Makerere University has evicted more than 300 small business operators from its premises.
In 2022, the university council ordered all businesses to vacate campus premises based on the findings that numerous business activities that were operating on the university premises do not relate to its core functions while some businesses operate in non-designated spaces.
But the High court issued an interim injunction restraining the university from evicting the business owners until the main suit is heard. Later in August, the operators under their umbrella Makerere University Business Owners Association lost the suit against the university.
The estates and works acting director in an August 2023 letter to deputy vice chancellor Prof Henry Arinaitwe requested funds to facilitate the eviction process.
On Friday, the university management in partnership with the police commenced eviction of the several businesses from different halls of residences and colleges, including Livingstone, Mitchel and Nsibirwa halls among others. Some of the evicted businesses included photocopy and stationery shops, food stalls, restaurants, canteens, hair salons, mobile money kiosks, and more.
“We don’t have hopes of coming back, our bosses are trying hard, let us wait and see,” one business operator who preferred anonymity said.
However, as the eviction was going on, several students led by vice guild president Mariat Namiiro gathered from different halls of residence to demand answers from the administration on why the eviction was taking place despite their earlier plea to have the process halted.
The students argue that they are the direct beneficiaries of these businesses and that evicting them without providing solutions would be a disservice. They further argued that students, especially those living in halls of residence near the canteens, heavily rely on these services, and evicting them would put students, especially those with disabilities, at a disadvantage.
However, as they tried to protest, the police swung into action and arrested eight students who were taken to Wandegeya police station. Namiiro said that despite their continued discussions with the university deputy vice chancellor in charge of finance, they refused to provide answers to their requests.
She added that the fate of students who have been relying on these businesses hangs in balance because the university has brought no alternatives to them. Julius Gumisiriza, chairperson of Makerere University Business Owners said that they had more than 300 businesses within the campus, and despite trying to engage the university management to find out what the problem is, none of the administrators was willing to cooperate.
Gumisiriza also questioned the decision by the university management to carry out the evictions even when there is a pending case in court. Our attempts to get a comment from the university were futile. But, in an earlier interview with Makerere University vice chancellor Prof Barnabas Nawangwe said that the university was acting within the law. He said that they were targeting businesses operating without any contracts with the university.
"We are evicting only illegal businesses that do not have any contract with the university. The rest will remain and continue to provide the necessary services," said Nawangwe.