By witnessradio.org team
It’s over seven months since tragedy befell former traders of the demolished Park Yard Market. Around 4am or 5am in the morning of Sunday, February 28th 2017, when numerous police officers, armed to the teeth arrived and seized off Park Yard market.
The eviction operation commanded by Andrew Felix Kaweesi (RIP), left over 15,000 traders jobless with merchandise stolen and others destroyed. After living in a deplorable situation with diminishing hope to regain their source of income, traders have resorted to seeking for justice from court.
Through MS&S Tuhimbisibwe and Co. Advocates, over 500 victims led by Jimmy Mukwaya, Yusuf Luboyera, Abdallah Bukenya, Pius Waswa and Idah Nakatende sued the Attorney General, Nakivubo War Memorial Stadium Board of trustees, Beti Kamya, the Minister for Kampala, Police and Hamis Kiggundu (the investor) over illegal eviction and destruction of their merchandise in suit No. 678/2017, filed on August 30th 2017.
Speaking to witnessradio.org, the evictees explained that they sued Nakivubo stadium board of trustees for abdicating its obligations as their landlord, Kamya for issuing an ultimatum of 30 days to traders and fail to implement it, Hamis Kiggundu for demolishing market and stealing their merchandise before the deadline expired, Attorney General on behalf of government which failed to build them a market and Police for overseeing the eviction and stealing of the merchandise.
“We want the court to order Ham enterprises to return our merchandise that was stolen from the market during the eviction.” Bukenya, a former chairperson of Kitala zone in Park Yard said, “We also want Ham to pay us with interest because we think that our merchandise would have been able to earn us more money, and then we want Ham to compensate our time we have spent without working.”
The respondents have 15 working days within which to file their defense in court in regards to the issues brought against them.
The proprietor of Ham Enterprises, Hamis Kiggundu was contracted by Government to re-develop Nakivubo War Memorial Stadium land including the market, occupied by over 15,000 small scale-vendors.
During the forceful demolition, many traders lost their merchandise because the eviction was carried out in the wee hours when a number of traders hadn’t reported to their duties and on a Sunday, considered a resting day.
Many traders say, were given little warning or confusing messages before their market was razed down thus denying them a chance to collect their belongings, the merchandise in particular which they always kept from market stalls.
Indeed, the demolition of Park Yard came just five days after Beti Kamya, the Minister of Kampala had issued a 30-day ultimatum for traders to voluntarily leave the market.
Without exception, traders who worked from a market that was being overseen by Government through its agency Kampala Capital City Authority have to this day, never received any penny as compensation that would cover the losses incurred during the process.
Leaders of the affected evictees detailed the problems they have faced over the last six months as a direct consequence of their eviction. A significant number of the victims, leaders say, found themselves unemployed again, rendering them homeless due to the biting poverty they experience now.
They were less deprived of their survival and livelihoods, because the market which was the only source income to sustain themselves and their families to the extent that many children are no longer going to schools.
“Our merchandise were destroyed which tremendously affected our livelihoods. Because we no longer work, we can hardly get what to eat and our children have dropped out of schools which is detrimental to their formal futures.” Abudallah Bukenya one of the victims’ leaders explained.
Besides, Bukenya says, “some of our colleagues lived with HIV Aids and they could take ARVs adequately but some of them have since died because life because unbearable for them. So, we are living very distressful lives.”
Located down town Kampala, the demolished market accommodated over 15,000 traders with majority being youths from poor families surviving on it since 1980s. It sat on 3.5-acre of land and traders would deal in second hand merchandise like shoes, clothes, bags, among others and low-income earners in Uganda would visit it regularly.
It was not the first market that employs the urban poor to be demolished in Kampala after a number of them –including Shawuliyako, part of Kisekka market, Katimba market, among others, were demolished under the similar circumstances.
What is so uniform is that evictions are organized by government authorities, and are enforced by police and sometimes, the army. At times, those evicting the urban poor use gangs of private individuals to help them carry out the demolitions, but most significantly, most of the markets where urban poor have been evicted from, have been gutting fires under mysterious circumstances prior to the actual forceful evictions.