BY AHMED KATEREGGA MUSAAZI
In 1976, President Idi Amin was forced to use a bicycle at the peak of a fuel crisis as Kenya had closed the border.
Local, regional and international pressure had failed to convince Kenya to open the boarder. Even President Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, who was ever at logger head with Idi Amin, persuaded President Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya to open the border saying that the chief sufferers were not Idi Amin and his henchmen but ordinary Ugandans. But Kneyatta turned to a deaf ear.
So, according to a source in Amin’s State House, which collaborated with another one in the then Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, Amin brought in his allies from Kenya. They were mostly Waswahili and some Singh Indians. They assembled explosives inside State House premises at Entebbe, and were let flown to Mombasa.
After several explosives in the coastal city and Uganda Air Force Mig 21 jet fighters violating Kenya’s air space, Kenyatta chickened out and allowed the border to open. So business was back to normal.
So while the Parliament of Uganda last Tuesday under the speakership of Rebecca Alitwala Kadaga, made a lot of noise, where even the Chief Government Whip Ruth Nankabirwa collaborated, and where some MPs were calling for banning all imports from Kenya, and others like Director of Information at NRM Secretariat Emmanuel Dombo Lumala criticized them and called for dialogue, the Kenya Government must have heard the real music, and that contributed to a lift on the ban of Maize imports from Uganda, but with conditions.
President Yoweri Museveni is also commended to have called his counterpart Uhuru Kenyatta and it seems both leaders agreed that Uganda’s maize exports to Kenya, will only be allowed after it has been inspected and Lorries or carriers are given inspection certificates.
Uganda’s representatives to the East Africa Legislative Assembly had also called for the lifting of the ban but also calling upon Uganda to improve on the quality of its maize and other exports so that they are free from toxins.
In the sixties and seventies, at the height of the cooperative movements, harvests could not be dried in the dust on the soil. Each household had to cement part of the courtyard for drying coffee, cotton, and produce like maize, beans, ground nuts etc…
However, after the Amin’s 1972 economic war in which Asians who had dominated the commercial and industrial sectors were expelled followed with sanctions imposed on Uganda by UK, USA, Israel and others, there was scarcity of essential goods and services and farmers could not afford to cement or renovate where they had cemented for drying crops.
However, as we write now, at least in Greater Masaka, no home is drying coffee, maize, beans or ground nuts in the dust. Those that cannot cement a drying place, at least have, acquire calpains so that they keep the quality of the produce intact.
However, there have been some culprits that have been harvesting coffee when it is still green or yellow before it becomes red (to borrow from a priest’s phrase in last general elections who told his congregation to only harvest coffee that is red and not yellow or green), they also dry it partly and put it in store where it is gets moisture.
Then on maize, farmers used to leave it in the gardens and until it overdrives, but now with Kenyan and South Sudanese traders who even come to the farmers directly, they buy it before it is harvested and this is done haphazardly before it has dried up and this affect the quality. It is the same with other crops like beans and ground nuts.
So, as the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries extension staff are invisible to the farmers, it is the same with inspectors from the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives, Joint efforts will help to improve on the quantity and quality of our produce for local consumption and export.
There is an issue of value addition. We should only export maize, flowers, chicken, cattle and pig feeds. It should be the same with other produce like beans, ground nuts, soya beans, cowpeas, etc…. It is a shame for Southern Sudanese traders to come to our kraals in the cattle corridors and buy cows for export before they have slaughtered them.
However, for Kenya, banning our maize is a tip of the iceberg after banning our milk, our chicken, our eggs and our sugar canes. Yet we import a lot of fruits and consumer goods from the light industries some built in Western Kenya to tap our market.
According to Bugweri MP Abdul Katuntu, Kenya’s real reason for the ban was protectionism so that it protects its industries which is a violation of the East Africa Community, Common Tariffs, Common Market we signed.
Some wondered why when President Paul Kagame became EAC Chairperson he inflicted a ban on our exports to Rwanda and even to DR Congo via Rwanda. Likewise, after assuming the EAC Chairmanship, Uhuru Kenyatta also has also done the same.
Yet Kenya is the main beneficiary in the defunct EAC and even in the current one, since it is the leading light industrial member state and the rest are like its market if not dumping ground.
So, for Amin, he did not only master minded explosives in Mombasa, but also claimed Nyanza Province, Rift Valley and Western Province, which were originally part of Uganda Protectorate.
Kenya did not take it lightly its ministers started mobilizing wanainchi whether they wanted to return to Uganda, where people were lining up for sugar, salt, kerosene, soap which were scarce.
He also threatened to cut off electricity Uganda used to extend to Western Kenya in more retaliation.
Uganda learnt a lesson and it started to look for Dar Es Salaam and Tanga in Tanzania as alternative routes and the oil pipeline from Hoima to Tanga, is the latest. Many Ugandan traders also use the same route via Mwanza inland port.
Tanzania being a hostile country then, as it was harboring Ugandan exiles that were fighting his regime, Amin also used the port of Djibouti. Uganda’s coffee could be airlifted in Uganda Airlines cargo planes and defunct SABENA ones (succeeded by Air Brussels). He also intended to use Libreville port in Gabon on the West African Coast, Atlantic Ocean.
But on more than many occasions during EAC summit meetings, President Museveni has been emphasizing that Uganda has a right of access on the Indian Ocean’s harbors.
Liberalization which was confused with privatization has also been a negative factor. Government abandoned importing animal drugs and pesticides and the chief sufferers are cattle keepers in the cattle corridor.
We should therefore improve on the quantity and quality of our agricultural produce both crop and animal husbandry, right from planting seeds, avoid unnecessary spray using chemicals, so that our agriculture remains organic.
We should also be tough with illegal fishing, as fish has become our main export to European Union.
Finally, land locked countries like Uganda, Kenya and Burundi should ally together or even confederate if they can not federate in order to have a strong voice to counter their counterpart like Kenya, Tanzania and DR Congo who have access to the sea.
Haji Ahmed Kateregga Musaazi is a veteran journalist and a Communications Assistant with Government Citizen Interaction Center (GCIC), Ministry of ICT and National Guidance.