Kampala's main market
was gutted by fire early this morning (Wednesday). Much of St. Balikuddembe,
formerly known as Owino Market, has been destroyed. Hundreds of irate traders
are reportedly wailing over the loss of their properties, worth millions of
Gerald Bareebe, a reporter
for the Daily Monitor, a Kampala-based
newspaper, told VOA English to Africa reporter Douglas Mpuga there are
allegations that a polythene (plastic) bag full of fuel was used to start the
fire. He said many traders believe this was arson.
Speaking from the scene of
the badly damaged market, where he spent most of the day, Bareebe said,
"Everything has been burnt to ashes. People had all sorts of merchandise. Refrigerators,
clothes, television sets -- everything has been burnt."
He described the fire
brigade's response to the fire as pathetic. "(Its) headquarters is only about
300 meters from the burnt market. The fire brigade responded in time, but with
trucks that lacked water."
He added, "Imagine they had
to call for support from the airport (35 kilometers away in Entebbe) fire
fighting team." Actually it is the airport fire fighting team and a private
fire fighting company that put out the fire."
Bareebe said because the
fire started at night (3.00 am, according to some), there was little chance of
traders saving their merchandise. "They have lost a lot. Many were very angry.
They even became rowdy and expressed their anger at the city mayor."
He said the riot police had
running battles with these angry traders. "Canisters of tear gas were fired at
the irate traders who were demonstrating for loss of their merchandise in the
inferno that has left their market in ashes."
Bareebe added that the
government had to deploy the anti-terrorism police unit and military police to subdue
the traders. Most
of them depended on their trade in the market for survival and many do not know
what to do because their merchandise was not insured.
main opposition leader, Kiiza Besigye, was at the scene to console the traders.