The issue: Crackdown on vendors
Our view: The city authority must put in place and enforce strict guidelines on handling street vendors. Everyone deserves decent and fair treatment.
Last Friday, a vendor drowned in a city waste channel as she ran away from Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) law enforcement officers. According to eyewitnesses, the victim – Olivia Basemera, 38, was vending handkerchiefs when she was confronted by KCCA officers. She reportedly jumped into the Nakivubo Channel in a desperate attempt to escape.
The incident attracted outrage from the public and triggered protests from hawkers and vendors who seized the body of their colleague from the police and marched with it to City Hall, the headquarters of KCCA.
Basemera’s death brings to focus the high handedness of KCCA law enforcers in handling street vendors. While KCCA spokesperson Peter Kaujju on Friday said the deceased just saw a KCCA vehicle parked by Jinja Road and she ran to the channel where she died, eye witnesses contradict this claim. Those who witnessed the incident say the victim was confronted by KCCA law enforcers. As she ran – to escape arrest and save her merchandise – she ended up plunging in the channel where she met her death.
It is common to see KCCA law enforcers chasing street vendors in the city, arresting them and confiscating their wares. While street vending is illegal in Kampala, the city authority must tame these overzealous law enforcers. Common decency demands that people are handled in a civil manner, even if they are suspected to have broken the law. This cannot be said of some KCCA law enforcement officers who have been caught on camera brutally arresting vendors.
The Friday incident was not an isolated case. In November last year, a video clip showing KCCA officers brutally arresting Ms Robinah Namugenyi went viral on social media and attracted widespread public criticism. Ms Namugenyi was ruthlessly grabbed with her two children after she was found vending on Ben Kiwanuka Street. There are other documented cases.
KCCA has taken steps – in the Friday incident where some law enforcers have been arrested and past cases where those involved in brutal arrests were fired. It is important that the city authority takes actions against those involved in brutality and destruction/confiscation of vendors’ merchandise. It is, however, futile to take such action retrospectively.
KCCA must rein in overzealous law enforcement officers. The city authority must put in place and enforce strict guidelines on handling street vendors. Everyone deserves decent and fair treatment.