President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni has urged Ugandans, especially in markets to get back to business now that the country has been fully opened.
The president says people now only need to be fully vaccinated & not worry so much about Covid 19 while in public places.
“The reason we had stopped markets was because of Corona but a few weeks ago I made a National Address and said we had opened the country and we’re now emphasizing immunization. So, the border is now open, our emphasis is now on immunization,” Gen Museveni said.
The President made the remarks on Wednesday, December 21, 2022, speaking to crowds at the Mpondwe Uganda-Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) border shortly after commissioning phase one of the Mpondwe-Lhubiriha Border Export Zone (Market) and Mpondwe One Stop Border Post in Kasese district.
The over 5 billion shillings facility funded by the World Bank through the Great Lakes Trade Facilitation Project is meant to enable cross-border trade by increasing the capacity for commerce and reducing the costs faced by traders, especially small-scale and women traders in the borderlands.
“The market which we launched down there must be used now,” the President said, adding that crossing within East African countries should be cost-free with no visas required. “If that is the case, I have removed it,” H.E Museveni emphasized after an outcry raised by Kasese LC.5 Chairperson Muhindi Bukombi Eliphaz that trade between Uganda and DRC has been affected by restrictions requirements such as visa fees in dollars equivalent to Uganda shillings 10,000 for Ugandans to cross into DRC. He said this affected mostly the fish market which has since shifted.
“For purposes of promoting modern trade and in the spirit of the East African community, we request that you liaise with your counterpart the president of the DRC H.E Tshisekedi to allow Ugandans free entry in order to facilitate business,” Mr. Muhindi said.
The President assured continued peace to the people of Kasese and the whole Rwenzori region and thanked DRC President Felix Tshisekedi for agreeing to work with Uganda to clear the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebels out of Congo and vowed not to leave any stone unturned.
“The ADF should surrender peacefully because we’re going to finish them. Wherever they go we shall find them if the Congo government allows us because there’s nowhere, we cannot reach,” Gen Museveni said.
The State Minister for ICT Hon. Kabyanga Godfrey earlier described UPDF’s deployment in DRC as the best thing that has happened in recent times.
“We have families and relatives in DRC and when we hear that the ADF has killed 200 people, we believe that every person in Kasese has lost a relative,” Hon Kabyanga said.
The President further urged the people of Kasese to listen to his message of wealth creation by engaging in the 4 sectors; Commercial Agriculture with Ekibalo - calculation, Industry (Manufacturing), Services, and Information Communication Technology (ICT).
On commercial agriculture, H.E Museveni emphasized the 7 activities for people with small portions of land (4 acres and below) on account of high returns per acre, per annum.
He recommended; One acre for clonal coffee, One acre for fruits (mangoes, oranges, and pineapples- and berries for those in Kasese mountains), One acre for food crops for the family (cassava, bananas, upland rice or irrigation rice, Irish potatoes, sorghum or millet) and the fourth acre for pasture for dairy cattle (8 of them); poultry for eggs in the backyard piggery; and fish farming.
The President reiterated that families with 6 acres and above can use 4 acres for coffee, fruits, food crop, dairy farming, pigs, poultry, and fish farming). They can also produce low-value crops like sugar cane, cotton, tobacco, maize, etc, on the other two acres in addition to the high-value activities.
“This is the medicine we put for you in the manifesto of 1986 but people don’t listen. When I was coming here, I saw people growing cotton. Once you stabilize agriculture in the families everything will be easy,” H.E Museveni said.
He cautioned them against the wrong method of physical land fragmentation saying it discourages wealth creation
“The land is for production to support the family but also support the country. So, if you’re going to die, children must benefit from the land by shares not physically fragmenting it,” he noted.
On infrastructure, the President promised to work on the road from Kikorongo to the Mpondwe border.
The State Minister for Trade Harriet Ntabazi said more than 18 markets of this nature will be constructed as a way of building bridges to counter the barriers of trade between Uganda and other East African countries.
“Your Excellency, we thank you for this Christmas gift that you have given us and we shall jointly work together to ensure that this market benefits the people of Uganda and East Africa,” Minister Ntabazi said.
According to the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Trade and Industry Geraldine Ssali, the market and the one-stop border post will see an increase in regional market exports in the years to come.
The Commissioner General (CG) of Uganda Revenue Authority John Musinguzi described the event as a testimony that there’s a growing business between Uganda and DRC and all government agencies put together will have to work together to facilitate trade between Uganda and RDC.
Mpondwe One Stop Border Post in Kasese district becomes the 8th one-stop border post after Malaba, Mutukula, Lwakhakha, Elegu, Katuna, Mirama Hills, and Ntoroko are also set only waiting to be commissioned. Two more are under construction including the Suam River one-stop border post in Bukwo on the border with Kenya.
According to district officials, the Mpondwe border market is a game changer for the town council that has been struggling with local revenue collections.
Uganda’s trade with DRC has progressed over the years with the country’s export to DRC now amounting to over $300m
Export through Mpondwe majorly comprises agricultural produce and industrial products.
The ceremony was attended by among others State Minister for Local Government Hon. Victoria Rusoke, State Minister of the East African Community Hon Magode Ikuya, religious leaders, and officials from the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
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