Traders reject minister’s request to call off strike, insist on meeting the president

Kampala City traders have rejected a request by State Minister for Kampala City and Metropolitan Affairs, Mr Christopher Kyofatogabye, to reopen shops, a head of their meeting with President Yoweri Museveni.

Over 100 traders are expected to meet with President Yoweri Museveni on April 19, to discuss the contentious taxes and other policies that have forced traders countrywide to close their shops.

While addressing a section of traders and their leaders in Kampala on April 17, Mr Kyofatogobya assured them that the President had given them a greenlight to meet them, but requested that the traders resume work today (Thursday), but they rejected.

“The President is willing to meet you and those who will be part of the meeting should go to Mulago National Rreferral Hospital for Corvid test. We have also waived the penalties on your containers. Those who want can go to URA and pick their containers, I’m your referee. I also request that you open shops. Let us go back and work,” he said amidst murmurs from traders.

Although the minister had in his earlier submission attracted the attention of the traders as he promised to address their concerns, including the release of some  of their leaders who were arrested during the strike, and rescuing their containers that had been stack at URA for about three months over penalties imposed on them, tempers flared when he attempted to convince them to resume work.

“Opening shops before knowing what will come out of the meeting is unrealistic. We are going to patiently wait for the recommendations of the meeting before taking such a decision. For now, shops will remain closed,”  Said Mr Sulaiman Lumu, a trader.

Mr John Kabanda, the President of the Federation of Uganda Traders Association also concurred with dozens of traders who were against the minister’s request.

“When we resume work, they may not treat our concern. It might not be addressed,” Mr Kabanda said.

Mr Musoke Nagenda, the Chairperson of Kampala City Traders Association ( KACITA) said the leadership of the traders had been tasked by government to ask the traders to suspend the ongoing strike.

“We thought this meeting could harmonize between the traders and the government. Because we, as the leaders of traders in the business community, we have been requested by the government to talk to our traders to see that they can accept to stop the demonstration and continue operating as usual,” he said.

“But we told them, we don’t have that mandate, because it’s not we, the leaders, who influenced this demonstration. We, as the leaders, we champion dialogue and engagement. But because of the pain, because of the collapsing businesses, because of the hardship of the economy, we requested a bigger meeting where some traders can be represented to voice out their challenges to the authority, “he added.

He appealed to the government to harmonize their challenges t with urgency.

The traders were also concerned about URA officials who allegedly harass and solicit for bribes. They also say the investors engaged in retail business are pushing them out of business.

However, My Kifatogabye said such concerns would be addressed by the President.

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