The heart of Kampala was plunged into disarray as a wave of discontent swept through its streets, with shops slamming shut in a unified protest against the newly introduced Electronic Fiscal Receipting and Invoicing Solutions (EFRIS) system.

 The normally bustling corridors of commerce stood eerily silent as traders, emboldened by the Federation of Uganda Traders’ Associations (FUTA) and later reinforced by the Kampala City Traders Association-KACITA, took to the pavements to amplify their grievances.

For days on end, the once-vibrant arcades and storefronts remained desolate, their metal shutters serving as a visual testament to the collective frustration of the trading community.

 A palpable tension hung in the air, exacerbated by the formidable presence of security forces strategically deployed across various precincts of the city center. From the stoic stance of military police to the vigilant gaze of the field force unit-counterterrorism Police, law enforcement agencies braced themselves for potential unrest amidst the burgeoning dissent.

The simmering discontent boiled over on key thoroughfares like Nakivubo, Namirembe, and Kiseka, where confrontations between traders and police escalated into chaotic scenes of teargas-laden clashes and sporadic gunfire.

Amidst the acrid haze of smoke and the cacophony of protest chants, the resolute voices of the traders echoed their demands for justice and redress.

At the forefront of this uprising stood Godfrey Katongole, the indomitable Chairman of the Kampala Arcades Association-KATA, who articulated the grievances of the traders with unwavering conviction.

 Katongole bemoaned the opacity surrounding the EFRIS system, citing the traders’ profound ignorance of its mechanisms, coupled with their resentment towards exorbitant tariffs such as the 35% import duty and perceived inequitable tax collection practices by the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA).

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“We’re protesting against Electronic fiscal receipting and invoice solution which is being put on us, yet we don’t know how it works, taxes like import duty which is at 35%, we want it reduced to 20%,  and unfair taxes collection methods by URA,” Katongole said.

 He declared an indefinite closure of businesses until Friday, pinning hopes on a scheduled rendezvous with the President to present their case directly.

The anticipated meeting with the President loomed large as a beacon of hope amidst the tumultuous landscape of uncertainty. Katongole underscored its paramount importance, lamenting the government’s penchant for enacting policies without fully grasping their ramifications on the business community. With resolve etched on their faces, the traders braced themselves for the pivotal dialogue that could shape the trajectory of their livelihoods.

However, amidst the fervor of dissent, ominous warnings emanated from the corridors of law enforcement. Luke Owoyesigyire, the Deputy Police Spokesperson for Kampala Metropolitan, issued a stark caution, alleging nefarious plots by political entities to co-opt the protests for their own ulterior motives. He castigated the purported machinations of politicians seeking to sow chaos and subvert the peaceful nature of the demonstrations, vowing to uphold law and order at all costs.

Meanwhile, the steadfast stance of the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) remained unchanged, as John Musinguzi, the Commissioner General, reiterated the government’s unwavering commitment to the EFRIS system. 

Musinguzi reassured the trading community of continued engagement and dialogue, emphasizing the need for mutual understanding and cooperation in navigating the transition to the new fiscal regime.

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As the standoff between traders and authorities persisted, the city center found itself ensnared in a quagmire of uncertainty, with the fate of businesses and the broader economy hanging precariously in the balance.

Against a backdrop of simmering tensions and entrenched positions, the resounding call for resolution echoed through the labyrinthine alleys of Kampala, underscoring the imperative for dialogue and compromise in charting a path forward.

The post Deserted Downtown: Traders’ Protest Renders Kampala’s Streets Empty appeared first on Watchdog Uganda.

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