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Finance Minister Given Ultimatum on South Sudan Payments

Parliament has given the Minister of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, Matia Kasaija up to June 2022 to present an addendum, as proof of government’s commitment to compensate 23 companies which supplied goods and services to South Sudan between 2008 and 2010.

MPs are concerned that although the plight of traders has been discussed in Parliament for long and a resolution for payment passed, government is hesitant to pay out.

“Government has no excuse to say there is no money because Parliament gave them powers through resolutions. Parliament went ahead to pass a supplementary budget to cater for the 23 verified companies. If their money was diverted, the minister must tell us where the money went,” said Hon. Cecilia Ogwal (FDC, Dokolo District Woman MP).

On 30 March 2018, Parliament passed a supplementary allowing government to borrow and compensate 23 traders whose claim was up for verification.  The claim totaled to US$ 47,207,849 and Sudanese Pounds (SDG) 36,332,227.

These companies were excluded from an initial agreement between the governments of Uganda and South Sudan to compensate 10 companies that supplied goods to South Sudan.

Kasaija while presenting a statement to Parliament on the status of compensation, on Tuesday, 10 May 2022, said government was incapacitated to pay traders.

“The problem, first of all is the capacity we have as the Treasury, and as you have seen even for the 10 companies, we have been compensating them since 2019 because the funds were not available – sometimes were are constrained by cash flow,” said Kasaija.

Legislators did not buy into Kasaija’s justification for delayed payment and implored government to move fast considering that traders lost not only property but lives. Many have been pushed out of business, MPs said.

“There is a gentleman called Bongomin Sunday, this man has ran mad because he lost US$3.3 million.  There is a woman called Jane who collapsed in Hon. David Bahati’s office. There is also a man called Gunya whose businesses in Lira have been closed – he has lost all his houses. Hon. Minister, we want these people to get their money,” said Speaker Anita Among.

Busia Municipality MP, Hon. Geoffrey Macho also testified about traders from his constituency who lost lives, homes and families due to the financial loss suffered since 2008.

“Our very own Masaba of Busia, the owner of Masaba Coaches had all buses burnt. I know people who lost tons of maize that have not been paid,” he added.

Bukooli County Central MP, Hon. Solomon Silwany, said he knew of a trader who died of pressure caused by the financial loss and asked Parliament to bring to an end the plight of these traders.

“Today is the 8th time the minister is coming here telling Parliament that we are sorting this matter. You asked the minister how long he is going to take to pay but he is still talking about estimation of days – Madam Speaker, when are we going to complete this matter?” Silwany asked.

The Speaker directed Kasaija to get an addendum to the initial payment agreement between Uganda and South Sudan by June 2022, upon which Uganda would base on to pay the claimants.

“We are asking the minister that go back to South Sudan get an addendum for the 23 companies to be paid, once you get that addendum, it takes the first call to pay these people because it’s a public debt,” she directed.

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