Ugandans protest at Chinese embassy over unpaid salaries

Protesters at the Chinese Embassy on Malcolm X Avenue in Kololo, Kampala, yesterday.  PHOTO/ STEPHEN OTAGE

What you need to know:

The protesters want the embassy to compel the company, China National Complant, to settle their arrears

About 10 Ugandans yesterday held a peaceful protest at the Chinese Embassy in Kampala over failure by a Chinese company to pay their three-year salary arrears.

During the protest, security guards attached to Hash Security Company Limited threatened to arrest the protestors who stood outside the embassy gate on Malcolm X Avenue in Kololo, a city suburb.

The protesters were holding a red cloth banner written in Chinese, asking the embassy to compel the company, China National Complant, to settle their arrears.

“This is an embassy. You cannot come and protest here without any prior arrangements. We are going to arrest all of you and you should surrender that banner immediately,” a female guard identified as Carol Kabai Rehema told the protestors.

But the protestors were undeterred by the threats and explained their plight to the guards.

“Government contracted the China National Complant Company to build the National Medical Stores building in Lubowa. They were paid the money and President Museveni commissioned the building but they have not paid us our salaries for three years now,” Ms Rosette Nabwire, who led the protestors, told the guards as she handed them a letter addressed to the Chinese Ambassador.

The January 16 letter was drafted by Bainomugisha and Company Advocates, acting on behalf of Blue Sea Company Ltd.

According to the letter, the lawyers said Blue Sea Company was subcontracted by China National Complant to construct the National Medical Stores warehouse at Kajjansi, which work was duly concluded.

However, China National Complant has not paid them $52,000 (Shs190m), leaving about 20 employees of Blue Sea Company Ltd financially constrained.

“Our client is hopeful that as we approach the Chinese New Year, your Excellency can extend a humanitarian hand in assisting the company recover the above mentioned money as the China National Complant Company is a People’s Republic of China National Company that is in breach of its obligations causing undue suffering to the ordinary Ugandan,” the letter reads. When contacted, Mr Chen Wen, the project manager from China National Complant, acknowledged the delayed payment, which he attributed to Covid-19 and the death of their chief executive officer.

“We are the main contractor for Kajjansi Medical Stores but we subcontracted Blue Sea to do the aluminum doors, partitions and Windows. The work was done two or three years ago, there is a balance they are demanding. We have some cash flow issues, the passing on of our managing director and the Covid-19, delayed payments by the client NMS but the problem is from our internal systems,” he said.