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Uganda Traders To Begin Strike, Despite Government Plea

Ugandan protesters run after police fired tear gas during a demonstration against high food and fuel prices, in Kampala, Uganda (file photo).

In Uganda, the Kampala City Traders Association (KACITA) says members will embark on a three-day strike beginning today (Wednesday).

The strike, KACITA spokesman Issa Sekitto said, is a result of what he called the intransigence and arrogance of the Bank of Uganda and other banks.

The group complains of high interest rates on loans and sharp increases in prices of unreliable electricity and other energy products. The increases, they said, is above 80 percent.

“People have been complaining of high rent, poor electricity supply, robbery,” continued Sekitto. “All these, coupled with the adamancies and the arrogance of the Bank of Uganda and the Commercial Banks leaves us with [the following] options: to go on a peaceful demonstration to begin with as well as moving out of the banks and withdrawing our money.”

KACITA members vowed to embark on Wednesday’s strike after officials of the government and a parliamentary select committee failed to persuade them to abandon their planned protest.

The traders also plan to suspend deposits to their bank accounts for three days despite pleas and assurances from the Governor of the Bank of Uganda, Emmanuel Tumusiime Mutebile.

Mutebile asked the traders’ group to be patient, promising their concerns will be resolved when inflation falls.

But KACITA spokesman Sekitto said the nation’s bank has refused to implement fiscal policies to bring down escalating inflation rates.

“Some of us know that there are other practical means to be used, [such as] the open market operations and the taxation policy,” continued Sekitto. “All these can be used as alternative ways [in which] the Bank of Uganda can intervene to have inflation control. [But], unfortunately, as if it is a mission, the governor is insisting on one tool and that is [high] interest rates.”

He said the banks have threatened to punish traders who are yet to fully pay back loans they owe.

“The banks have already slashed a lot of money on our account. The banks have already sent out adverts and publications that they are going to sell our properties. They are even threatening to arrest some of the people that are using loans who do not have collateral,” said Sekitto.

Some Ugandans are expressing concern today’s strike will negatively affect them.

But, Sekitto said KACITA will review its strategy after the end of the three-day strike to decide its next line of action.

He also said the government has so far failed to address their concerns despite repeated appeals.