KAMPALA, UGANDA - Ugandan soldiers will be deployed shortly as security guards for businesses of mostly Chinese investors that have suffered a spate of robberies, the military said on Wednesday.
The East African country of 40 million people hosts a large number of Asian investors and workers, a sizeable portion of them from China, and their numbers has been growing in lock-step with China's deepening stake in Africa.
Chinese businesses have put down roots in Uganda's retail sector, where their competition has stoked local resentment - and light manufacturing.
Firms from China have also captured a large chunk of public infrastructure works in Uganda in recent years, taking advantage of large Chinese credit lines to the country.
Chinese companies are now developing two hydro-electric dams on the Nile river costing about $2 billion while others are building roads and an airport.
Ugandan military spokesman Richard Karemire said soldiers would start offering security to Chinese investors in response to a recent series of attacks that have fueled fear in the business community. He did not say how many soldiers would be deployed as guards or give a time frame for the operation.
Karemire said Chinese investors were being targeted for their tendency to keep large sums of cash in their factories.
"Security forces, the military inclusive, will provide security...We hold them dearly because of the employment opportunities they offer," he said, referring to Chinese investors.
In recent months local newspapers have reported a number of attacks on Chinese-owned businesses, mostly in central Uganda, with robbers grabbing cash and other valuables.
On Wednesday, the Daily Monitor, a local paper, quoted an official from an association of Chinese-owned businesses in Uganda as saying some business owners were considering leaving the country because of insecurity.
In recent years crime, including murder, robberies and kidnappings for ransom, has been growing in Uganda and President Yoweri Museveni has said security personnel may be colluding with criminals.