BY ANDREW COHEN AMVESI
ARUA. The Arua Central Division Member of Parliament (MP), Jackson Atima Lee Buti has ordered the Arua Central Division Town Clerk, Isaac Wanje Mwima to stop evicting street vendors.
Atima’s directive follows the Tuesday morning incident that nearly turned bloody when the Town Clerk sent his no nonsense law enforcement officers to demolish all makeshift stalls along Onjivu street in the city center.
But speaking to journalists shortly after the incident, Atima ordered Wanje to leave his voters alone until the Minister of Local Government, Rapheal Magezi comes on ground to address the impasse.
“Today I want to address myself and say, this unnecessary eviction of vendors in different locations must stop! As I talk now, today I was told there was another eviction in Onjivu street. All the people in Onjivu street were chased away, their stalls were dismantled and, in the process, some of them lost their goods and money,” Atima said.
“I am told there was a running battle between the vendors of Onjivu street and the city authority in my division headquarters which is uncalled for. Vendors in Onjivu street have been there for a very long time and everybody knows. Some of them are putting things under the verandas of those shops and those shops are where the council continues to pick fees which goes to the council accounts. So, why do you wake up one morning and say you don’t want vendors here on Onjivu street?” Atima asked.
Atima said, aware that the country is coming from the crisis of high commodity prices and covid effect, there is no need to chase people up and down because many are sleeping hungry in their homes.
“People are paying school fees, people picked loans, people are attending to the medical attention of their family members, now what is the rush of starting to evict people left and right? This must stop!” Atima fumed.
“I am from Entebbe two days ago, I have been in Mbarara, I have been in Kampala where people are vending. In Entebbe, vendors were selling everything on the roadside and nobody cares because people are recovering from the Covid effect. The city is for human beings; the city is not for cars, the city is not for animals, not for birds neither is it for buildings but it is for human beings. So, the city must not chase my people of the Central Division away,” Atima emphasized.
He equally said the controversial Lobidra market has over 2, 000 vendors whom the city council shouldn’t think of evicting at all.
“Lobidra market has over 2,000 vendors. You can’t close that market and think of sending away these people. Where will you send them? Walk to Lobidra market now and find out the number of vendors there; find out the number of women, find out the number of youths who are there, come to Gule taxi park, it has helped this new taxi park which is not enough. It can’t accommodate all the stages in the central Division and it has to remain also,” Atima stressed.
Atima said the Minister of Local Government earlier gave a standing order that before he comes on ground, there should be no eviction of vendors in Arua town.
“Minister has given a standing order that no more eviction, is the Minister a fool? I’m told there is a lot of propaganda going on that the Minister and MP Atima want to run Arua City. Yes, I will run Arua City because I’m an elected leader. I am the MP, if things go wrong in my city, if there is bloodshed, I will be asked. I am the government regional Whip. I don’t entertain bloodshed in Arua City,” Atima said.
Similarly, Rasul Osuga Abdul, the councilor representing the people of Awindiri ward who doubles as the Arua Central Division Speaker said the eviction of the street vendors was uncalled for.
“We can’t continue using force by pouring down people’s food and breaking their structures without talking to them. There is need for mass sensitization. If things start happening to the extent that people come and vandalize property at 4:00am, then this is uncalled for. This is something that I personally as the Speaker condemn and which must stop!” Osuga added.
However, earlier on Tuesday, Wanje said he personally met with Onjivu street vendors before the eviction and asked them to peacefully relocate to the social center market, a humble request they turned down.
“I remember we shared with Hassan who is the chairperson of that group and we had agreed that they should move to the social center market because that is the place that has been gazetted by council to shift the balances of people who can’t fit in the main market. We advised them to move but they didn’t act and that is why we decided to clear the place last night (Tuesday night),” Wanje remarked.
But surely, must there always be a fight about every public action in this country? I expected an MP to.be a core participant in the planning and management of a city council, in advisory role, as well as mobilization. If the city council has identified an alternative location for vendors, in consultation with all key stakeholders, whom is coming around to frustrate the activity?