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

IS Militants Release 49 Turkish Hostages

Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency reports that no ransom was paid and no conditions accepted for the hostages' release; few details of the release are known More

Photogallery IS Attacks Send Thousands of Syrian Kurds Fleeing to Turkey

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says more than 300 Kurdish fighters crossed into Syria from Turkey to defend a Kurdish area from attack by the Islamic militants More

Video Sierra Leone's Ebola Lockdown Continues

Thousands of health workers are going door to door in the West African country of 6 million, informing people of how to avoid Ebola, handing out soap 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.
Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’i
X
Jeff Seldin
September 20, 2014 10:28 PM
Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid