A section of tea farmers in Kigezi region have said unless government pays them Shs163 billion for the tea seedlings they supplied from 2015 to 2017, they are not ready to campaign for the National Resistance Movement (NRM) party flag bearers in the area.
Kanungu District NRM party general secretary, Mr Frank Byaruhanga, who doubles as the chairperson of South Western Tea Nursery bed operators, on Monday said it is a shame to government to compensate traders that lost their personal business in South Sudan and make a budget to construct roads in a foreign country, when the people it contracted to supply tea seedlings are languishing in poverty.
“No pay of the tea seedlings, no vote for the NRM party flag bearers in this area. Central government delegated the Kanungu District Local Government to conduct a verification exercise of all the supplied tea seedlings and others that were still in the nursery beds in early 2017 and a year later Naads re-conducted the exercise well-knowing that most crop gardens were destroyed by the prolonged drought followed by heavy rains that affected many districts in western Uganda.
“More than 718 farmers supplied tea seedlings worth Shs163 billion and employed more than 280,000 casual workers to work in the nursery beds and tea garden,” Mr Byaruhanga said.
He added that the ongoing reconciliation meetings for losers in the NRM primaries should jointly handle the unfulfilled presidential pledges and directives in respective regions.
Mr Byaruhanga added that the suppliers of other agriculture inputs such as maize, citrus, cassava, heifers, pigs, among others, are paid promptly yet those of tea seedlings are have not been paid for the last five years.
“We are starting to believe that the tea growing enterprise that was launched by President Museveni in 2008 in Kanungu District and Kigezi Sub-region was aimed at making the farmers poor.
“Most tea nursery bed operators have died because of heart attack while others have lost their properties to commercial banks and money lenders because they failed to pay back the loans they received to finance their tea nursery beds. About 13 farmers have died in Kigezi Sub-region,” Mr Byaruhanga said.
He added that the tea farmers that received tea seedlings are now harvesting a lot of money from selling green tea leaves to six tea processing factories in Kigezi, where government is earning huge taxes, yet the people that supplied the tea seedlings have never been paid.
The chairperson of the nursery bed operators in Kabale, Rubanda and Rukiga districts, Mr Philip Zikampereza, that doubles as the treasurer of the South-Western Region Tea Nursery bed operators, said they are ready to campaign against all the NRM party candidates because government betrayed them.
“In several correspondences that we have on record, President Museveni and Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda have directed the Naads (National Agriculture and Advisory Services) secretariat to pay tea nursery bed operators but nothing has ever been done. We are ready to campaign against all the NRM party flag bearers, enough is enough,” Mr Zikampereza said.
The mayor for Ryakarimira Town Council, Can Enock Kazooba, who is a member of tea nursery bed operators, said President Museveni should personally effect the payment of money since the Naads secretariat has refused to pay them.
Mr James Tweheyo, a member of central executive committee of NRM, who chaired reconciliation meetings in Kigezi, in an interview with Daily Monitor on Tuesday said the issue was discussed and a way forward was made.
“We shall take the grievance of non-payment of tea seedlings suppliers in Kigezi region to President Museveni for redress and I appeal to the aggrieved farmers to be patient,” Mr Tweheyo said.