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Over 150 vendors evicted to pave way for international heritage site in Jinja

Enforcement personnel from Jinja city council seen evicting crafts vendors from Source Of River Nile. PHOTO URN

Jinja, (UG): More than 150 vendors involved in crafting at the source of the River Nile were on Wednesday evicted to make way for the redevelopment of the international heritage site.

Mr Edward Lwanga, the Jinja City clerk revealed that the eviction followed the shs30 billion allocated by the Ministry of Tourism for the implementation of the 20-year Source of River Nile in a redevelopment master plan.

Mr Lwanga explained that the Ministry of Tourism instructed them to clear the land by November 13, 2023, to prepare the area for the construction of a modern pier valued at Shillings 19 billion.

The contract for constructing this pier, which marks the beginning of the Source of River Nile’s redevelopment, was awarded to EXCEL Construction Limited.

The project was initially slated to commence on October 1, 2023, but it was delayed due to the presence of occupants on the land.

The redevelopment plan includes the construction of a modern harbor and world-class recreational facilities. These additions aim to enhance the overall tourism experience for visitors, allowing them to get the most value from their visit.

The recreational facilities are designed to encourage tourists to spend more time and money at the site, ultimately generating increased revenue for the government.

This redevelopment initiative seeks to promote the site internationally, particularly to tourists interested in learning about innovations at the Source of the River Nile.

Mr Lwanga emphasized that the vendors currently occupy the precise location designated for the modern harbor, which needs to be completed by the end of this year. As a result, it is imperative to evict the vendors promptly to initiate the project.

He added that a series of meetings had been held to inform vendors about the impending evictions. However, the affected vendors are subtenants, and their landlords failed to relay this information in an attempt to extort more money from them. The vendors have been given a grace period of one month to plan their departure from the site without losing any property.

Jinja City Mayor, Mr Peter Kasolo stated that the vendors will have the opportunity to profit during the upcoming Nyege Nyege festival at the Source of River Nile, which will be held early next month.

After the one-year construction period, slated to conclude in November 2024, vendors will be allowed to return to the site. Despite these arrangements, the vendors accuse Jinja City authorities of failing to provide them with adequate eviction notices, making it difficult for them to relocate peacefully. 

For instance, Patricia Mirembe reported that her artwork, valued at Shillings 3 million, was damaged during the eviction process, as she was not given time to move her property.

Kenneth Balidawa, who has been trading crafts at the Source of the River Nile for over 30 years, expressed his frustration over the lack of alternative premises provided by Jinja City authorities for their businesses.

Salim Gizamba, the chairperson of the crafts vendors at the Source of River Nile, urged the authorities to opt for peaceful evictions for the relocation of these vendors instead of using force.

He also pointed out the lack of eviction notices, which complicated their planning for a peaceful transition.

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