Crime, Suspense, Intriguee
By Simon Masaba
Traders of St. Balikuddembe, formerly Owino, have asked government to launch a probe on city businessmen in particular, ‘those interested on the takeover of the Park Yard market.
The vendors allege that interested proprietors are behind the man touching the market where millions of shillings have been lost. The market, for the fourth time in a space of five years was burnt beyond recognition in the wee-hours of Wednesday morning and left many crying tears of loss.
The secretary for the council of leaders in Owino Market, Najjib Kabuye, requested the Police to carry out an investigation on businessmen suspected to have been behind the park yard takeover for years.
“They could be behind the torching of the market. Four times in five years is unbelievable. The Government should investigate this,” Kabuye lamented, adding, “We ask the Police to also release a report on the past fires in the market”.
Kabuye made the remarks while addressing government representatives who stepped up to grieve with the vendors shortly after the fire.
They included, Minister for Defence Crispus Kiyonga, Minister for Security Muruli Mukasa and the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Kale Kayihura. It was through the meeting that, President Yoweri Museveni pledged sh1b to the victims, through a statement read by Kiyonga.
“Though government quickly responds to us in such times our hearts are still filled with sorrow and faces painted with sadness. We can only smile if a report on fire gutting Owino is released by the police,” Kabuye said.
A fireman tries to put out a fire.
Fire fighters in action
A man stands over what used to be his stall in the market
What does police say?
“The cause of the fire is not yet established. However, what is evident is that fire started in the middle of Nakivubo Park Yard market.
"A joint team of detectives and forensic officers have since the incident been at the scene to investigate the incident,” a statement issued by Inspector General of Police (IGP), Kale Kayihura, on December 4, reads in part.
It further states that Police is working closely with the leaders of Park Yard market, Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA), and the management of Nakivubo Stadium to build effective safety and security systems as the process of rebuilding the market begins.
The other fire incidents were on 25th February 2009 which occurred at 0450hrs, 31st July 2011 at 0220hrs and 4th December 2013 which happened at 0416hrs.
‘Whether the fire was accidental, or due to deliberate criminal act, we must address all weaknesses in the market that have made it so vulnerable compared to other markets.
"As we strive to establish the cause of the fire, let me call upon all proprietors of all public places, especially petrol stations to be extra vigilant to guard against fire alongside other security threats,” Kayihura added.
A boy sees what was left of his stock after the fire
Traders ponder their next move with what they rescued
Defence Minister Crispus Kiyonga brought a donation from President Museveni
The Kampala Metropolitan Police boss, Andrew Felix Kaweesi said that the market is filled with controversies that Police has established in the ongoing investigations.
“The money that was given to the vendors (victims) during the past fire incidences by President Museveni is suspected to have misappropriated. This among other factors has caused the torching of the market.
“Others( some vendors), acquire loans from Financial institutions, like banks, but fail to pay back in time, and only opt to torch the market and later seek for more time to reimburse,” he said.
Kaweesi added: “Then, there are specific individuals that vendors have raised complaints against at Police about their self-interests of owning the market. There are also various factions among traders in the market and other representatives and each side wants or wishes to run the business in the entire.”
He also said with all this factors one cannot rule out the torching of the market for a self-gain a market that is guarded by a private security firm and reinforced with the Police can not be torched without an insider’s influence.
The Director Criminal Intelligence and Investigations Directorate (CIID), Grace Akullo, said that investigations and a report on the past fires that gutted Owino market were complete and that the market has been constantly touched by an arsonist.
However, the Police is yet to zero down on the suspect pending ongoing inquiries.