By Stephen Ssenkaaba
TWO little men - a dark, bonny faced short Muslim clad in a white T-shirt and sandals, and a light skinned, equally short â€œpastorâ€ dressed in a white striped shirt, a cream necktie and brown pair of trousers, are having a heated argument.
â€œOkiriza nti Yesu Nabbi,â€ (Do you believe that Jesus is a prophet?) the Muslim asks. But before the pastor can respond, a hoarse voice emerges from a tiny cubicle somewhere: â€œGasajja mwe muli ggabbi,â€ (you men are thieves) and another: â€œwakwana muka musajjaâ€ (You had an affair with another manâ€™s wife).
These men stand in front of a motor spare parts shop and are surrounded by a cheering crowd. The shop attendant is part of the crowd. The noise carries on until the men disappear.
I am seated just a few metres from the scene of the drama; and at 11:30 am, it seems a little too early for people to get this noisy and rowdy. But this is Kisekka Market and shouting and rowdiness are part of the daily business.
This heart of Kampalaâ€™s motor spare parts trade is probably the cityâ€™s most disorganised place. But there is more to it. Over the years, Kisekka Market has grown in stature, becoming a one-stop centre for used but reliable Japanese motor vehicle spare parts and motor vehicle repairs. This is mainly due to its cheap and fast service.
If you own a car and you have never been to Kisekka market, then you probably have links with the Global Fund purse.
The market is located on new Nakivubo Road, which cuts across Kyaggwe Road to Makerere Hill Road. From the entrance, the market looks like a series of narrow corridors lined to the left by a long winding string of lock up shops with brown corrugated roofs and concrete walls and to the right by a dilapidated school, housing flats and a big spare parts shop.
In front of what looks like a train of shops is a swarm of boda boda cyclists - young men seated on their motorbikes and beckoning prospective customers.
At all times of the day, Kisekka Market teams with human and motor vehicle traffic. Parked cars fill half of the road and the sidelines to the right of the corridors; people including passersby, businessmen, mechanics, school children are everywhere. The noise coming from the hooting cars, from the blaring music and idle talk of the traders is deafening.
It is a hub of activity here and the drama is intense. On one side, a young man shouts out loud to a telephone booth operator: â€œMwana muwala wanyiriddeâ€™ (girl you look so nice), as she shies away.
On the other side, a young muscular spare parts dealer holds on tightly to the waist of a young lady who has just served him tea.
He looks deep into her eyes as she playfully tries to disentangle herself from him as if in disgust.
The atmosphere is of a busy market day. Which is what Kisekka is. From as early as 7:00am, when the shops open, activity begins.
Young, curvaceous women clad in blue aprons and white headgear serve breakfast to the traders. Carrying huge metallic trays containing cups of porridge, tea and little brown buns, they move from shop to shop, serving.
Young men clad in dirty blue overalls are a common feature.
These mechanics are fast, smart and smooth. They line the paths waiting for customers - motorists with damaged cars. And the moment one drives into the market, a group of about five waylay the vehicle, running in the front, by the sides and at the back and leading the driver to their station, usually under a tree or an open space by the road side.
And before one can say anything, the â€˜expertsâ€™ have already identified faults. â€œThis side mirror is crooked, it could crack any minute; you need to replace it...,â€ they say. â€œYour tyre is very good but itâ€™s losing its grip... you donâ€™t want to risk your life with such a tyre. This is your chance to fix it...â€
â€œBefore you show them what you thought was the real problem, they have presented you with 10 other faults which you hardly knew existed,â€ says one customer. â€œIt is difficult to resist their advice because they are friendly, sound knowledgeable and seem ready to go the extra mile for you...â€
They will quickly collect a spare part from one of the shops where they have links and fix it for you at a â€œfriendly priceâ€.
But be warned! This could be at twenty or thirty thousand shillings more than the actual price. It is a fast, may be convenient, but sometimes tricky undertaking which may result in replacing original machines with fake ones.
Sometimes it could have been stolen from the streets, as these guys are known to deal in stolen spare parts.
But it is these peopleâ€™s knack for providing cheap services that has become so legendary. Dealing in mostly used Japanese spare parts, Kisekka Market mechanics offer material at very affordable rates.
An item that would cost sh300,000 if it was brand new, can be obtained from Kisekka (second hand) at sh100, 000.
â€œWe import at a low cost and therefore sell at reasonable prices,â€ said one dealer.
Also, their ability to offer a variety of services from car washing and fixing to servicing, has given them an edge over other dealers.
Kisekka market was born in the early 90s out of a mass exodus of traders who had been displaced from Lakecha Market (now the new taxi park).
â€œIt was a bushy, open area and a hangout for thieves,â€ recalls Godfrey Kiwanuka, one of the first occupants.
On acquisition of the land, the traders signed a lease agreement with Kampala City Council to own and develop it. The agreement will last until 2011.
The market was first called Old Kampala Market and later new Nakivubo market. It was later renamed Kisekka Market after former Prime Minister, the late Dr. Samson Kisekka.
â€œThis was partly due to its proximity to Kisekka hospital and the marketâ€™s objective fit in with Kisekkaâ€™s crusade of poverty alleviation through hard work,â€ says Kiwanuka.
The first structures, Kiwanuka says, were made of wooden makeshift stalls that were replaced in the mid 90s with concrete lock-up shops.
Today, the market, which covers 3.7 acres of land, comprises 7000 traders and is believed to host over 200,000 users every day. The market comprises landlords, tenants and casual users. The tenants pay a monthly rent of sh300,000 for a single lock up.
Kisekka market will be no more in just under three years, but its legacy to the ordinary Ugandan is undoubtedly enormous.