We are going nowhere, Arua City Street vendors tell City Central division authority

todayJuly 14, 2022

By: Godwin Abedican,

Vendors along Iddi Amin road, market lane, Dukka road, Lemerijua road and Kasaija lane, all busy streets in Arua city have vowed never to accept the relocation plans, that the central division authority in Arua city, through the office of the city central division town clerk, Wanje Isaac has imposed on them. According to the town clerk, the council decided that all street vendors need to vacate the streets and relocate to the designated market places in the city, something which didn’t get well with the vendors.

On Wednesday 13th July 2022, the two parties had a meeting at the division headquarters in Oli, to address the issue but the meeting ended prematurely, as they could not reach any conclusive points due to violence that erupted in the due course. This meeting was prompted by chaos on Tuesday morning, following the demolition of makeshift stalls belonging to the vendors along Onzivu street, in the early hours of Tuesday morning between 4Am and 6 Am, by the division task force, under the orders of the office of the town clerk.

This angered the traders in the area, who responded by storming the office of the town clerk in the morning demanding explanations as to why the act which they termed as unlawful was carried out against them especially without any prior notice and worst still at night. The vendors who looked charged before the meeting commenced, were furious saying if the authorities have failed to do the right thing, then they better leave their positions for other people who are capable. All started well as the town clerk tried advising the street vendors about how they would benefit if they get more organized, but hell broke loose when the traders started pointing fingers at Maliamungu Milton, the GISO Central Division, who was acting as a translator, saying he was not translating to the town clerk exactly what they were presenting. All worsened, when the GISO started taking photos during the meeting and since one of the chairpersons of the vendors from one of the streets was talking as he took the photos, the furious vendors descended on him demanding him to delete the photos he had taken saying they only allowed journalists to take their photos. This commotion subsequently brought the meeting to a standstill for minutes before the vendors decided to storm out of the meeting saying, they will not relocate to any of the places the city wants them to go to and vowed to handle any one who interferes with their business in the way they want.

According to the division authority, the vendors are supposed to relocate to the upper section of the newly reconstructed Arua main market, the market at social center along Ediofe road and the market at Kirabu along Onduparaka road, which the vendors have all said they are not going to. “When that market was being constructed, we were not part of the plans of the authority, they considered the vendors who were in the main market before reconstruction and after struggling on our own to get where to settle you can’t come and evict us and if you want come and kill me where you will get me with my goods. Unless the owner of the land we are settling on will be the one to send us away, I will never step out of that place” Drateru Agnes, a charged vendor and single mother of 3 from Lobida market said during the meeting. Obeti Robert, the chairperson market lane says, the business they do on streets is because they know where the customers are and given the nature of pitches in the main market the kind of commodities, they deal in can’t fit there because the authorities had no plans for them to be part of the market. “We have noted that there is selection of people to be evicted because the markets of Lobida and Owino are being occupied by people who were originally supposed to be accommodated in the newly constructed market and yet some of the leaders are saying those markets that are also illegal should not be touched and on the other side you keep telling us those are illegal markets. This means those markets are being protected and we also demand protection not eviction. Imman Hassan, the chairperson Onzivu Street United Business Association, castigated the authorities for deciding to demolish their structures without prior information and acting at night. He says, having seen how the authority is doing things they have resorted not to move to any place because they have continued to pay taxes to the same people evicting them, adding that it was a wrong step to demolish their stalls at night which has made some of them to loose properties.

The town clerk Wanje Isaac in response following the abandoned meeting says, the division authorities will arrange to meet the leadership of the street vendors on a date yet to be decided. “The attitude vendors have towards council are not good and some of them always want to provoke actions from us but all we want is for them to get organized and move to designated markets and I don’t encourage them to go to the markets they want to go to,” Wanje added. The vendors at Onzivu Street have since reconstructed their demolished structures and are going on normally with business.

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