PIC: Security beefed up at Mbale Municipal Council offices after truck drivers and owners staged a demonstration. (Credit: Paul Watala)
MBALE- Police in Mbale on Monday, June 4, braved early morning drizzles to engage in a battle with Mbale Truck Drivers Association that had blocked Republic Street and entrances to Mbale municipal council offices expressing disappointment at the way the offloading and loading contract was awarded.
Over 300 truck drivers and owners stormed the streets with their trucks and blocked republic street and gates leading to the Mbale Municipal Council main building.
They staged a demonstration and held a procession into town. They were chanting songs and sending insults to Mbale municipal council deputy town clerk, Kenneth Khatuli, they accused of being corrupt.
They blocked the streets, leaving other stranded and paralysed. This forced the Police to heavily deploy in order to calm the situation.
Most Mbale Municipal Council employees who had already entered the council premises locked themselves inside their offices.
A group of truck drivers launched a hunt for the deputy town clerk and councillors in town, but fortunately, they had been informed and fled to safety.
Jacob Wamalwa, the chairperson of Mbale Truck Drivers and Owners Association, accused Mbale municipal council leaders of not giving them chance to manage themselves as per the directive from the President.
"President Yoweri Museveni directed that people manage themselves, but Mbale Municipal Council awarded the contract to Equator company that is owned by Brigadier Elly Kayanja without giving us chance, " Wamalwa said.
"We tried to bid for the contract so that we could manage the contract of loading and offloading, but all in vain and that is why we decided to stage a demonstration to express our disappointment," he added.
Ahmed Nabende, a truck driver, told New Vision that their effort to convince Khatuli could not yield, adding that the way drivers are being treated is causing more hatred for the NRM party.
"Some of us support NRM as a party and we are trying to lure others from Opposition to join us, but when they see us being treated like this, they see no reason to support NRM," Nabende said.
"We are not going to pay taxes until Mbale Municipal Council aAuthorities resolve the matter. Equator company belongs to UPDF senior officer Kayanja who has now deployed his juniors to collect the loading and offloading fees," he said.
He accused the officers deployed of harassing defaulters, adding that President Museveni should intervene. He wondered why Khatuli had never been transferred since he has been the deputy town clerk for the last 17 years.
"This is not the first time Khatuli has used his office to oppress the disadvantaged. We are told to pay sh1000 per bag that is loaded or off loaded, which is too much," he said.
Mbale Municipality Mayor Mutwalibi Zandya said the council had not refused to give truck drivers chance to manage themselves, adding that the challenge is that they are not organised.
"The rules are clear that the contract cannot be given to people who are not organised. We want them to organise themselves so that next time the contract can be awarded to them," Zandya said.
Zandya said the contract was awarded to Equator at sh48m per month and the contract will run for nine months, but he did not confirm if Brigadier Elly Kayanja was behind the Equator Company that had won the tender.
However, an emergency meeting was called and the Mbale DPC, Mathias Turyasingura, addressed the truck drivers and agreed to forge a way forward, which the truck drivers agreed to.
The effort to get a comment from the Equator authorities could not yield as most of them refused to talk to the media, directing us to their superiors.