A Ugandan court last week ordered lawmakers to pay back money they had awarded themselves to combat coronavirus. Meanwhile, in Malawi, President Peter Mutharika announced Covid-19 cash packages for the poor to help them survive the pandemic over the next three-months.
The high court in Uganda has ruled that MPs must pay back any money they received as part of a package they approved to fight coronavirus in their constituencies, local media reported.
An allocation of 2.4 million euros was paid into the individual accounts of lawmakers earlier in April, according to The Observer newspaper. It must be repaid or transferred to national or district Covid-19 taskforces.
The money was initially approved as part of a bigger budgetary package and was intended to be used for sensitisation about the virus.
However, the payment irked President Yoweri Museveni, who described it as “morally reprehensible”.
Some MPs had already refunded the money. Opposition lawmaker Bobi Wine described the payment as “wrong and immoral”, saying he would return the money and not participate in such a “vile” fraud.
Uganda has confirmed 79 cases of coronavirus with no deaths, according to the latest statistics from the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.
Malawi’s emergency cash transfer programme
Authorities in Malawi on Tuesday announced cash payments would be made to the most vulnerable, helping them cope during the Covid-19 crisis.
President Peter Mutharika said vulnerable households would be paid 43 euros per month for a three-month period, according to the Nyasa Times.
Malawi’s government has been blocked by the country’s courts from implementing a coronavirus lockdown because no assistance was provided for those in need.
Residents of Otuke in northern Uganda have been left in panic after desert locusts, which have been causing havoc in the neighbouring Karamoja region spread to the district.
Two swarms of locusts which entered Amudat District from Kenya and spread to the rest of the districts in Karamoja crossed to Otuke on Sunday evening, according to local leaders.
The insects were reportedly seen in Atirayon Parish in Ogwete Sub-county at the Otuke-Napak border. However, there have been no immediate reports on destruction caused by the locusts.
Mr Jackson Opio, a resident of Amaracidi Village in Ogwete Sub-county said the locusts had not yet caused much damage.
Otuke District chairman, Mr Bosco Odongo Obote, said the locusts have invaded Agweng, Angaro, Amaracidi, Akodo-kodoi and Angaro villages in Ogwete Sub-county.
“Otuke District local government is liaising with government to stump out the locusts before they cause extensive damage,” Mr Odongo told Daily Monitor on Monday.
He said a team of Local Defense Unit (LDU) was immediately deployed and they embarked on spraying the desert locusts in Ogwete Sub-county using hand pumps. The LC5 chairman said the locusts are headed to Olilim and Ogor sub-counties, still in Otuke.
He appealed to local leaders in the affected communities to register all households whose gardens have been destroyed by the locusts for immediate government intervention.
Otuke is just recovering from prolonged dry spell that ravaged the district from October 2018 until late March 2019, when Lango received intermittent rainfall. The pattern affected planting seasons in 2018 and the beginning of 2019, leading to severe food shortages. With the invasion of locusts, residents are worried that they are likely to starve.
- DAILY MONITOR
The Ugandan government has slapped Kenyan poultry processors with import quotas.
This comes a week after the Kenyan government lifted a two-year ban on poultry products from Uganda following an Avian flu outbreak in 2017.
In a letter by Uganda Commissioner of Animal Health at the Ministry of Agriculture Dr Ann Rose Ademun, Kenyan poultry processors are only allowed to export into Uganda 2,000kg of smoked chicken sausages for four months.
“We will only allow (processed chicken) import from Kenya for a period of four months and only 2,000kg of chicken sausages,” part of the letter reads. Ademun said the move is to protect Uganda’s poultry industry. “In order to promote and support the Uganda government goal on the development of meat industry, the Department of Animal Health wishes to advise you to source for meat (chicken) products on the local market. We shall allow import for a short time not exceeding four months from now,” Dr Ademun said in a letter to one of the poultry industry players.
“Your organisation is, therefore, encouraged to buy local machinery equipment for chicken products processing and production of quality products to support government national effort as well as access to export trade.”
Kenya imports about 35,000kg of Uganda poultry weekly. However, given the porous nature of the borders, the number could be higher. The import restriction has generated an unhealthy competition and supremacy war between the two East African Community (EAC) countries. The trade spat may hurt both Kenyan and Ugandan farmers.
In 2017, Kenya banned the importation of chicken products from Uganda due to an outbreak of the Avian influenza virus. Uganda retaliated by banning the importation of Kenyan poultry products.
Upon the resolution of the outbreak, the two countries agreed to allow the resumption in trade. Uganda, however, continues to impose the ban on Kenyan products, insisting they are protecting their local industry.
Spirit of EAC
Paul Makau, a large-scale poultry farmer and the chairman of the United Broiler Farmers Association, said Uganda’s move negates the spirit of the EAC Common Market Protocol, which allows for free movement of goods, labour, services, and capital.
“The new development means that the Uganda poultry products have free access to the Kenyan market while the Kenyan products are regulated from accessing the Ugandan market,” he said.
Kenya’s poultry industry contributes about two per cent of the country’s gross domestic product. The impact is bigger given that most households in rural areas rear chicken for commercial purposes and their activities are not recorded.
The industry’s growth is powered by health-conscious consumers who prefer poultry meat to red meat. On average, Kenyans ate 2.6kgs of poultry meat in 2018 a slight increase from 2.3kg in 2017.
Source: Standard Media Kenya
For a period of time between 1986 and the early 2000s Uganda was considered to be a country committed to democratic reform. But in recent years the democratic space has shrunk dramatically.
In a recently published journal article I argue that two factors have been crucial. The first is the gradual breakdown of the political consensus that was forged under a ‘broad-based’ government. This consensus resulted in a relatively progressive constitution which was adopted in 1995.
The second is the security imperative which has been accentuated by the fight against terrorism. As a result, the legitimate opposition has become a target of trumped up terror charges.
These two factors have been compounded by incumbent president Yoweri Museveni’s determination to be in power indefinitely. He’s dug in. He wants to rule for life. To stay put in State House, Museveni has had to run roughshod over important constitutional and institutional safe guards, checks and balances that were enshrined in what was a relatively progressive and liberal constitution. His actions have eroded the minimum political consensus embodied in Uganda’s 1995 constitution.
The result has been an erosion of basic democratic institutions, the securitisation of politics, criminalisation of political competition, and an upsurge in contentious politics. The outcome is that the country is facing a deep governance crisis.
How it’s meant to work
To work effectively a democratic government, of whatever stripe and tenor, must be anchored in a set of institutions. It must follow the ‘rules of the game’ that structure and condition actor-behaviour. In many countries the constitution is the primary source of the rules that translate into functional institutions, governmental bodies and state agencies.
But how do the rules of the game come about? They can be imposed through colonial conquest and forceful occupation, or through autocratic leadership. But taking this route is inevitably a recipe for contestation, protestation and even violent confrontation.
The second, and more sustainable, way of establishing the rules of the game is through negotiation, compromise and, in some respects, co-option of key political actors and their constituents. The essence is to arrive at some minimum political consensus that embodies the aspirations and wishes of key political actors and the wider public.
This minimum consensus turns on the basic norms and beliefs about what is acceptable and what is considered outside the bounds of political activity and engagement. Without this it’s not possible to sustain democratic governance.
In the early years of Uganda’s National Resistance Movement there was an attempt to build minimum consensus around some basic rules. This culminated in a constitution being adopted in 1995 that provided for several crucial checks and balances. This included granting parliament autonomy and the judiciary independence. There were also assurances of public accountability through a slew of institutions. These ranged from parliament’s public accounts committee to the Inspectorate of Government and the Auditor General.
But, in my view, the minimum consensus embodied in the 1995 constitution has been ripped apart.
What’s been broken
In 2003, Museveni began his assault on the constitution with a view to deleting presidential term limits. This came after two decades of single-party rule, which was a system of governance that was cleverly packaged as ‘no-party’ politics.
As part of Museveni’s assault on the supreme law there was a turnaround to embracing multiparty politics. In 2005, Ugandans went into a referendum and voted to return to a mulitparty system of governance. But the referendum was no more than a tactical move; it was used as a bargaining chip to remove term limits.
As a result, Uganda has been on a downward spiral since 2006.
By undermining the 1995 constitutional order in pursuit of regime survival, Museveni and the National Resistance Movement have simultaneously eroded minimum consensus and triggered political polarisation. And there has been little regard for policy alternatives and how best to move the country forward in successive election cycles.
This state of affairs has produced toxic politics and a highly adversarial relationship between the political opposition and security agencies, especially the police. The sum of it is that state security and police agencies have placed squarely at the centre of political contestations.
The desire to cling to power has also lead to institutions being undermined. In the judiciary, for example, the appointment of ‘cadre judges’ became pronounced after 2005.
In addition, state patronage, gerrymandering, and outright rigging have been used to manufacture a super majority in the house. Consequentially, Parliament has been grossly watered down and twisted to be at the service of regime survival.
The war on terror
The breakdown of minimum elite consensus has been compounded by the fight against terrorism. Museveni has astutely used this to continue positioning himself as a security president: needed by the west and trusted at home.
For most of the 1990s and early 2000s, insurgencies in the north, northeast and parts of the west of Uganda were the primary source of Museveni’s justification for holding onto power, ostensibly to deal with the insecurity. This security appeal had waned by the 2000s. But it was revived when Al-Shabaab attacked Kampala in July 2010.
The upshot is that the imperatives of security are used to criminalise otherwise legitimate political activities, which has resulted in tension and uncertainty during election time. In addition, opposition leaders are arrested too often. Since 2005 a review of media reports shows that Kizza Besigye – Museveni’s main challenger in the opposition – has been arrested more than 1,000 times.
It has also become routine that whenever Besigye’s allies plan rallies or other political events, their homes are cordoned off by the security forces to stop them from leaving.
All these developments underline the fact that the country is in crisis. It’s only by reaching a new national consensus and enacting rules of engagement that Uganda will detour off its current slippery slope.
The Health minister, Dr Jane Ruth Aceng, is stuck with 20 bids from companies and individuals competing to secure government clearance to grow and export marijuana for medical purposes.
Senior officials in the Ministry of Health told Daily Monitor that they are stuck with the bids because of lack of regulations governing the undertaking. The ministry is also overwhelmed by the number of ganja planters, both local and foreign, inquiring about the application process and follow-ups.
"Marijuana growing without proper control measures can be dangerous to our youthful population... . already it is the second highest cause for the Butabika [mental rehabilitation] hospital admissions majority of whom are youth. We can't just accept growing [of marijuana]," the State minister for Health, Ms Sarah Opendi warned.
"Why are we having this huge influx of people to our country wanting to grow it here and not any other East African country? We already have laws prohibiting its production without clearance from the ministry, but this law is already being abused. People are growing marijuana under whose authority?" she added.
Dr Aceng, at the weekend, confirmed the scramble for cannabis growing in Uganda and revealed how the number of interested companies has shot up from 14 to 20. She said most of the companies are local owners seeking to tap into the $5b cannabis industry.
The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act 2015 allows cultivation, production and exportation of medical marijuana and mandates the minister to issue written consent for medical marijuana. However, Dr Aceng insists the applications will have to wait for the final decision of Cabinet.
Commenting on health benefits of marijuana, which is one of the terms of reference for the Cabinet sub-committee, Dr Aceng said: "It's true marijuana has medicinal properties but the medical properties are still under research... it has been proven it can be used in reducing pain in cancer patients but even then research is still ongoing... there is also research in areas of mental illnesses such as schizophrenia in cases of epilepsy; it's still undergoing research."
However, the absence of regulations to guide Dr Aceng on marijuana permits has also complicated matters to the extent that the Health minister and Cabinet do not know how to proceed. Some companies have also put pressure on Dr Aceng inquiring what's going on and accused her of creating a monopoly.
The government has already licensed Industrial Hemp (U) Ltd to grow and export medical marijuana. The company is currently working together with Pharma Limited, one of the biggest Israeli cannabis firm on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange.
They have invested $360m (about Shs1.3 trillion) and established marijuana farms in Hima, Kasese.
Sources told Daily Monitor that before Cabinet discussed the deals, Dr Aceng wanted to request Internal Security Organisation (ISO) and Internal Affairs ministry to conduct due diligence on some of the companies. But after consulting internally, the minister abandoned the move and ran to Cabinet. She reportedly feared a "risk" of having 20 companies growing cannabis in various parts of the country without collective responsibility.
Credit: All Africa & Daily Monitor Uganda
An e-commerce platform, Jiji has announced the acquisition of OLX in Ghana and four other counties in Africa.
The details of the deal was made available via a statement by Naspers on Wednesday.
Consequently, OLX users in Ghana would be directed to Jiji marketplace in a transaction backed by one of Jiji’s cornerstone investors, Digital Spring Ventures.
According to the statement, both companies have also reached an agreement to acquire the other OLX businesses in Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda, subject to regulatory approvals.
The statement noted that all users of the sell-and-buy classifieds websites of OLX Nigeria, OLX Ghana, OLX Kenya, OLX Tanzania, and OLX Uganda would be redirected to Jiji.
The Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of Jiji, Anton Volyansky, while making comment on the deal, said, “Users will always come first for us. We warmly welcome OLX’s customers to the Jiji family and we look forward to our new customers joining Jiji on its …online shopping experience.”
OLX shut down business in Nigeria last year February while it maintained its online marketplace as workers were laid off.
He becomes the fourth employee of the company to be deported in the last month.
The CEO of South African multinational telecommunications company MTN in Uganda, Wim Vanhelleput, was deported on Thursday evening, February 14.
He becomes the fourth employee of the company to be deported in the last month as the government piles pressure on MTN to list on the local bourse and renegotiates its operating licence after 20 years.
Authorities have not given clear reasons for the deportations.
Prior to markets opening in Johannesburg on Friday, February 15, MTN issued a statement saying it had not been notified of the grounds for the move.
The company’s group CEO, Rob Shuter, met with President Yoweri Museveni on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos in January. Not much was revealed about what they spoke about, but The East African quoted the president as having said: “It is important that you float shares on the local stock exchange to allow for local ownership now that the licence has been renewed.”
The newspaper also reports that the presidency issued a statement on January 23 stating that the dispute over the renewal of the licence had been resolved and MTN had agreed to “spread its ownership to more Ugandans through a share placement with the National Social Security Fund”. However, this statement was not available on the State House website to confirm it and matters have clearly not been resolved.
It appears Mr Museveni is taking a leaf out of Tanzanian President John Magufuli’s book by forcing international companies to list on the stock exchange and playing hardball with the renegotiation of agreements. However, the rhetoric around events in Uganda is distinct from what we have seen in Tanzania.
MTN has been characterised as a ‘security threat’ whereas in Tanzania multinationals are characterised as greedy companies that hinder development.
These different narratives speak to the sources of legitimacy for the leaders in each country – in Tanzania Mr Magufuli gets his legitimacy from being clean and bringing development, so his enemies must be greedy and hinder that aim.
In Uganda, Mr Museveni draws his legitimacy from having brought stability and security, so his enemies must want incitement to violence and instability.
In July last year, MTN’s data centre was raided, reportedly by intelligence services, an employee was taken and held for four hours and four of its servers were disconnected. MTN subsequently laid a case of illegal intrusion against those involved, but there has been no news of the case since.
In a letter on the incident, MTN wrote: “We are yet to determine the extent of interruption to our network activities and the financial impact. It is also possible that some data have been tempered with or illegally accessed and taken from the premise (sic). The intrusion into the data was properly captured by our closed-circuit television (CCTV cameras),” – so it seems they would have solid evidence to support their case.
Local newspaper The Observer reported that one of the recent deportees, Italian Elsa Mussolini (former general manager for mobile finance services), stated that she was ejected from the country for inciting violence and funding opposition member of Parliament (MP) Robert Kyagulanyi (Bobi Wine). The funding reportedly took place during the campaign against the proposed social media tax that the MP led.
There is clearly a lot going on between MTN and the Ugandan government: licence renewals, stock exchange listings, data centre raids, opposition politician funding, incitement to violence allegations, social media and mobile money taxes, and possibly access to data on citizens.
Aggressive moves against multinationals on the continent are not a new phenomenon – MTN has had its fair share of difficulties lately in Nigeria too.
Taking on international companies makes leaders look good, at least in the eyes of some local citizens, but we also may be seeing a more regional phenomenon with Mr Magufuli’s approach emboldening his neighbours.
The events do not bode well. With Mr Museveni facing mounting challenges to his over three-decade rule in the run-up to elections in 2021, we could see more erratic policies and fiery rhetoric over the next couple years.
Uganda’s energy sector added to its energy generation surplus this year as new power stations went live.
Meanwhile user demand projections have increased but rising power tariffs have denied several people access to electricity, while transmission and distribution challenges mean power blackouts remain a key feature in many households. The country’s installed generation capacity is estimated at 960 megawatts while active generation capacity stands at 700 megawatts according to energy industry sources.
This scenario points to idle generation capacity suffered by the large hydro power plants and small thermal generation facilities.
In comparison, the country’s peak power demand levels have grossed 640 megawatts this year, a figure that translates into a modest surplus of 60MW on the national grid.
Industrial users account for nearly 70 per cent of Uganda’s electricity consumption basket, distribution statistics show while new factories and industrial plants that are in the pipeline are expected to wipe out the surplus in less than five years, sources hinted.
This offers investors motivation for more energy projects.
“The small electricity surplus on the national grid is not sustainable because of pending demand pressures from new factories and production plants already in the pipeline. “These production facilities require around 14-20 megawatts per day and this is enough to wipe out this surplus,” Selestino Babungi, Umeme Ltd’s managing director said.
“Though Isimba and Karuma dams will be commissioned next year, they are likely to produce less than installed output capacity at the start, meaning that much of the of the electricity will be fully absorbed by new factories that will be going live in 2019. This leaves a sizeable future power demand gap that needs to be filled through additional investments in mini hydro stations,” Mr Babungi added.
“These plants help ease outage problems experienced across the national grid because they usually serve remote areas that are not catered for by the national grid. However, balancing the weight of power tariffs and efficiency demands in our operations is never easy,” he argued.
New factories commissioned this year include Mandela Millers Ltd with a daily power consumption rate of 14MW and Tiang Tang Ltd — a steel products manufacturer with daily power consumption of 20MW.
A new fertiliser, cement and glass production plant recently commissioned in Eastern Uganda requires 20MW daily while a new public water treatment plant under construction in Mukono District is to be commissioned in 2021 and will consume 20MW per day, according to Umeme records.
Global oil prices
Some seven power stations are still under construction and are scheduled for commissioning by close of 2020.
These are Siti III with a generation capacity of 16MW, Kyambura with 7.6MW, Sindila with 6.5MW, Ndugut with 5.9MW, Kikagati with 16MW and Waki with 4.8MW.
But relatively high electricity tariffs remain a headache for both households and businesses, particularly because of high capital expenditure incurred by investors and a direct peg that links power prices to changes in global oil prices, inflation rates and the exchange rate.
Persistent increases in electricity tariffs have piled significant pressure on government to terminate Umeme Ltd’s 20 year distribution concession agreement that expires in 2025, though it finally opted for renegotiation last week as opposed to an expensive, contract cancellation that would have cost the country roughly Ush500 billion ($134 million) in exit charges.
Retail consumer tariffs have steadily increased from Ush669 ($0.18) per unit in mid-2017 to Ush712 ($0.19) per unit in January 2018 and stood at Ush769 ($0.2) per unit at the beginning of October, according to ERA data.
“Government needs to fix the high electricity tariffs sooner in order to expand access to the electricity grid for poor, rural consumers.
“Most of them can hardly afford to spend Ush20,000($5) on prepaid electricity every month while middle income people also struggle with huge power bills,” Phillip Sendawula, chief finance officer at Exim Bank Uganda said.
“I spend around Ush60,000 ($16) per month on electricity for my domestic water heater, which is prohibitive for me. There is need to encourage rural people to embrace alternative sources of energy such as solar and biogas that are critical for tackling the problem of diminished firewood supplies around the country,” Mr Sendawula added.
Rising electricity tariffs have partly inspired cyber hacking schemes targeted at Umeme’s prepaid metering system.
A latest online advert posted in a local Facebook group revealed a strange, criminal offer; a hacker asking for $1 to tamper with one’s prepaid electricity meter and obtain more units for few shillings.
For instance, Ush3,000 ($0.8) would yield 15 units of power from a hacked meter compared with four units of electricity bought for the same amount at the current price after the first monthly purchase.
We were not able to authenticate these claims by the time of going to press.
“When the price reduces, more people are able to afford electricity. Lower electricity prices also mean cheaper manufactured products in the medium term.
“Since the refinancing of the Bujagali dam loan facilities, power demand levels among manufacturers have risen by an average of seven per cent due to the applied three per cent discount in the local industrial electricity tariff,” said Ziria Tibalwa Waako, ERA’s chief executive officer.
Under the refinancing deal arranged by the African Development Bank and its partners, the loan repayment period attached to $400 million worth of debt provided to Bujagali Energy Limited was extended from 2023 to 2032 in a move that eased debt repayment pressures faced by the project.
“As a result, industrial electricity tariffs charged against extra-large industries dropped to 5 US cents during the off peak period while smaller industrial producers are equally eligible for this incentive in the near future.
“Very large firms targeted in the first phase of the power tariff reduction exercise have seen their energy costs go down but spillover gains for consumers have not materialised because of the less regulated market that we operate in.
“The economy is still struggling, household spending is down and consumer demand is low. This has led to reduced production levels in local industries despite the tariff cut. As a result, my production capacity levels have dropped to about 49 per cent,” said Deo Kayemba, the CEO of East African Roofing Systems, a building materials manufacturer.
- The East African
The top four positions are occupied by Seychelles, Mauritius, South Africa and Botswana with passport rankings of 27, 44, 57 and 58 respectively.
The 2018 Passport Index has placed the Ugandan passport in the 11th position in Africa and 64th among passports of 198 nations of the world.
Uganda and Morocco share a passport power rank of 65, but are below East African neighbours Kenya and Tanzania, who lie in the eighth and ninth positions with respective passport ranked 62 and 63. The global passport power ranking is arrived at based on an assessment of the visa restrictions or visa-free score.
Kenya allows nationals of 39 countries to visit it without a visa and nationals of 32 other countries can obtain visas on arrival. It is nationals of 127 other countries of the world that require visas to visit Kenya.
Nationals of 42 countries do not require visas to visit Tanzania and those from another 28 countries can get the visas on arrival, while nationals of 128 nations require visas to enter the country.
Uganda is not doing as well as its two neighbours as citizens of 130 countries require visas to enter the country. It only allows nationals of 35 countries to visit without visas and gives nationals of 33 countries visas on arrival.
The top four positions are occupied by Seychelles, Mauritius, South African and Botswana with passport rankings of 27, 44, 57 and 58 respectively.
The global ranking
Same position. In the global ranking, Uganda is tied with Morocco, the Philippines, Armenia, and Kyrgyzstan.
Number one. The global rankings are led by the United Arab Emirates, which has a passport power rank of 2. UAE is visa-free for nationals of 113 nations and gives nationals of 54 countries visas on arrival. Only nationals of 31 countries are required to have visas before entering UAE.
Second place. Tied in second place are Germany and Singapore, which have a passport power rank of 3.
Visa free. Singapore is visa-free for nationals of 127 countries and gives nationals of 39 countries visas on arrival. Citizens of only 32 nations are required to have visas before visiting Singapore.
Visa exception. Germany on the other hand is visa-free for nationals of 126 nations and gives nationals of 40 nations visas on arrival. It is only nationals of 32 countries that are required to have visas.