National, News

Vendors stranded as Custom Market remains close

By Aweye Teddy Onam


For three days in a row, on Monday, parts of Custom Market remained closed and under heavy police guard following a protest by street vendors.

The protests that started on Friday sparked a standoff between the vendors and authorities. Three police officers were injured following a confrontation with vendors.

It all started when the government of Central Equatoria State, the Juba City Council, and the University of Juba reached an agreement to allow the street vendors in Customs to use the University’s space to see their products.

This was meant to empty the Customs’ streets for the renovation of roads within Juba City.

However, despite the compromise with the vendors, the allocated marketplace was believed to have been unequally distributed to the retailers, which triggered the protest.

But the Police say the protest was started by some vendors who failed to secure a place after registration had already taken place.

In a spot-check by No. 1 Citizen Daily Newspaper yesterday, a large presence of soldiers could be seen on all roads leading to the main market was seen.

Access to the market was restricted to only those with a token card, that had been issued to vendors for the allocation of space in the new market.

The claim was that vendors who had wounded police officers were those who did not have the token cards.

Our reporter approached one of the officers and requested entry into the market, the officer asked if she had a token card, to which she replied no. He then informed her that only hawkers with token cards were allowed to access that road.

When she asked about hawkers who did not have the cards but wanted to obtain them, the officer ordered her to leave the area.

While standing nearby, the reporter overheard a vendor pleading with the officers to allow her to enter the market, as she had left her token card inside.

The police officers instructed her to call someone at the market to bring her the card, as that was the only means of entry.

The vendor who later chose to remain anonymous due to fear of reprisal said that she had not been able to sell her goods due to ongoing restrictions to the market.

She stated that except for those selling vegetables, no one was allowed to sell in the market.

Another anonymous hawker informed the reporter that the unrest was triggered by discrimination in the allocation of spaces, as those with more money and foreigners, were being given priority.

This, the source said had caused frustration among other hawkers, leading to the protests, the source said.

Meanwhile, the police spokesperson, Daniel Justin, stated in a phone interview with No.1 Citizen Daily Newspaper that he was waiting for the general report, adding that the mayor was expected to attend a meeting with the vendors on the matter.


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