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Street vendors sue KCCA law enforcement officers for brutal arrests

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The lawyers representing the female street vendors Yasin Ssentumbwe(Left) and Simon Peter Esomu(Right) at the High Court Civil Division. PHOTO URN

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Two street vendors have sued Kampala Capital City Authority -KCCA and two law enforcement officers for inhuman arrest during operations.

The vendors Esther Apio and Hamida Nakayaga who sell fruits, drinks, and vegetables on Tuesday filed their case against Isaac Kato, Henry Mutebi, and KCCA.

They contend that KCCA often sends male enforcement officers who do not accord them dignity as women during arrests. They add that the male officers not only confiscate their merchandise but also undress them, tear their clothes, assault them, hold their private parts, and mercilessly drag them to the police where they face numerous charges.

Nakayaga was accompanied to court by Apio who also claims was maimed by KCCA enforcement officers in August last year.

The group through their lawyers Esomu Simon Peter and Yasin Ssentumbwe have filed a suit seeking to compel KCCA to observe their guaranteed Human rights to privacy, dignity, and work.  They are also seeking compensation inform of damages for their violated rights and permanent injury damage caused.

The evidence before the Court shows that on September 22nd, 2022, KCCA law enforcement officers led by Mutebi conducted routine law enforcement activities. During the operation, Mutebi reportedly beat, slapped, kicked, strangled, and violently squeezed Nakayaga’s breasts.

“These beatings lasted for about 20 minutes. This left the grandson of the second applicant/Nakayaga traumatized. The second respondent/Mutebi later made away with the merchandise and continued to threaten and harass Nakayaga whenever he found her. “, reads the documents.

Documents further indicate that on August 4th, 2023, Mutebi while carrying out routine activities in the company of rogues, one of their officers allegedly Nicknamed Namagoye kicked and tackled from behind Apio leading to a hard fall which left her severely injured.

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The vendors argue that the unjustified employment of male law enforcement officers in arresting female vendors threatened and infringed their rights to equal dignity and the subsequent confiscation of their property violated their rights to property.

“The first respondent’s officers, the second and third respondents have unjustifiably, systematically, occasionally, and easily targeted the applicants and other women street vendors with harassment, physical and verbal forms of gender-based violence, and torture due to their vulnerability based on their gender as women, economic standing, and nature of their trade”, adds the document.

They now say that is equitable and fair that the officers and KCCA be held accountable for their actions and to take immediate steps to rectify the situation, aimed at ensuring the rights and safety of all women street vendors are protected by national and international standards.

Through their lawyers of Arekaho, Partners, and Company Advocates, the women contend that the incident involving KCCA law enforcement has had a profound and distressing impact on them, resulting in significant emotional trauma.

They argue that the emotional trauma has affected their daily life causing anxiety and fear for their lives whenever they meet the law enforcement officers and they have since lost daily earnings between 15,000 shillings and 25,000 shillings.

The evidence before the Court shows that the ladies visited several hospitals including Kisenyi Health Centre Four, Mulago National Referral Hospital, Victoria Hospital, and UMC as they tried to nurse their injuries.

The case is yet to be allocated to a Judge who will summon the enforcement officers, KCCA, and fix the case for hearing.

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In 2019, KCCA drafted a bill to introduce a Street Trade Ordinance which would allow orderly hawking and vending on the streets but has never been concluded. It was brought to the KCCA council for the first reading and forwarded to divisions for consultations with stakeholders.

The bill provides for the licensing of street vendors and hawkers in the five divisions of Kampala. Street vendors and hawkers operating the Central Business District would pay an annual license of 210,000 Shillings and 112,500 Shillings respectively while those from the outskirts, mainly in divisions of Kawempe.

Nakawa, Lubaga, and Makindye would pay 78,750 Shillings and 60,000 Shillings respectively. The bill also suggests uniforms for street vendors and hawkers depending on divisions. Since the ordinance is not yet in place, running battles between KCCA and vendors continue.

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