President Yoweri Museveni says Speaker Rebecca Kadaga and MPs’ calls on Ugandan government to retaliate against Kenya over a recent maize ban is ’empty talking’ and playing to the gallery.
On March 05, Agriculture and Food Authority’s acting director general Kello Harsama wrote to Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) commissioner of customs Pamela Ahago informing her that the regulator had “stopped any further imports of maize into Kenya with immediate effect.”
But Kenya later lifted the ban, but with tough conditions.
When MPs met to discuss the ban, they called on Uganda’s government to retaliate and ban imports from Kenya.
Chairing the March 09 session, Speaker Kadaga said: “I think our government has let us down by allowing our neighbors to mistreat us. Why can’t we reciprocate? This is an issue of our sovereignty and foreign policy.”
Her colleagues also openly called for retaliation.
“Trade is of mutual benefit. We are not ready to be bullied by Kenya and we are not being done a favour by trading with Kenya. This is not about quality, this is protectionism; it seems Kenya government is trying to protect its farmers.” Abdu Katuntu (Bugweri)
“There are over 10,000 Kenyan companies trading in Uganda. Kenyans are trading well in Uganda but it is not easy for Ugandans to trade in Kenya; it is high time for the Ugandan government to respond.” Joseph Ssewungu (Kalungu West)
“We see this as a big joke aimed to hinder the East African Community. It is a big shame; Kenya should separate development from politics. Kenya must stop the trade wars.” Geoffrey Macho (Busia Municipality)
But during his March 14 address, Museveni said he disagreed with the line of argument by MPs calling for retaliation against Kenya.
“What we need is to patiently work for the integration of East Africa,” Museveni advised.
“The idea of retaliation is not a good idea because it plays in the hands of those who want us to break up.”
He called for dialogue to resolve issues with Uganda’s eastern neighbor.
“Uganda produces maize cheaply, meaning we can undersell everyone in the world. We can’t solve that by retaliation; we can resolve it by engaging them,” noted Museveni.
“Dialogue, engagement and cooperation is what we want, not empty talking on TV so that they can see you.”
According to Museveni, part of the solution could be allowing some Kenyans to engage in production in Uganda, as well as emphasis on production and post-harvest handling standards.
He compared MPs to young monkeys which laughed at a burning forest, not knowing that it would soon catch where they stood.
Museveni explained that although Kenya was benefitting more from Uganda in the earlier years of the revival of the EAC, Uganda was now reaping ‘a lot’ from the community.
In 2019, Uganda raked in about $1.2bn (just over Shs4tn) from the EAC and $1.7bn (just over Shs6tn) from the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa).
“Uganda is earning a lot but a treaty is different from a union. If East Africa had united, it would be one country,” added Museveni.
But he was quick to add that the union would not resolve the maize ban issue in the short run but “I am only saying this problem would not arise under a federation.”