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Fire guts Uganda's largest market

By Vision Reporter

Added 26th February 2009 03:00 AM

THOUSANDS of vendors wept after a monstrous fire gutted their merchandise at the Nakivubo Park Yard, a makeshift market in downtown Kampala.

THOUSANDS of vendors wept after a monstrous fire gutted their merchandise at the Nakivubo Park Yard, a makeshift market in downtown Kampala.

By Vision Reporter

THOUSANDS of vendors wept after a monstrous fire gutted their merchandise at the Nakivubo Park Yard, a makeshift market in downtown Kampala.

The blaze, whose cause had not yet established, broke out at about 4:30am on Wednesday.
The park yard is adjacent to St. Balikuddembe (Owino) market, the city’s biggest market.

“Maama Nnyabo, Maama Nnyabo!”, moaned Vincent Kirabira, whose venture was worth sh1.5m.

An unidentified woman cried as she raised her hands above her head. Her two stalls and merchandise were destroyed.

By daybreak, thousands of people had gathered on Nakivubo road, many in tears.

The market mainly sold second-hand items, like textiles, shoes, bags, electronics, tarpaulins and .

The yard was originally used as a parking area for Nakivubo Stadium.
In the 1980s, the parking was taken over by the market vendors.

The Police said the inferno started from a section next to the stadium before spreading to the other parts of the market. The market had 3,000 stalls with 25,000 registered traders.

Most of the stalls were made out of canvas, polythene and wood.
A fire brigade team from the nearby headquarters, which rushed to the scene shortly after the fire broke out, could not contain it.

Despite the fire brigade’s efforts, the raging fire spread to the nearby building the market.

Efforts to put out the fire were in vain until a team from Entebbe Airport, about 21 miles away, arrived.
Onlookers shouted at the security people, accusing them of not acting promptly to quell the fire.

Under the Inspector General of Police, Maj. Gen. Kale Kayihura’s supervision and that of the former chief fire officer, Joseph Mugisa, the fire fighters subdued the fire shortly after 1:00pm.

The vendors were twice restrained from attacking Kayihura, whom they taunted as he assessed the extent of damage.

They suspect that the fire was deliberately started by the bus company, which wants to build a terminal on a nearby patch of land.
Kayihura, however, differed with the vendors, saying the cause of the fire was yet to be ascertained.
Initial investigations, he said, established that the fire spread quickly because of the combustible material and lack of access routes in the market.

Moments after Kayihura’s departure, the traders stormed the stadium and looted sodas, chairs and metallic poles.

As the looters carried away the items to the burnt market, some said the poles would be used to create new stalls.

They smashed empty soda bottles against the concrete terraces in the stadium until the Police dispersed the crowd with teargas.

Several local leaders, including the mayor, Nasser Ssebagala, and a Cabinet delegation, braved verbal abuse form the vendors as they inspected the ruins.

Many accused Kampala City Council of ignoring the wrangles between the bus park operators and the park yard management.

The ministers, who included the new local government minister, Adolf Mwesige, state minister for internal affairs Matia Kasaija, information and national guidance minister Kabakumba Matsiko and disaster preparedness minister Prof. Tarsis Kabwegyere were booed as they inspected the burnt market.

The vendors said they had drawn the attention of the authorities to their wrangles, but nothing had been done. They vowed to reconstruct their market.

Fire guts Uganda's largest market

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