More than 300 artisans in Mbale are to be evicted from a plot of land on which they have operated for decades.
Church of Uganda Mbale Diocese last week issued an eviction notice to the artisans to vacate the plot adjacent to a church in the central division. The notice said the group of mechanics and metal fabricators is to be removed to give room for the expansion of the church.
Many of the artisans have been working in the area since the 1970s and the new development has left them stranded. They say their livelihoods depend on the income from their trade on the land and have no options for transfer.
45-year-old Swaibu Kitakule, a mechanic, says he is the sole breadwinner for his family of 14 children and 20 dependants. He says he started his trade in 1978 after dropping out of school and has no other source of income to cater for his family after the eviction.
//Cue in: iWe are stranded#i
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Kizito Ssuna, another mechanic, says that even if they are given another area of operation, their businesses will take a big hit. He explains that the area of town has become known for the sale of cheap, locally-made product and fears that customers may be lost in the transfer.
//Cue in: iIf we got another place #i
Cue out: i# we have stayed for a long time.i//
For Musa Bogere, he and many of his colleagues cannot afford the costs of moving to a new place. He says moving the large cargo containers which they operate out of will be too expensive for them.
//Cue in: iFor us here #i
Cue out: i# we shall go.i//
Masa Musa, the LC3 Chairman for Mbale Industrial Division, says the impending eviction is illegal. He accuses Ssezi Mungati, the chairperson of the Mbale District Land Board who is a member of the church's parish council, of using his position to illegally evict the artisans. Masa Musa claims the land is the property of the Mbale Town Council.
Ssezi Mungati was unavailable for comment but the Bishop of Mbale Diocese, Rt. Rev Samwiri Wabulaka, the land under contention belongs to the church and all supporting documents are available for scrutiny.