What you need to know:
- In his January 11 letter to the district and city security chiefs, the Minister for Security, Maj Gen Jim Muhwezi, said he received information that there were “criminals moving around villages especially in western region masquerading/pretending to be hawkers/ traders.”
Residents in the western region have expressed mixed reactions after government banned hawkers from operating in villages.
In his January 11 letter to the district and city security chiefs, the Minister for Security, Maj Gen Jim Muhwezi, said he received information that there were “criminals moving around villages especially in western region masquerading/pretending to be hawkers/ traders.”
The minister instructed security chiefs to ensure that hawkers conduct their businesses in trading centres.
He added: “This practice of moving in villages selling items should not be allowed as it is a source of insecurity. Those who want to do the trade should do so in trading centres.”
Mr Nelson Kule, a resident of Buthale Village in Mahango, says hawkers have a habit of also attending funerals and weddings.
“Hawkers have always been common in this area, especially when the coffee season sets in. They sell cheap things, including bedsheets, shoes, handbags and utensils and Masai craft shoes only to hear that people have been robbed of their money,” he says.
Mr Kule adds that some hawkers rent houses in trading centres for some days and later vanish when their business season elapses.
Mr William Byerere, another resident of Nyakaina Cell, Kisinga Town Council, says many hawkers have befriended locals.
Ms Medius Kinemu, also a resident of Kasese District, says hawkers bring items nearer to their vicinity, adding that transport costs are reduced.
“Hawkers sell their products cheaply that is why I wait for them until they come, and for me who doesn’t know Kasese Town very well, they help me to readily get what I want near,” Ms Kinemu says.
Mr Zephanus Mabogha, the chairperson of Kyapa II Village, welcomed the directive.
“Government is right to suspend them from operating in villages because they compete with businessmen who pay taxes,” Mr Mabogha says.
In Rukungiri District, a hawker was recently arrested for stealing chicken, according to Mr Martin Mugisha of Kakindo Parish in Bugangari Sub-county.
“Last week, I was in a coffee garden when I saw someone running after my chicken at home. I called neighbours who came and we arrested him. The government should stop them from moving house by house because some are thieves and they take our property in disguise of selling plastics,” he says.
Mr John Nyabugaro, the chairperson of Kyeitembe West Cell, Bushenyi-Ishaka municipality, says some hawkers spy on locals and later steal from them.
“The idea of chasing hawkers from operating in villages is very welcome because they are now able to spy on local residents to know who is not at home so that they can steal their property. This is not healthy at all and for this reason, making them run their businesses in trading centres is welcome,” Mr Nyabugaro says.
The Rwampara Resident District Commissioner, Mr Emmy Kateera Turyabagyenyi, says livestock theft incidents have been cited in the area and hawkers have been common suspects.
“We have been having issues of insecurity like livestock thefts, break-ins but those we have always arrested or suspected have not been hawkers or vendors. But we have received directives from the security minister to stop hawking in rural areas. We are going to do this in two phases, first sensitisation and then enforcement,” Mr Kateera says.
Mr Samson Rutaro, the general secretary of Mbarara City Hawkers Association, says unregistered hawkers have for a long time been involved in crime and it is high time the government regulated them.
“We cannot deny or accept the allegations that they are involved in acts of criminality because there are many unregistered hawkers that move in villages whereas those in towns can be known and activities regulated because they have associations. Those doing business in rural areas are not answerable to anyone. We welcome the move to have them regulated,” he told Daily Monitor.
Mr Fulge Tugume, a resident of Kaiho in Bugamba Sub-county in Rwampara District, wants government to process identification tags for hawkers.
“Let government organise and put up rules and regulations that guide them like identification tags or even certificates to carry out this work if they are suspecting them than to ban them because they are also doing business and want to survive,” he says.
The Rukungiri Resident District Commissioner, Mr Stephen Bewayo Nsubuga, says some hawkers act as agents of criminals who during the day while selling their plastic materials spot property in homes and return at night with gangs and terrorise communities.
“With immediate effect we are going to organise a meeting with them and we will stop them from selling house to house. They should instead sell their products in public places,” he warns.
The Bundibugyo deputy District Resident Commissioner, Mr Umar Muhanguzi, told Daily Monitor that some people in Bundibugyo and Ntoroko pretend to be mentally-challenged and spy on the locals.
“At times you look at the hawker and the business they are doing and you wonder what they are doing based on their lifestyle. We have found that some people masquerade as mad men when they are actually spies looking for information.
‘‘When they reach in other areas like Bushenyi, you see them disguising as hawkers and certainly coming from very far areas. For example, why would someone come from Iganga and hawk in Bundibugyo?” Mr Muhanguzi asked.
Compiled by Zadock Amanyisa, Ronald Kabanza, Joel Kaguta, and Rajab Mukombozi