
“Since we are an institution that is growing, acts of misconduct are bound to happen, but we are fairly improving our image with the public and going forward we promise to have the best of the teams whether in enforcement or in any other field,” Mr Kaujju said in an email.
Currently, KCCA has 300 law enforcement officers. Mr Kaujju says 60 of those have since lost their jobs for reports related to deviation from the institution’s working standards, which include allegations of misconduct in public during operations.
But Mr Kivumbi argues that the most important point is not in how many are fired but in the process of how they are recruited.
“We recruit them just like any other recruitments. We advertise and people apply. We screen them basing on standards that are set by our human resource team. These include at least having a minimum of Senior Six certificate and above,” Mr Kaujju says
“We train them through government agencies like police that help shape their code of conduct and instill operation discipline in them,” he adds. KCCA officials say the evictions are intended to clear the streets of vendors, hawkers and any other unlawful business to create space for road widening, restore planned drainage systems and beautify the city.
Early this year, there was a proposal to start arresting street buyers for abetting crime by buying from the street vendors. It was briefly enforced but those that were arrested were released because of lack of an ordinance prohibiting buying from street vendors.
The only ordinance KCCA holds for its operations is the KCC Maintenance of Law and Order Ordinance 2006.
The law states that a person cannot ply his or her trade on any pavement unless he or she is in possession of a permit issued by the council.
According to International Labour Organisation statistics, Uganda’s unemployment rate stands at 5.1 as at 2012. Most unemployed people migrate to the city to make ends meet.
Urban planning expert Stephen Mukiibi says KCCA should adopt a “carrot and stick” approach to have a pro-people development.
“What is happening in Kampala is unique. Many other countries have not had such phenomena. But what the authority can do is to engage the people who are affected by the development plans,” Mr Mukiibi says.
However, he says it can be well implemented in the long term because of opposition from those intending to sabotage development and thus such engagements should have timelines to avoid delays.
Human rights lawyer Ladislaus Rwakafuzi warns that if KCCA fails to find a way to collaborate with the leadership that links local people to the technical leaders, their actions could cause dire results not only for the authority, but the city in the long run.
Vendors recount experience
Mr Brian Mugwanya of Kalerwe owned a kiosk in the city suburb for about five years. His business was recently destroyed by KCCA when its operatives descended on the area he was operating in and razed all roadside businesses despite a 30-day vacation notice.
“They just came within few days and in the dead of the night and they destroyed everything,” he says.
Ms Sarah Nakiwala also says law enforcers confiscated her merchandise alleging that she was operating in an unlawful venue. “I think they [KCCA] had given our leaders vacation notices which were not communicated to us. Instead of KCCA making public announcements that they would be removing all stalls, they instead came in the morning and took everything we were using in our business.” she recollects.