We won’t follow MPs’ advice  on coffee deal, says Museveni

President Museveni inspects a coffee processing factory in Rwashamire, Ntungamo District, yesterday. PHOTO | FELIX AINEBYOONA

What you need to know:

  • The Parliament terminated the deal for creating a monopoly in the export of coffee. Vinci is owned by an Italian investor Enrica Pinetti, who corroborated with National Resistance Army rebels before they captured power in 1986.

President Museveni has said he will disregard the decision of the Parliament to terminate Uganda Vinci Coffee Limited deal, and vowed to sort out anyone who stands in his way over the issue.

The Parliament terminated the deal for creating a monopoly in the export of coffee. Vinci is owned by an Italian investor Enrica Pinetti, who corroborated with National Resistance Army rebels before they captured power in 1986.

While at the launch of a coffee industrial hub and coffee cooperative farmers expo in Kabuhungu Village, Rwashamire, Kajara County in Ntungamo District yesterday, President Museveni said he will not accept the Parliament decisions on the coffee deal and will go  ahead with his plan.

“To bring a motion in Parliament that I am part of, me, President Yoweri Museveni and you say I do not know what I am doing! You might be the one ignorant about what you are doing and I will not accept it because, like this [issue] of Pinetti, I continued with it and I will not stop because it is correct. Whoever wants a fight, we shall sort it out,” President Museveni said.

In the deal, the government waived taxes and levies, including social security contributions for company employees; offered free land, water, electricity, monopoly for premium quality coffee and the powers to determine prices and limiting licensing of coffee exporters until the company meets its demand which is unlimited.

On May 18,Parliament chaired by Speaker Anita Among adopted the trade committee recommendation to have the deal the government signed with Uganda Vinci Coffee Ltd terminated in public interest.

The House then based their decision on three major reasons; the deal contravened multiple sections of law, the company did not have financial capacity to undertake the project, and lacked a valid investment licence. The House heard that the company’s investment licence issued in 2014 expired and was not renewed in 2019.

The MPs also noted that the company linked to Italian investor Enrica Pinetti, who signed the controversial deal as a witness, did not qualify for generous waivers. The Parliament has an oversight role and no funds are supposed to spent on a project that it has stopped.

Mr Museveni said MPs’ argument on what he described as development issues should be stopped.

“Now what we want is to stop arguments among Members of Parliament. I want Members of Parliament to stop being argumentative in Parliament on development issues because it is disturbing,” Mr Museveni said.

He cited how he confronted the chairperson of the Parliamentary Committee on Trade, Tourism and Industry Mwine Mpaka (Mbarara South) about terminating the coffee deal, but the legislator declined his advice.

“They had put a campaign in Parliament and I told them. My son, son to [State Minister of Agriculture Bright] Rwamirama, [MP] Mpaka, I told him that issues involving an old man (Museveni), he should leave them. And tell people that the old man knows what he is doing. He went on and I kept quiet. I continued and nobody can stop me unless you want danger. Because I cannot see something that is going to save Uganda and you stop me from it, I cannot allow it,” he said.

Mr Museveni said it was a shame that the Vinci investor was even taken to court over the deal.

“They even went to court and sued the woman (Pinetti), who was helping me. Now, I heard that the court dismissed the case. But it is a shame that there is an argument on that,” the President said.

He said his government now has enough investors to invest in coffee value addition to prevent Ugandan farmers from being cheated by international companies.

“We are now lucky we have started getting our own children who want to invest in our country, we now have plenty of investors because we have foreigners who want to help us and our children as well. But we must understand that when you add value on coffee, you earn about $50 (about Shs185,000) instead of $2 (Shs7,400) of unprocessed coffee. It is also good to make friends in Europe and USA to easily penetrate their market,” he said.

In his calculations, President Museveni said they would have $50 from a kilogramme “even if we deduct $3 for transportation, we remain with $47, which means that a farmer will now get a much higher price than ever. So the war is on that (price).”

Mr Museveni said politicians must agree with him on development issues and if they have disagreement, they should go to him and explain their side of the story quietly.

“So now I want us to agree, most especially politicians, to stop making noise. If there is something you are not understanding, come and we talk about it quietly other than making noise all over,” he said.