From protection to repression: the politics of street vending

Graeme Young
  • Article Title: From protection to repression: the politics of street vending in Kampala
  • Title of Journal: Journal of Eastern African Studies
  • Vol #: 11
  • Issue #: 4

Abstract: The political evolution of Kampala under the National Resistance Movement (NRM) has profoundly affected the fortunes of the city’s street vendors. This article examines the effects of institutional changes brought about by the NRM’s efforts to monopolize power in the city, arguing that the twin forces of democratization and decentralization allowed street vending to flourish while the reversal of these processes precipitated its dramatic decline. Democratization and decentralization initiated a period of intense political competition in which vendors could trade political support for protection from politicians who were more interested in political survival than the implementation of policy. This ability was lost when the central government introduced a new city government that shifted the balance of power from elected politicians to appointed technocrats. The new city government has since sought legitimacy through development and urban management initiatives that aim to transform Kampala into a supposedly modern, well-organized city. In doing so, it has sought to eradicate street vending, a practice it sees as the antithesis of and an obstacle to its ambitions. Lacking the channels for political influence that they previously enjoyed, street vendors have been forced to face the full brunt of government repression.

Informal Economy Topic
Occupational group
Publication Type