Land dispute frustrates Laroo food traders

(Last Updated On: 1 June 2024)

Gulu | Food vendors at St Peter Laroo Market in Gulu City East Division are upset about evictions.

The land where the market is located is privately owned, and the owners intend to develop it. The traders have now notified the city council, requesting a prompt rescue.

Christine Opwonya, 56, a vendor at St Peter Laroo market, shared how their businesses have stalled due to frustration from landowners who chase them.

She disclosed that 120 registered members had been chased away more than three times. She said that only 70 of the 120 members are currently in operation.

Others have gone to the villages to raise funds to send their children back to school because the market is unprofitable.

Opwonya, who obtained a loan from Brac Bank, has been struggling to raise funds to service her loan. She is stuck having to repay.

Like her colleagues, she is pleading with the city council to immediately allocate them “a stable market.” “We have repeatedly reported our concerns to our local leaders, but nothing has changed; the problems persist.”

For years, she claimed, they had been paying shs10,000-20,000 to Laroo landowners, despite the fact that the council was supposed to collect such revenue from them to support the country’s development.

Vicky Auma, 40, a single mother, is another vendor at Laroo Market. She stated that they are struggling to feed their children after their fathers abandoned them.

“Seeing local leaders and city council fail to support our business and secure a stable location for us is upsetting.”

She has told tndNews more than three times that landowners are evicting them.

Auma is calling on the city council, well-wishers, non-governmental organisations, and the government to come together to support their business, as the majority of the vendors are widows who are struggling to raise their children alone while running a small business.

She also revealed that half of the food vendors always bought their goods from Gulu’s Olaylong main market and sold them all in one day.

Auma stated that after the students break for the holidays, their commodities take more than three days to complete.

Meanwhile, Hellen Oneka, 73, sells food at Dire market. She stated that there are over 50 registered members who are extremely frustrated.

The frustration has forced over 35 members out of business, and the majority have fled to their villages.

According to Akena Lamex Lambert, deputy speaker of Gulu City Council, the council has not addressed the concerns of city vendors.

“We have yet to identify and determine the root cause of the problem,” he stated.

Akena confirmed that St Peter Laroo Market has been gazetted by the city council.

“There is land allocated for them; we need to find out why they are operating on private land rather than gazetted land.”

Akena also chastised some food vendors who chose to operate in a non-gazetted market.

“Many fiscal years, we have struggled to collect revenue to meet our approved budget due to numerous leakages. We are failing to collect the amount approved.”

The Gulu City Council approved approximately shs37.97 billion for the fiscal year 2024-2025.

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