More than 300 business owners around Makerere University are feeling uneasy about a pending eviction that begins today.
The university is spending 20.2 million shillings on this eviction, targeting businesses that have set up without proper authorization and are not paying rent.
A source has hinted that teargas may make an appearance on the scene as the university finalizes plans to remove all unauthorized businesses today.
When questioned, Vice Chancellor Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe claimed he was unaware of the eviction.
However, Mr. Julius Gumisiriza, the chairperson of Makerere University Business Owners, confirmed the impending eviction but noted that it had been kept a secret by the university management.
“We received information from our sources that they intend to come and evict everybody tomorrow (today),” he said in an interview yesterday.
Gumisiriza mentioned that they had filed a case before the Court of Appeal regarding the matter.
“We appealed after losing to the university last year. Our case is pending judgment, and we are scheduled to appear before the court on November 20. The university has ignored that and intends to apply force,” he said.
“For now, there is nothing we can do other than wait for their actions and we proceed to court,” he added.
Business owners claim that university management, led by Prof. Henry Arinaitwe, Deputy Vice Chancellor-in-charge of Finance and Administration, met and decided on the eviction. When contacted, Prof. Arinaitwe said he was in church before switching off his phone.
However, an August 31 letter from the university Estates and Works department addressed to Prof. Arinaitwe stated that Shs20 million was required to carry out the eviction. The letter did not specify the eviction date.
“Following the dismissal of the court case against Makerere University Vs owners of commercial businesses, it is time to implement the council’s decision to remove all illegal businesses operating in unauthorized places,” the letter read in part.
Out of the Shs20 million, Shs8 million will be paid to 160 people hired for the eviction, Shs1.2 million is allocated for procuring eight large hammers, Shs1.6 million for purchasing 16 claw bars, and Shs2 million for eight wheelbarrows. Another Shs5 million will be used to buy 100 padlocks, and 180 liters of fuel are needed for the truck transporting debris and personal belongings.
The remaining Shs1.5 million will be used to hire 30 security officers to provide security during the four-hour exercise.
The efforts to evict businesses from the university began in July 2022 when the management issued eviction notices to businesses operating in different halls of residence and colleges.
Prof. Nawangwe argued that these businesses were operating without contracts and were not paying any fees.
However, the planned evictions did not happen as intended, as business owners petitioned the High Court, claiming they had been operating within the institution for the last 30 years.
In August 2022, the court issued an interim order, stopping the university from evicting business owners until their case was resolved.
Later, the business owners lost the case against the university. According to sources, this gave the university the green light to proceed with their planned eviction this year.
Gumisiriza claimed they had appealed against the university’s victory and asked the authorities to await the outcome of the pending appeal before proceeding with the eviction.