The Uganda Railways Corporation (URC) has given about 3,000 mechanics in Jinja City a six-month ultimatum to vacate land on which they are operating to pave way for revamping of the railway.
This is contained in a letter from URC to the mechanics under their association, Jinja City Mechanics and Artisan Association Cooperative Saving and Credit Society Ltd.
“. . . In line with the national and regional objective, URC has prioritised interventions towards revamping of the railway transport sector and in support of this initiative, all illegal occupation, grabbing and encroachment on its land has been stopped in order to operate safely and effectively in line with its statutory mandate,’’ the Monday letter read in part.
Mr America Waiswa, a mechanic, said he has been paying taxes to the Jinja City Council, and the city authorities are aware that they have been operating on the land in question.
“We occupied the land legally and they (authorities) have been collecting taxes from us. We cannot stop URC from carrying out its activities, but the time that has been given to us to vacate the land is not enough,’’ he said.
Mr Taddeo Kirasi, another mechanic, asked the government to secure for them an alternative land.
“We contribute to the development of the country by paying taxes, so the government should find land for us,’’ he said.
Mr Kirasi described the eviction as a ‘double tragedy’ .
“Covid-19 affected us, now URC is evicting us from the city and authorities are also chasing us from the road reserves. We have families, school-going children and have nowhere to go,’’ he said.
Mr Peter Brown Kyemba, the association chairperson, said they relocated to the URC reserve land after the sale of most garages in Jinja City to investors.
“We had 32 garages on Kirinya Road but only six are active while the rest were sold to investors, so some of us who relocated to the URC reserve are being evicted. These garages have been assisting youth who cannot afford to pay school fees to continue with their studies.
Mr Kyemba said they asked Jinja City Council to temporarily relocate them to the land that stretches from the Police Barracks roundabout to Amber Court roundabout.
Number of mechanics
The association records indicate that Jinja City has more than 10,000 mechanics operating in about 38 garages. About 3,000 are affected by the redevelopment of the railway sector.
The Jinja City Mayor, Mr Peter Okocha Kasolo, said he will arrange a meeting with relevant authorities to see that their request for land is granted.
In their April 17 letter to the Minister for Works and Transport, the mechanics had requested permission to extend their stay on the URC reserve land until the government fulfils its pledge of constructing for them a permanent home.