Police in Masaka District on Monday used teargas and live bullets to quell angry vendors at Masaka Central Market who had staged a demonstration over poor state of a road adjacent the market.
The angry vendors claim Bwala Hill road whose drainage channel got blocked, pours runoff directly into their stalls thus destroying their merchandise.
To express their disillusionment, the vendors decided to block the road paralyzing traffic for close to an hour. This prompted riot police to fire teargas and live bullets to disperse the vendors.
“The situation has become unbearable .We have complained to municipal authorities but they have failed to repair and desilt the channel and whenever it rains, all the dirty water floods into our stalls and it is us who are making losses ,” an angry vendor exclaimed.
Mr Denis Lukanga Majwala , the LCIII chairperson of Katwe Butego, central division in Masaka Municipality said vendors’ were right to protest noting that as local leaders they have also complained about the poor state of the road, but those responsible have failed to fix it .
“Bwala Hill road is under Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) but they have failed to work on it despite numerous reminders, maybe after this demonstration, they will wake up and fix it,” he said.
Ms Elizabeth Nakayiza, the chairperson of the Masaka Central Market Vendors Association, also said the clogged water channel has caused huge losses to vendors.
“Our merchandise always get soaked in dirty water whenever it rains and we really regret why relocated to this place,” he said
The UNRA Station Manager in Masaka, Mr Henry Komakech, could not be reached for a comment as his known telephone was switched off .
Southern Region Police spokesperson, Mr Paul Kangave said police intervened to restore order and also clear the road for traffic flow.
“Since the market is close to Masaka Town, the protestors would easily cause mayhem in the town and we had to swiftly intervene and restore sanity,” he said
The vendors, who are operating in makeshift stalls relocated to the open space adjacent Masaka Secondary School area two years ago to pave way for construction of a modern market at their original site which is about 100 metres away.
Once complete, the modern market is expected to have working space for more than 2,000 vendors, which is twice the number of those who were initially operating from the space. The vendors had initially rejected the open space where they are operating saying it is small and not convenient for a market.