Street Vending in Kampala: From Corruption to Crisis


  • Pius Gumisiriza


 For many decades, the Kampala City Council (KCC) tolerated street vending was as a positive livelihood strategy for many poor urban dwellers. In 2010, the Parliament of Uganda passed legislation that changed the management of Kampala city from elected (KCC) to central government-appointed officials (KCCA). The main argument given for this change was that it would reduce endemic corruption, improve working conditions of very poor groups, and streamline service delivery. However, Kampala witnessed an unprecedented increase in the number of street vendors between 2014 and 2019. The central government and KCCA officials framed vendors’ ongoing presence and refusal to vacate the streets as a suicidal problem. Ruthless eviction operations by KCCA law enforcement officers have yielded very limited success. This article argues that deliberate neglect of market vendors’ needs and corruption embedded in the process of demolishing, redevelopment, and management of redeveloped/purchased markets left thousands of low-income market vendors without adequate relocation alternatives. Many resorted to street vending thus, turning an already existing issue into a crisis. Having contributed to this street vending crisis, state actors used ruthless means to evict but without success. Street vendors have used defiance, building alliances with opposition politicians, and bribing some KCCA law enforcement officers to defy KCCA eviction efforts. Heightened fear by the central government that continued crude eviction of street vendors without any viable livelihood option would have serious political drawbacks combined with the other factors to further circumvent KCCA efforts to evict them.