Museveni, Ruto deal gives hope to traders

President Museveni and his Kenyan counterpart William Ruto at State House Niarobi on May. The duo held bilateral talks. Photo | Museveni  X handle

What you need to know:

  • President Museveni has rejected several proposals by his ministers and advisers to retaliate with tariffs on Kenyan products.

President Museveni has said he agreed with Kenya President William Ruto to remove all blockage on Ugandan products, but Nairobi still imposes non-tariff barriers on them.

Three weeks ago, President Museveni visited his counterpart in Nairobi, Kenya, where they signed a tripartite agreement on the importation and transit of petroleum products through the two countries and also discussed the lifting of non-tariff barriers on Ugandan products.

“We have revived the EAC, together with the Wazee Daniel Arap Moi, Ali Hassan Mwinyi and Benjamin Mkapa. Later, our brothers from Rwanda, Burundi, DR Congo, South Sudan and, recently, Somalia, joined the EAC. This has helped cross-border trade. Uganda exports goods and services worth $42.140 billion to EAC Countries and goods and services worth $2.157 billion to the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) countries,” President Museveni said.

“There are, however, still non-tariff barriers. With H.E William Ruto, recently, we agreed to remove all these barriers against sugar, milk, eggs, fruit juices, etc.”

In 2021, Kenya imposed non-tariff barriers on Ugandan products such as milk, maize, sugar and chicken products on allegations of poor quality of the products and violation of regional importation laws. But Uganda alleges that Kenya’s actions are illegal and only intended to protect their local farmers.

Since the barriers were imposed, President Museveni had rejected several proposals by his ministers and advisers to retaliate with tariffs on Kenyan products on grounds that it is against the spirit of Pan-Africanism and regional integration.

Kenya often imposes barriers on Ugandan maize whenever they experience bumper harvests then lift them when they are short of the food crop.

Maize is the staple food for Kenyans and they are unable to grow enough to sustain their economy. They often import maize from Uganda during shortages.

Without mentioning Kenya, President Museveni said yesterday that blockage of maize would cause price fluctuation, forcing farmers to abandon growing it for stable crops such a coffee, which has dire consequences to a country that depends on it.

“Saying that X country has got good rains this year and harvested a lot of maize and, therefore, X will either give quotas for maize from Y or will not allow any maize imports from Y this year, is wrong,” he said.

He added: “What happens to the maize growers in Y that year? Since the maize in Y will kudiba (have no buyers), the farmers will migrate to coffee, a product that depends on the global market and does not have those hurdles. Then next year, there is a shortage of rain in X and they want maize from Y.”

He said the correct approach should be that maize from country Y should not be blocked even if there is a bumper crop harvest in country X.

“Let the market determine the maize that will be preferred by the consumers. If it is found that maize producers in country Y are consistently cheaper, then let East Africa allow them to specialise and feed all of us,” he said.

The issue of non-tariff barriers on Ugandan products has been bothering President Museveni that prioritised it in his end of year address, describing it as blind policies.

In his end of year message, he said people, who impose non-tariff barriers to member states are doing it to milk local popularity but warned that he can expose those who initiate if he mobilises people hurt by the blind policies.

“We shall continue discussing with our East African Community partners and I am sure we shall end up with the real common market free of non-tariff barriers. Because those barriers hurt the wananchi of all our countries. I have given you the simple example of banning rice. You hurt the Ugandan consumers, you hurt the Tanzania producers. So if there is mobilisation, actually some people think they will get popularity out of that, but if you get good mobilisation, those doing that can really be exposed,” President Museveni said in his end of last year.