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Why China is Uganda’s new colonial master

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CHANGE OF GUARDS – The parliamentary committee on statutory authorities and state enterprises chaired by opposition’s Abdu Katuntu is probing five Chines companies’ construction companies over misappropriation of public funds.  This probe is a follow up of the Auditor General’s report that unearthed that out of 47.7b shillings that was given to the five construction companies two years ago for compensating people who had been displaces by the different construction projects, only 15b shillings was paid out while the 31b shillings could no be accounted for.  It has been discovered that the money had been transferred to China and part of it had been put on fixed accounts so as to earn interest.  The committee got tough on the said companies forgetting that its Museveni through UNRA’s Kagina that are behind the financial scandal.

China’s interest in Africa has been growing steadily over the years.  For Uganda’s case, China’s influence through UPC’s socialist manifesto of Common Man’s Charter was halted by the 1971 Iddi Amin coup, otherwise the country would have gone to the dogs as early as the late 1960s.  At the time China had nothing to offer save for dictatorship, repression and institutionalized poverty in furtherance of its socialist ideals.  Following the seat of its world’s most celebrated dictators, Mao Zedong, China rebranded its economic policies culminating into the current economic boom and renewed incursions into Africa.  The first Chinese company set foot in Uganda in 1993 and as we speak now, about 350 Chinese companies have been licensed to operate in Uganda.  Currently, Chinese companies hold a major stake in the major sectors of the economy – manufacturing, infrastructure development, hospitality industry and others.

With an estimated US$ 6b financial aid to Uganda in the last 15 years, US$ 800m investment by Chinese companies that employ about 30,000 Ugandans and a US$ 450b bilateral trade makes China one of the top providers of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) to Uganda.  In the last 17 years, investment by Chinese companies worth US$ 2.5b has been established in Uganda.  The earliest project in Uganda to be undertaken by China was the constructed of the US$ 30m grant for the 40,000 seated Nambole National Stadium that was half finished and is in a sorry state as we speak now.  China also provides duty free market for Uganda products but unfortunately far more imports from China find their way into Uganda than what Uganda exports to China.  In the last 5 years, Uganda has contracted US$ 5.7b loans out of which 2.1b is from China.  US$ 789.3m for Karuma power dam, US$ 482.6m for Isimba power dam, US$ 200m for expanding and upgrading Entebbe Airport, US$ 36.3m for the twin tower Presidents office, expansion of Parliamentary building, reconstruction of the dilapidated Naguru hospital, US$ 1.9b in the oil sector, phosphates factory in Tororo, the expansion of the Kampala-Entebbe highway, construction of the Kampala-Entebbe Express highway, an industrial park in Luwero, construction of the Standard Gauge Railway, donations of equipment to the police and army and the carious behind the scenes classified aid to security forces and the regime Secretariat for ideological advancement coupled by debt reliefs.

A joint venture between Uganda and Chinese banks provides a direct money transfer service for Uganda based companies.  Low interest rate loans provided by China commercial banks are attractive to borrowers. However, the lenders ensure that contractors for infrastructure projects come from China thus increasing capital flight.  China provides the loan, the contractors, the construction materials, and to some extent the workers.  China’s no strings attached and low interest rate loans are preferred to those of World Bank and IMF that come with conditions over democracy and good governance.  The 1995 China- Africa summit sealed three terms – non interference, respect for sovereignty, and equality for mutual respect.  The Beijing consensus based on equitable development and respect for sovereignty as opposed to Western consensus based on market forces is what Museveni fell for.

Museveni has repeatedly praises China’s string free grants for non interference in the internal affairs of other countries.  During his swearing in ceremony in May 2016, Museveni once again praised China; “…. these people are our genuine friends.  They have no arrogance.  If a man has his own house and he goes in another man’s house ……. What type of fool are you?”.   Earlier on his Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Okello Oryem who has been at the forefront of promoting china’s interests in Uganda publicly stated thus:  ” This is China’s time.  USA and European countries had the opportunity to build Africa (but they did not succeed. Now the Chinese are building schools, dams, stadiums, hospitals, roads, etc.  Gas the song about democracy and human rights turned us into a developed country?  If I want to give you a chicken or a goat do I first, ask you weather you beat your wife?”.

Uganda’s bilateral development with China does not favour capital flow in because technologic transfer is non existent as all the technical work on such projects is done by Chinese expatriates. Chinese nationals have been flocking Uganda and enhancing in all sorts of retail and wholesale trade prompting the locals to bitterly complain against unfair competition. Chinese substandard and counterfeit products flood the market in Uganda without hindrance.  Construction companies import construction materials from China to the detriment of local industries. Indigenous construction companies like Mukalazi, Zzimwe, Mugoya, Crescent and a couple of others have been undermined by their own government as Chinese contractors are engaged in even fixing potholes on city streets.  In a populist manoeuvre to win over the politically hostile Central business district of Kampala, Museveni recently declares that those Chinese should not be involves in such trade.  As is always the norm, shortly after his Minister of Foreign Affairs, Okello Oryem came out to blackmail Ugandans threatening that Ugandans in China could be treated in the same way.

The World Bank recently suspended its support to infrastructural development I’m Uganda citing delays, inefficiency and lack of safeguards.  The Chinese company constructing the Entebbe Express highway, China Communication and Construction Company Ltd had been blacklisted by World Bank for fraudulent practice in the Philippines but the Museveni regime contracted it in spite of being a member of the World Bank Group and a signatory to the UN charter on graft.  The World Bank had earlier suspended funding to the Kamwenge- Fort Portal Road after the Chinese construction company workers were involved I’m rampant abuse of female teenagers and spreading venereal diseases.

With the western world increasingly dissenting Museveni’s skyrocketing dictatorial and repressive tendencies coupled by the anticipated economic degeneration, Museveni is all out to turn to China for salacation.  The Chinese language has been introduced into the educational curriculum with 20 schools selected to start teaching Chinese and the regime is to import Chinese teachers to train Ugandan teachers for the same project coupled by regime political cadres frequently undergoing ideological training in China, China is set to take over Uganda under Museveni.

Therefore, for those who are tough on Chines engagements in Uganda, watch your back or else Museveni will soon accuse you of frustrating investors thus economic sabotage.


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