News / Africa

Uganda Awards Another Dam Project to Chinese Company

China's influence in Uganda is growing, with two dam contracts recently awarded to Chinese companies, offers of cheap credit and even a possible deal to buy the debts of Ugandan MPs. But some rights groups worry that it could come at the expense of the country’s independence.
 
The Ugandan government, lured by the promise of cheap credit and heavy investment, is turning more and more toward China.
 
Chinese firms have been pouring into the country. According to the Chinese Embassy here, 45 new companies set up shop in Uganda just last year. And state-owned Chinese companies were recently awarded contracts to build Uganda’s two newest hydroelectric dams. The largest is estimated to cost almost one and a half billion dollars.
 
Chinese investment has been creating jobs in Uganda, and the new dams should help the country meet the energy demands of its fast-growing population, says Minister of State for Energy Simon D’Ujanga. Plus, he adds, cheap loans sweeten the deal.
 
“We have a bilateral arrangement with the Chinese government for cheap capital. It is a concession which is at a very low rate, and therefore we take advantage of that,” said D’Ujanga.
 
D’Ujanga acknowledges that low interest rates are not the only thing that makes China an attractive business partner.  “If anything, the Chinese government is more liberal than the other lenders. When they come, we discuss strictly business, and that’s all. They don’t start asking many questions which are not related to the business,” D’Ujanga noted.
 
The questions China does not ask are about governance and human rights. Godber Tumushabe is director of the Kampala-based Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment. He said this no-strings-attached approach is one of the main reasons why many African leaders are seeking Chinese investment.
 
“They don’t want to be held accountable to any standard in terms of good governance, in terms of human rights, in terms of even economic governance. Because some of these regimes, they are patronage regimes, they are client regimes, and therefore they don’t want to be held to any standard that Western countries normally would demand,” Tumushabe said.
 
China’s involvement with the Ugandan government has recently taken a more personal turn. Last week, lawmakers said that a Chinese firm is negotiating a deal to buy off the debts of Ugandan parliamentarians.
 
Tumushabe explains that many Ugandan lawmakers overspend during their campaigns, and end up in debt to other politicians. If the Chinese deal goes through, he said, it would compromise them even further.
 
“It’s really more or less like selling away the other aspect of your independence. All of a sudden, you have to probably look favorably on some of the transactions that China is doing here.”
 
According to reports in the local media, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni opposes the deal. Tumushabe said it is the country’s very sovereignty that is at stake. “I don’t think that a state that claims to be sovereign, like all these African states normally want to claim, should be in the business of allowing another state to come and pay off the debts of your elected leaders. I think that’s a responsibility that the state should have to its citizens," said Tumushabe. "To make sure that the elected leaders do not mortgage themselves to another country.”
 
But, he adds, Uganda’s behavior is not unusual. Governments across the continent have been turning to China to avoid having to make the changes that a growing middle class demands, he said.
 
“The presence of China gives a lease on life for regimes across the world, and more specifically in Africa - regimes that are not yet ready to reform, both in terms of economic reforms but also in terms of governance reforms,” said Tumushabe.
 
D’Ujanga insists that the Ugandan government knows what it is doing when it comes to China, and is not sacrificing its independence. “Not at all. This is not the first time we are dealing with the Chinese people. We have dealt with them before, and we can predict them,” he stated.
 
But Tumushabe warns that too few politicians weigh the real costs of cheap Chinese credit. When it comes to international relations, he says, there is no such thing as a blank check.

You May Like

Australia-Cambodia Resettlement Agreement Raises Concerns

Agreement calls for Cambodia to accept refugees in return for $35 million in aid and reflects Australia’s harder line approach towards asylum seekers and refugees More

India Looks to Become Arms Supplier Instead of Buyer

US hopes India can become alternative to China for countries looking to buy weapons, but experts question growth potential of Indian arms industry More

Earth Day Concert, Rally Draws Thousands in Washington

President Obama also took up the issue Saturday in his weekly address, saying there 'no greater threat to our planet than climate change' More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?i
X
Steve Sandford
April 17, 2015 12:50 AM
Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.
Video

Video Sierra Leone President Koroma Bemoans Ebola Impact on Economy

In an interview with VOA's Shaka Ssali on Wednesday, President Ernest Koroma said the outbreak undermined his government’s efforts to boost and restructure the economy after years of civil war.
Video

Video Protester Lands Gyrocopter on Capitol Lawn

A 61-year-old mailman from Florida landed a small aircraft on the Capitol lawn in Washington to bring attention to campaign finance reform and what he says is government corruption. Wednesday's incident was one in a string of security breaches on U.S. government property. Zlatica Hoke reports the gyrocopter landing violated a no-fly zone.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.
Video

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.
Video

Video Sidemen to Famous Blues Artists Record Their Own CD

Legendary blues singer BB King was briefly hospitalized last week and the 87-year-old “King of the Blues” may not be touring much anymore. But some of the musicians who have played with him and other blues legends have now released their own CD in an attempt to pass the torch to younger fans... and put their own talents out front as well. VOA’s Greg Flakus has followed this project over the past year and filed this report from Houston.
Video

Video Iran-Saudi Rivalry Is Stoking Conflict in Yemen

Iran has proposed a peace plan to end the conflict in Yemen, but the idea has received little support from regional rivals like Saudi Arabia. They accuse Tehran of backing the Houthi rebels, who have forced Yemen’s president to flee to Riyadh, and have taken over swaths of Yemen. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA, analysts say the conflict is being fueled by the Sunni-Shia rivalry between the two regional powers.

VOA Blogs