Uganda: Did police misread Museveni order on pickup trucks?

Mamos Media

Police officers remove an alleged fake sticker from a pick-up truck. File photo  

By FRANKLIN DRAKU

Kampala- James Kasozi, a pick-up truck driver, has spent the last three weeks delivering eggs and other food supplies to residents in Kampala and its suburbs after government banned public transport and closed down public institutions to stop the spread of Covid-19.

Kasozi says when public transport was banned, he and two other drivers were delivering food and other supplies to their clients and all was well until security forces started arresting them and impounding their vehicles.

Until Monday last week, Kasozi has been delivering eggs to clients in Kamwokya, Kyebando, Bukoto and Kisaasi suburbs in Kampala. Every morning, he would drive to rural areas uninterrupted to pick the foodstuffs and deliver to clients. However, this changed. police started harassing him at checkpoints.

“I have been picking these eggs from Bombo, Matugga and sometimes Mityana, but each time the police would harass me on the way and force us to pay them some money to be allowed to go,” Kasozi said.

On Sunday, he was arrested at Matugga on his way to Bombo and was allegedly asked to pay Shs80,000 before he was released. Upon learning of this, his boss stopped them from working until they are assured of safety.

“Our boss said he cannot continue paying money and he told us to park all the three pickups we have been using. Right now, I do not have a job. The President said we can deliver food and other goods, but most of the things are not produced in town. So if we don’t go far in villages, we won’t get what to supply,” he said.

Kasozi said two of his colleagues have also suffered the same fate.

Muhamad Kiyingi, who owns a truck, gave a similar testimony. He said on Tuesday last week, he was hired by a businessman in Kamwokya, Kampala, to bring maize flour from Mityana District, but was stopped several times on the way. By the time, he reached Mityana to pick the maize flour, he had allegedly paid to police officers at checkpoints more than Shs100,000 in extortion.

When President Museveni banned both public and private transport, he allowed cargo trucks, pickups, delivery trucks, motorcycles, and bicycles to transport goods.

However, across the country, security forces are accused of harassing pickup drivers.
At most of the check-points, police and other security forces stop empty pickups and small delivery vans going to pick goods, especially from upcountry and on some occasions, they force them to drive back.

On Wednesday, a source who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he witnessed a pickup driver delivering eggs detained for several hours before being forced to drive out of the city.

“A tray of eggs has dropped to Shs3,000 in most farms,” the source said.
He said many of the farms that feed the city and its suburbs are in the countryside. Farmers have been relying on pickups and vans to buy and deliver supplies.

“Now if you ban pickups, how will they move? There are about 1,000 farmers like that in the central region. Some have pickups while others hire. They all cannot line up at the Ministry of Works to get stickers [permits to move],” the source further said.
On Jinja Road, traffic officers on Wednesday allegedly impounded an empty pickup. The source wondered why drivers of empty pickups are being harassed when they are going to pick supplies.

“Before a vehicle picks goods or after delivery, it must move empty, so how do you say they can only move when carrying goods? The police is simply arresting farmers going or returning to deliver feeds and eggs claiming the President banned pickups,” the source said.
The Minister of Trade and Industry, Ms Amelia Kyambadde, said such arrests are illegal and must stop.

“No, these pickups whether empty or with goods, they are not supposed to be confiscated. They were all cleared to deliver goods whether food or manufactured goods and if they are being arrested, it is wrong,” Ms Kyambadde said.

She said she would raise the matter in the national Covid-19 taskforce committee meeting.
Police insist pickups are not among essential vehicles.

Ms Polly Namaye, the deputy police spokesperson, said according to the directives, pickups are not among the essential vehicles and for them to travel, they need clearance from the responsible authorities.

“Pickups are not among essential vehicles. They have to have clearance,” Ms Namaye said.
Many people have claimed this is in contrary to what President Museveni said.

Source Daily Observer.

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