Government moves to take back Owino market

Women sort groundnuts at St Balikudembe Market in Kampala on March 31. PHOTO | RACHEL MABALA

What you need to know:

  • On December 7, 2015, Ms Ndyomugenyi wrote to the financial institution, saying the directors of SSETZA Holdings and KETZA International had illegally obtained powers to receive the loan claiming they represented interests of all the market vendors.

Government has resolved to take back the management of Kampala’s busiest market, St Balikuddembe, commonly known as Owino, to end the endless internal wrangles among rival factions.

On July 29, Mr Caleb Mugisha, the Kampala Capital City Authority’s (KCCA) director of legal affairs, wrote to Ms Doreen Nyanjura, the Deputy Lord Mayor, informing her of the government decision to retake the market, which is currently managed by a private association of vendors/traders.

Mr Mugisha said Ms Betty Amongi, the Minister for Kampala and Metropolitan Affairs, directed him on June 24 to draft a statutory instrument for the compulsory acquisition of the market in line with the Cabinet directives on the matter.

“The said statutory instrument has been drafted and submitted to the minister,” the letter reads in part.
Ms Nyanjura had written to Mr Mugisha seeking a briefing about the market after a section of vendors, who subscribe to St Balikuddembe Market Produce Traders and Vendors Co-operative Society, petitioned Kampala Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago.

They alleged that St Balikuddembe Market Stalls, Space and Lock-ups Shop Owners Association (SSLOA), which currently manages the market, wants to sell it off.
“Some individuals want to grab the market, sell it to grabbers and earn an income at the expense of the market vendors,” their June 9 letter reads in part.

Ms Amongi confirmed receipt of the statutory instrument, and said government will pronounce its decision on taking over the market. She did not give a timeline.
Last year, President Museveni instituted a committee led by the First Deputy Prime Minister, Gen Moses Ali, to study the status of public and private markets in the city to empower vendors and report their findings to Cabinet.

On November 4, 2019, the committee submitted a report to Cabinet. Committee members, who attended a Cabinet meeting, told Daily Monitor that they were directed to reconcile the warring factions in the market to facilitate its development for the benefit of all.

They said in the alternative, Cabinet proposed compulsory takeover of the market by government to develop and manage it in case reconciliation failed.
Sources in the committee said efforts to reconcile the warring factions have been futile, which prompted government decision to take over the market.
Ms Nyanjura welcomed the government plan.

“Kampala markets have been previously taken over by the rich yet these facilities are supposed to benefit the down-trodden. It is a mandate of us the elected leaders in the city to ensure all people benefit from markets other than benefiting a few individuals whose only goal is to enrich themselves. We are vigorously following up this matter to ensure that the process is fair,” she said.

However, government will have to compensate the SSLOA members before it takes over the market because they have a 90-year lease on the market land.
Mr Godfrey Kayongo, the SSLOA chairperson, told Daily Monitor last week that he and his committee would resist the government takeover.

Genesis of the market troubles
St Balikuddembe market was constructed in 1971 at Nakivubo. The market covers about 8.5 acres of land. Initially, it was managed by Kampala City Council (KCC), the KCCA predecessor, until May 31, 1995, when vendors took over the management.

On October 31, 2002, KCC dissolved the vendors leadership and handed over the market to city businessman Hassan Basajjabalaba under his Victoria International Company. The company managed the market from November 2002 to 2006

On January 19, 2009, President Museveni ordered that the land on which the market sits be leased to the vendors.
The Attorney General was asked to ensure all the vendors form a legal association.
Some vendors formed SSLOA and obtained a lease offer on February 3, 2010, from KCC at a premium of Shs4b and ground rent at Shs200m.

Various individuals representing splinter groups of market vendors contested the formation of SSLOA in court, claiming the new association had left out majority of the vendors.

On February 19, 2010, the rival groups entered a consent judgement to incorporate all vendors.
On May 4, 2010, KCC Town Clerk wrote a letter to dfcu Bank stating that SSLOA had complied with all terms of the lease offer, adding that the council would finalise the sublease titles for the market land.

The then Minister of Local Government also wrote to the bank again on July 20, 2010, confirming his ministry and the Attorney General had reconciled all the market vendors under SSLOA.

On the basis of the ministers’ assurance in August 2010, SSLOA was granted a loan of Shs4.8b from dfcu Bank.
The associated vendors paid the premium and ground rent in March 2011 and took over possession and management of St Balikuddembe market on April 4, 2011.

Lawyers representing St Balikuddembe Market Produce Traders and Vendors Co-operative Society, a vendors faction, wrote to SSLOA management on November 5, 2012, seeking to purchase shares as stated in the consent judgement but the latter refused, sparking a new dispute that has since dogged the market.

Mr Kayongo confirmed that lawyers for the splinter vendors group wrote to SSLOA but said they did not meet the obligations as per the consent agreement.
On September 4, 2015, SSLOA entered a deal with a foreign company KETZA International, which later merged with SSETZA Holdings. SSLOA and KETZA took 50 per cent shares each.

Other vendors then protested that this was done without their consent.
When SSLOA applied for a loan from Swiss Charge in Zambia to modernise the market, President Museveni through a State House lawyer, Ms Sandra Ndyomugyenyi, blocked the deal.

On December 7, 2015, Ms Ndyomugenyi wrote to the financial institution, saying the directors of SSETZA Holdings and KETZA International had illegally obtained powers to receive the loan claiming they represented interests of all the market vendors.
She said sidelining other vendors would create chaos and insecurity in the city.

The loan has never been secured due to the endless fights by the rival vendors groups.
In 2017 when dfcu bank threatened to auction the land in Kisenyi when vendors allegedly failed to pay back the Shs4b loan, the President asked Finance minister Matia Kasaija on June 29, 2017 to find means of paying off the bank.