City vendors remain in jail despite Museveni directive

Friday February 21 2020

Action. A vendor packs his stock to evade

Action. A vendor packs his stock to evade arrest during police crackdown on street vending in Kampala. FILE PHOTO  

By ANDREW BAGALA

Hundreds of vendors are still behind bars four months after President Museveni directed that they be released, Daily Monitor has learnt.
In October last year, the President ordered that the vendors, who had been arrested from Kampala streets, be cautioned and released. The group had been sent to Luzira prison after failing to pay the Shs1m fine.
But Mr Steven Odaro, the leader of the vendors, said his colleagues are still locked up, something that has left their families without food and other necessities.
Mr Odaro also revealed that the vendors were convicted of cases such as disobeying lawful orders and being a nuisance.
“Our colleagues aren’t charged with illegal vending. They are charged with different cases and when we petition for their release, we are told that they committed different offences other than illegal vending,” he said.
Senior Presidential Press Secretary Don Wanyama was non-committal when asked whether Mr Museveni issued a formal directive to the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) for the release of the vendors.
“The President offered the guidance. I will need to establish if a formal directive was sent. However, the implementing government institutions should be effecting that directive,” Mr Wanyama said.

DPP speaks out

However, the spokesperson of DPP, Ms Jacquelyn Okui, said they could not discontinue the cases against vendors basing on media stories.
“We haven’t received any instructions to discontinue any cases,” Ms Okui said on Tuesday.
Prisons spokesperson Frank Baine added: “We have received no instruction [to release anyone].”
The President’s directive to the DPP to drop charges against vendors was considered illegal by legal experts. According to the Constitution, the DPP, while exercising his or her their functions, shall not be subject to the direction or control of any person or authority.
In his October 2019 directive, Mr Museveni said: “All people that have been arrested on account of this nonsensical crime should be released immediately and all prosecution discontinued because, in any case, the police and courts have got more real crimes that they need to deal with (murder, rape, robbery, embezzlement.”
According to the Constitution, the prerogative of mercy to convicts rests in the hands of the President.
Kampala Capital City Authority is yet to pass an ordinance that regulates vending in the city.

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