Stop undermining efforts in the spirit of integration

I refer to two articles of November 27, 2014 regarding President Museveni’s intention to block Kenyan goods once they do not open their market to Ugandan goods and the other on November 28, 2014 where in his opinion, Dr Othieno Delango, a veterinary expert at the President’s farm, thinks the statements made by the President could not have come from the bottom of the President’s heart!
Kenya has been Uganda’s leading trade partner until recently when the tables have turned with Kenya looking more to USA for its imports – including food imports. The spirit of EAC has always been that we grow and promote regional trade and investments. Only then can we support internal capacities to be able to seize opportunities in far markets. This was the spirit of the EAC that President Museveni championed along with President Moi and President Mkapa then.
It is disappointing that Kenya can block Ugandan goods at a time when regional trade is well below 15 per cent. This is inspite of the passion and strong political will from our national leaders. President Museveni was very careful in identifying the problem – the technocrats in KRA have let us down!! Particularly for such key exports as poultry products and sugar – and officials from Kenya Revenue Authority should not wait to respond to President Museveni but to provide a free trade environment as envisaged and provided for in the EAC protocols.
In the Saturday Monitor of November 29, Dr Othieno puts it as follows “I do not think the comment came from the bottom of the president’s heart because I work on his farm as an expatriate since you lack proper veterinary doctors in Uganda”. This mix up is but diversionary. Dr Othieno ought to be careful with this delicate and sensitive situation. Working on the President’s farm has no bearing at all with the statement that the President made in Semuto – which clearly was a frustration with Kenyan authorities handling Ugandan businesses.
Clearly, through this statement Dr Othieno has belittled both the person of the President and the Veterinary fraternity in Uganda. The Uganda Veterinary Association should, in my opinion, come out and protest this in the strongest terms possible.
My message to Dr Othieno is the fact that you found opportunity here does not mean Uganda had or has no qualified vet doctors to do your job. President Museveni gave you the opportunity for which you ought to be grateful. Being a veterinary expert and working on the president’s farm cannot qualify you to be a regional trade expert or his spokesperson. President Museveni could not have been that naïve to express his frustration about the recurring trade malpractices and unfairness by KRA while in Semuto and we in the business community applaud him for this. Any one that has worked with President Museveni will appreciate his impressions and expressions about the detractors and obscurantists who delay or derail regional trade and investment. Dr Othieno should have done his homework before putting such careless statement in the press.

Cross-border trade issues
The business community in Uganda is disappointed with this statement particularly at a time when many of us are increasingly becoming frustrated with cross border trade in Kenya and we ask that President Museveni brings this individual to order.
Such statements undermine President Uhuru’s and President Museveni’s efforts to strengthen regional intergation. It is unfortunate and unclear to me why Dr Othieno continues to work for a person whose ideology he does not subscribe to or promote. His utterance reflects the highest degree of hypocrisy and I suggest it be divorced from the thinking of the President. Uganda is fortunate that Dr Othieno is not working at KRA, otherwise we would have had a lot more trouble!
Dr Othieno ought to appreciate that although he was offered a job here on the President’s farm as a veterinary expert, Uganda is not short of veterinary doctors. Not at all and far from it. Uganda is a very hospitable country and you can settle and work anywhere. No surprise, we have been the lead promoters of regional cooperation. But Dr Othieno must not take us for granted. It would be 10 times harder for any Ugandan to settle and work in Kenya in whatever sector than it is for Kenyans to work here – in hotels, on farms like where Dr Othieno is, in banks, etc. Actually most of our bank executives are Kenyan and we see this as enriching.
Uganda’s magnanimity must not be abused by such characters as Dr Othieno for selfish interests especially after being received with open hands.
The three presidents of Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda have worked and continue to work tirelessly to smoothen regional trade and consolidate our peoples with such initiatives as the Single Customs Territory, the single tourist visa, the Electronic Cargo Tracking system, harmonisation of work permits, building efficiency at the port of Mombasa, all in effort to ease trade, investment and fight against NTBs.
No individual, institution or authority must therefore be allowed to diffuse the good intentions of this spirit.

The author is the executive director at Private Sector Foundation Uganda.

SOURCE: Daily Monitor

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