Deputy IGP to Ugandans: Keep out of living cost demonstrations

A police officer seen trying to put out burning tyres lit by Jinja City residents protesting skyrocketing commodity prices in Uganda on July 25, 2022. PHOTOS/ DENIS EDEMA

What you need to know:

  • The rising fuel prices have also forced commodity prices up.

The Deputy Inspector General of Police (IGP), Maj Gen Tumusiime Katsigazi, has warned Ugandans against engaging in demonstrations over skyrocketing commodity prices.

The warning came after threats circulated on social media from unknown people announcing that Kampala City will be locked down from today up to Wednesday as part of demonstrations against the high cost of living.

“Nobody has the capacity to lock down a city like Kampala other than the government of Uganda and if somebody turns up and stops people from accessing the city by one way or the other we shall arrest them,” Maj Gen Katsigazi said at the weekend.

There has been a sharp increase in commodity prices for the last three months following the increase of fuel prices. By press time, a litre of fuel was trading at Shs6,500 across the city.

The same litre is trading at Shs7,000 in most remote parts of the country up from Shs3,600 in February.

Majority of Ugandans argue that government has not done enough to address the high commodity prices and that they now look at demonstrations as the last resort.

However, in Kenya, President Uhuru Kenyatta this month rolled out a fresh round of fuel subsidies in a bid to prevent a rise in prices at the pump. 

Maj Gen Katsigazi said whereas peaceful demonstration is a constitutional right, the messages circulating on social media point to a rather violent demonstration, which poses a security threat.

“They are scaring people for nothing and we would like to assure them that we are not sleeping and are still in charge because those bad elements want to disrupt people’s businesses. We are investigating the source of such information and we shall arrest all those behind such threats,” he said.

Asked why government is not addressing current economic challenges, Maj Gen Katsigazi said government is doing whatever it can to address the  crisis.

While addressing the nation last week, President Museveni offered no solution to the current harsh economic times, arguing that the government’s interventions by cutting subsidies would mislead the people to continue to consume without economising the commodities thus plugging the country into mote trouble.

“Me as a rebel, when I see this situation and I say, we must migrate to something else, not subside…Because when we subside, people will continue buying more and more. You will create an artificial comfort to the people for them to think things are normal when they aren’t normal and you do that by bleeding yourself,” Mr Museveni was quoted by this newspaper as having said.

Two weeks ago, police arrested dozens of people in Jinja District who had poured on the streets to demonstrate against the increasing food and fuel prices in the country.

Background

The government has been fairly consistent in declaring that fuel subsidies—popular with its opposite numbers across the Great Lakes region—might not be an economically rational response.

In the background to the Budget 2022/2023 Fiscal Year document, the Finance ministry held that: “For 37 non-oil-exporting countries in sub-Saharan Africa, higher oil and gas prices will result in a significant negative terms-of-trade shock, which will worsen trade balances, increase transport and living costs, and deteriorate fiscal balances, particularly for those with fuel subsidies.”

Uganda is among those 37 oil-consuming nations and her Secretary to the Treasury—Mr Ramathan Ggoobi—has made it abundantly clear that not even a consumer backlash about inflation will force them to “interfere with international oil prices.”
The rising fuel prices have also forced commodity prices up.

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