Comesa moves to suspend Uganda over Shs4b arrears

Wednesday March 03 2021

Trucks wait in a line to enter Uganda at Malaba border post in 2020. Uganda benefits from Comesa free trade area that stretches from Tunisia in North Africa to Eswatini in Southern Africa. PHOTO | FILE

By Frederic Musisi

The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) has written to Uganda over possible suspension from the economic regional bloc over unfulfilled financial commitment fees for the last years.

The Comesa secretary general, Ms Chileshe Kapwepwe, in a February 22 letter to the Trade minister, Ms Amelia Kyambadde, indicated that Uganda was added to the “sanction bracket” as the first warning over the arrears in January 2020. This was followed with a notification letter on the same on October 1, 2020.

“Any member state that fails to meet its budgetary commitments for two or more years should have all benefits and operations suspended in that country and lose its rights and privileges, including addressing policy organ meetings. The suspension should also cover all new extra budgetary resources, projects, except those currently being implemented,” Ms Kapwepwe wrote.
She added: “All arrears at the end of every financial year should accrue interest of one per cent annum.”

Comesa is a 21-member free trade area stretching from Tunisia in North Africa to Eswatini in Southern Africa.
In the letter, also copied to Uganda’s High Commissioner to Tanzania who doubles as the permanent representative to Comesa, Ambassador Richard Kabonero, Ms Kapwepwe detailed that the arrears that propelled Uganda to the sanctions bracket stand at $1.3m (Shs4.8b) representing outstanding contributions inclusive of interest for 2019 and prior years.

For 2020 and 2021, the arrears amount to $2.4 (Shs8.7b). In addition, she said Uganda owes the Comesa Court of Justice $481,980 (Shs1.7b) and another $389,081(Shs1.4b) to the Comesa Leather and Leather Products Institute.

“The Bureau of the Council of Ministers during its meeting advised that member states which are unable to settle to their arrears be urged to apply for a repayment plan through the policy organs for consideration by the Comesa Authority of heads of state and government,” She added.


Ms Kyambadde was yet to respond to our inquiries by press time.

Uganda owes a number of international organisations unpaid mandatory subscriptions, putting its voting powers and eligibility to attend conferences where critical decisions are made, at risk.