By Andrew Ssenyonga & Eddie Ssejjoba
KAMPALA - The closure of Cooper Complex Taxi Park in downtown Kampala by KCCA has attracted mixed feelings among drivers, travelers and business people operating in the area.
KCCA moved in to close the park, saying it was set up illegally and that it was not gazetted. Users were relocated to a new park that is about a mile out of the city centre.
Scores of travellers plying the Kansanga Bunga-Ggaba route were on Sunday still stranded as the park remained empty following the closure..
The move affected passengers using the routes of Muyenga, Kansanga, Kabalagala, Bunga Ggaba, and Munyonyo.
KCCA issued the orders to close the park, saying it was illegal, but drivers protested the move saying it had been done to frustrate them.
They insisted the new location – Usafi Park, about a mile away – was instead an inconvenience to passengers. On Saturday, one frustrated traveler who found the park empty said she had to incur more travel expenses by having to use a boda boda (motorcycle) to get her to the new location.
The latest move is one of the strategies put in place by the city authority to decongest the city.
Mounds of earth were used to block the entry points of the park to keep taxis from making their way past. PHOTO/Eddie Ssejjoba
The police was on the ground to monitor the operation. PHOTO/Eddie Ssejjoba
An enforcement team from KCCA, accompanied by the police, stormed the area at about 4.00am local time (EAT) Saturday and heaped mounds of earth at the entrance of the park to block any taxi from entering.
Signposts for the various stages were also removed, underlining the seriousness of the operation.
Policemen remained on guard in the empty area. Two drivers were arrested for allegedly trying to inspire a strike.
‘Not a solution’
Central Police Station commander, Denis Namuwooza, who was at the scene said the two drivers, Kalule Abudallah and John Mugumya had been arrested and detained for attempting to unblock the entrances.
A few men, thought to be drivers, stood outside, directing passengers to the Usafi taxi park.
Others demanded for a meeting with KCCA director Jennifer Musisi, saying they wanted her to hear them out. They said the move was done in error, as it would not solve the problem of decongestion.
KCCA assistant spokesperson, Robert Kalumba, had earlier on Saturday said the decision to close the park and relocate the operators to Usafi is one of their plans to create space within the city.
Besides, the Cooper Complex Park was set up illegally and was not gazetted, Kalumba had pointed out.
Bodaboda riders were a beneficiary of the relocation – demand was higher – as many travelers had to ride back to Usafi Park. While some who had heavy luggage had to part with between sh1000 and sh2000 for a ride there, others walked the mile.
Some men, believed to taxi drivers, remained outside to direct travelers to the new Usafi taxi park. PHOTO/Eddie Ssejjoba
Police was deployed at the park to oversee the security situation. PHOTO/Eddie Ssejjoba
Some business people in the park said the move was good. Others said they had lost out on business. PHOTO/Eddie Ssejjoba
In the other smaller taxi parks of Namayiba and Kisenyi, business was undisturbed although drivers had received information that they would also be closed out.
‘Move is okay’
Passengers complained that the location of the newly constructed Usafi Pafk was not convenient for the Kansanga-Gaba route since it involved a passenger walking past the Clock Tower (Queens Way junction) and then boarding a taxi that returns in the jam.
One traveler said it was a “big inconvenience”.
“We were not told about the changes and the new location. We now need to walk up to Katwe to find a taxi to Gaba. We ask the authority [KCCA] to come out with an alternative taxi park nearby other than that one [Usafi],” said Moses Kabagambe.
Business people operating within the closed park held mixed reactions about the move.
Some believed the target to decongest the place was worthwhile, but others was frustrated that they had lost out in their businesses.
Mike Kirwana, a businessman who was in favour of the closure, said taxis used to block their shops.
“The number of taxis was overwhelming to the extent that some were blocking our businesses. The move is okay. Now our customers will access our businesses with ease,” he said.
Mildred Nakanjako, a food vender, said that the place was designed for customers who come to do business.