A new government-sponsored organisation purporting to represent the interests of city traders emerged yesterday, in what is being seen as a ploy to reduce the influence of the Kampala City Traders Association (KACITA) on the business community.
The organisation will be led by Trade and Industry Minister Amelia Kyambadde and junior Finance Minister Fred Omach.
Ms Kyambadde said the new organisation will help small scale businesses access funds and facilitate communication between the government and traders.
“I found out that small scale businesses are suffering, they have no options. So, I said, how can we help those people? That is why I have started a new organisation to help them,” Ms Kyambadde said yesterday.
Several meetings between government and KACITA through the week failed to reach consensus, with government asking the traders to call-off the just-ended strike over government’s failure to address rapid depreciation of the shilling and current economic crisis in the country. The traders, however, refused to yield.
In what is now being seen as a retaliatory move, Ms Kyambadde yesterday held closed-door meetings with representatives from the Uganda Manufacturers Association and the National Chamber of Commerce and several influential traders.
Earlier information indicated that KACITA was represented in the meeting. But Mr Issa Sekito, the organisation’s spokesperson later refuted the claims, saying neither were they invited nor informed of Ms Kyambadde’s meeting.
While calling upon traders to open for business today, Mr Ssekito said KACITA’s chairperson Everest Kayondo had suffered a heart attack and was admitted at a clinic in Nansana, a Kampala suburb.
Mr Ssekito said Ms Kyambadde visited Mr Kayondo at the clinic and compelled him to sign a document, calling off the strike.
Separately, the Kampala traders’ umbrella organisation is also accusing former vice president Gilbert Bukenya, of allowing illegal Chinese traders to remain in the country.
“In 2008 we arrested several Chinese who were later released. When we inquired, we were told that Prof. Bukenya was the patron of the Chinese Business Community in Uganda,” Mr Sekitto said.
KACITA said it had warned government about the looming crisis two years ago.
Government has agreed to carry out a head count of all foreign business persons and to verify the validity of their businesses. On Wednesday, Ms Kyambadde also suspended all trading licences.
Attempts to know how much revenue government lost in the two days were futile.
Mr Paul Kyeyune, the Uganda Revenue Authority corporate affairs manager said: “It will take us at least a week or two to fully recognise how much was lost.”
In Masaka, shops remained closed in solidarity with KACITA. But supermarkets and shops selling perishable foodstuffs, however, remained open.
The southern region police spokesman, Mr Noah Sserunjogi, said the police is watching the situation closely. He said five people, including Kayemba Afaayo, the newly-elected mayor of Masaka and district chairman of the FDC are being investigated in connection with instigating the closure of shops.
Reported by John Njoroge, Andrew Bagala, Nicolas Kostov, Michael J. Ssali and Justus Lyatuu.