Fort Portal Mayor offers Olive Branch to Aggrieved Hawkers

929 Views Fort Portal, Uganda
Edison Asaba Ruyonga, the Mayor of Fort Portal, has made amends with hawkers whom he has fought for much of the year. In a meeting with the hawkers yesterday Ruyonga apologized for the destruction of the hawkers' goods when they were forcefully removed from Mpanga Market in July. He said he wanted to start 2010 on a clean slate by creating some understanding of the developments of Fort Portal town with the hawkers. When the Mayor ordered the eviction of hawkers from Mpanga Market Bridge and Kamwenge Road in July, the directive caused a riot. The hawkers, whose goods were confiscated, destroyed or stolen during the eviction, marched to a shop belonging to the Fort Portal Law Enforcement Officer, Rogers Mulindwa, where they broke windows and smashed his computers in retaliation. They also attempted to storm the Mayor's supermarket and home, but were prevented by police deployed to stop the riots. Ruyonga said that while he understood the frustration of the hawkers, they were not blameless in the matter. He said they received ample notice about the eviction, but they refused to leave. Ruyonga added that it was illegal for anyone to operate a business without paying tax, like the hawkers did. He said their trade needed to be regularized. Several hawkers who spoke during the meeting seemed dissatisfied with the olive branch offered by the Mayor. They said that instead of protecting them, as he was supposed to do, he abandoned them to police abuse. The hawkers asked that the Fort Portal Municipal Council repay them in full for their losses.