Ugandan traders, who claim nonpayment of nearly $50 million (about Shs126 billion) by the South Sudan government, have called off a planned strike after assurance by the police that they will be paid.
The traders, who say they supplied merchandise to the neighbouring country for over five years, were told by police chief Kale Kayihura their matter is being handled at the ‘highest level possible’.
According to the police, the agitation by the traders is turning into a security issue, which must quickly be resolved before it degenerates into chaos.
It is also understood the matter is among the issues lined up for Cabinet discussion today (Wednesday) after several efforts, including President Museveni’s involvement to have the traders paid, appeared to be falling on deaf ears
Senior officials at the ministry of Trade confirmed the development, saying this is not the first time the Cabinet is considering the matter, only that this time round the cabinet is bound to zero in on more definite resolutions.
“We are doing all we can to have the traders get paid. And as government we are discussing with them (government of South Sudan) and we have a joint commission which is looking at these issues,” Assistant Commissioner for external trade Cyprian Batala told journalist attending Uganda National Bureau of Standards training last week in Mukono District.
Some traders say Uganda’s military intervention to pacify South Sudan, after an attempted coup against the government of Salva Kiir late last year, should be pegged as a condition to clearing the traders’ outstanding arrears.
“If that (military intervention) is what it will take to have our traders paid, so be it,” the Kampala City Traders Association Chairperson, Mr Everist Kayondo, said yesterday in an interview.
At the moment, the traders, especially those under the grain traders and suppliers association, say banks are closing in on them after defaulting on loans they acquired to supply the merchandise.