Relief as UNRA installs a ferry on River Semliki

NTOROKO – In a bid to ease transport and trade between Uganda and Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) is installing a ferry at Hayibale landing site on River Semliki in Rwebisengo, Ntoroko district that will connect the two countries.

The UNRA ferry Maintenance Manager, Joseph Wembabazi said, the ferry that will soon be operational will be in position to carry a load of not more than 35 tons and 100 passengers.

“Little works are remaining at Hayibale landing site and then we shall also work on Burasi landing site in DRC,” Wembabazi said.

Traders from Bunia in DRC have been using Lake Albert to travel to Ntoroko in Uganda as well as those from Uganda to Bunia which has been a long route.

While inspecting the ongoing works at Hayibale landing site, the Uganda Peoples Defence Forces (UPDF) overall Commander Operation Shujja, Maj. Gen. Kayanja Muhanga said, the ferry will create a multiplier effect in security and trade between the two counties.

“Once the ferry is operational, movement of personnel and materials to the theatre will be shortened,” Maj. Gen. Kayanja said.

The King of Mitego Kingdom,Omukama Rutahaba Ibanda, who led a delegation from DRC, explained difficulties his people face while coming to Uganda through Lake Albert to Ntoroko.

“The Hema of Congo and Batuku of Uganda are kinsmen and cattle keepers who interact on a daily basis. My people have been having difficulties traveling from Bunia crossing Lake Albert to Ntoroko, now that the ferry is here, we are going to abandon the longer and risky route to this one,” the Omukama Rutahaba said.

He commended the cooperation between the two presidents for enabling the two countries to cooperate and live in a peaceful coexistence.

The Chairperson LCI Hayibale village, Moses Bongaliya said, since the construction of the ferry started, the village people have been enjoying this development by selling their goods and enjoying the newly constructed road connecting Hayibale landing site to Bundibugyo tarmac road.

“My people are very happy with this development. The tarmac road has been upgraded and now the ferry, will shorten the distance to our relatives in Congo. We appreciate the government of Uganda for this development,” Bongaliya said.

The construction of a ferry on River Semliki comes at a time when UPDF together with the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC) are hunting Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) terrorists in Virunga and Ituri impenetrable forests.

This operation has had a challenge of difficult terrain with steep hills, valleys, numerous rivers and poor roads prolonging lines of communication.

It is predicted that once the ferry becomes operational, communication will be shortened which will increase the trust to eliminate ADF from Eastern DRC.

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Vice President, Jesca Alupo buys shares at Millennium SACCO 2021 Ltd

ISINGIRO –Uganda’s Vice President Jesca Alupo bought shares worth Shs 5 million and promised to buy more at Millennium SACCO 2012 Ltd.

Alupo bought shares while opening the SACCO’S new structure in Rugaga. She was invited as a Chief Guest to grace the official rebranding of Ankole Millennium SACCO which started in Ankole diocese in 2012 to Millennium SACCO 2012 Ltd in Rugaga Town Council in Isingiro district.

“I have already bought shares of Shs 5 million and that is just the beginning. In the next meeting, I will be able to add more shares. I would like to encourage everybody to have that spirit of having shares because it’s important to save,” said Alupo.

She further encouraged the SACCO top leadership to open another branch in Katakwi district to expand its membership base.

“And in our next discussion, I will initiate a conversation about having one of the branches of Millennium SACCO 2012 Ltd in Katakwi district,” said Alupo, who is also the Woman Member of Parliament for Katakwi district.

Alupo hailed Dr Fred Sheldon Mwesigwa, the Bishop of Ankole Diocese for being a development focused church leader.

“I extend my appreciation to Bishop Dr Fred Sheldon Mwesigwa of Ankole diocese for setting a good example of religious leaders’ involvement in improving the socio-economic lives of the people of Uganda instead of only concentrating on spiritual needs of the citizens in terms of human resource development,” she said.

“The establishment of Millennium SACCO 2012 Ltd is another clear demonstration that the diocese is committed to supporting our economy because as you all know our economy is private-sector led through private enterprises,” Alupo said.

Alupo was also impressed that the new SACCO branch in Rugaga will change the face of the Town Council and economic lives of the people in Isingiro district.

“SACCOs are very important grassroot institutions that bring people together irrespective of religion, tribe, clan, colour, gender and age to pull resources, to promote a savings culture and also subsequently provide loans that can assist small enterprises to grow into giant projects. Therefore, I would like to call upon all the people of Isingiro and Ankole region in general to take advantage of Millennium SACCO Ltd. services,” said Alupo.

Dr Fred Sheldon Mwesigwa confirmed that changing the SACCO name was deliberately initiated by the SACCO top leadership to become a national SACCO with intentions of becoming a bank in future.

“We have managed to change the SACCO name from Ankole Diocese Millennium SACCO to Millennium SACCO 2012 Ltd. This is in preparation for us to expand our footprint in other regions,” says Mwesigwa.

“We want to turn it into a bank in the near future so we want a simple name, not a sentence, a reason we changed it to Millennium SACCO,” he added.

Mwesigwa appealed to the Vice President to push for a reduction of the amount of money required to start a bank in Uganda.

“H.E Vice President, we are requesting you to be our ambassador to stand against the increase in capital required for a SACCO to graduate to a bank. Why should Bank of Uganda propose to increase minimum capital from Shs 24 billion to Shs 150 billion for one to start a bank? Will Ugandans ever own banks in an era where we are promoting buy Uganda, build Uganda?” Bishop Mwesigwa asked.

“Our honorable MPs, isn’t this an issue within your docket? Why should we continue relying on European banks and refuse to start our own?” he further asked.

Fred Tumwine, the SACCO Board Chairman encouraged members to embrace mobile banking to limit chances of theft and insecurity among its members.

“Some people may want to rob you when you are carrying some big sums of money. I would like to encourage you to embrace technology which makes it easy for people to transact businesses,” says Tumwine.

Millennium SACCO Ltd was established on 13th December 2012 to improve people’s livelihoods by bridging the gap between the local community and the financial sectors.

Currently, it has 7 branches employing 54 people, with total savings of Shs 6.3 billion, loan portfolio of Shs 11 billion, share capital of Shs 2.1 billion, and a total membership of 16,659 since its inception.

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Uganda, South Sudan authorities concerned over continuous illegal cross border trades.

AMURU – Authorities in Uganda and South Sudan have raised concerns over the continuous illegal trade across borders in petroleum and drugs.

For years, community members living along the border villages of Palulu, Okidi North and South in Okidi parish in Atiak sub-county have engaged in illegal trade in petroleum, drugs like marijuana.

In October last year, South Sudan authorities raised concerns over inability by the Ugandan authorities to intensify security along the border lines to curb illegal trade.

David Otto, the Commissioner of Magwi County in South Sudan in an interview with our reporter says, they are concerned by the continuous illegal trade in mairungi, sugar and petroleum. Traders normally use the porous borders manned by URA and other security agencies.

According to Otto, despite knowing the porous border points, security and revenue personnel from the two countries have failed to apprehend the illegal traders and yet opt to accept bribes, fueling the business instead.

“What bothers us is the fact that despite the Ugandan authorities knowing that mairungi is illegal in South Sudan, they still can’t stop the trade along the borders. Besides that, I know that we all know the illegal porous border points yet we can’t affect arrests to stop the trade,” Otto wonders.

In a recent cross border meeting held at Nimule, in South Sudan, officials from both Uganda and South Sudan agreed to intensify deployments along the porous borders to curtail the seeming increasing cases of illegal trade between the two countries.

Justine Ocen, a resident of Palulu village in Okidi, Atiak sub-county in Amuru district, blamed the continuous illegal trade on the laxity by the security personnel deployed at the border points.

“People have known that no one resists money and so they (the illegal traders) are giving out money to the security personnel deployed along the border points in order to buy their way to and from South Sudan as they smuggle goods between the two countries,” Ocen notes.

Aggrey Akera, Keith, the LCV Councilor for Atiak sub county confirmed that the illegal trade across borders has been on the rise in recent times with key goods smuggled including cigarettes, sugar, petroleum among others.

Akera fears that since these goods are smuggled, their quality could be compromised and may put the lives of the consumers at risk.

According to Akera, besides quality concerns, security in the entire Atiak sub-county is at risk because in some incidents, the traders have been caught with firearms.

“We know that illegal trade across the two borders is on the rise and this means insecurity is also on the rise. For instance, if guns are recovered with the dealers and sometimes cattle rustlers from South Sudan, this means the security of the people in our community is at stake,” Akera, notes.

“We have also seen a rise in accident cases because the illegal traders believe that the only way to evade the deployed security personnel is to speed up. We recently lost two people who were aboard a Noah car which was being driven at a high speed from South Sudan as they tried to evade Uganda Revenue Authority officials,” Akera further explains.

Geoffrey Oceng Osborn, the Amuru Resident District Commissioner (RDC), told our reporter that currently, new deployments have been made along the border points.

He says, following reports from the cross-border meetings and public outcry on corruption, Uganda Revenue Authority (URA), has overhauled the entire staff deployed at the Elegu border post.

Atiak sub-county and Elegu Town Council lie along the border between the Uganda- South Sudan border stretching to Lamwo district where the next legal entry point is located.

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Security Minister Gen Jim Muhwezi bans rural hawkers

Kampala – The Minister for Security, Maj Gen Jim Muhwezi has issued a directive banning all hawkers in rural areas.

In a letter to all Resident District Commissioners [RDCs], District Police Commanders [DPCs]and all security personnel around the Country, Gen Muhwezi says, reports from the Internal Security Organization [ISO] have indicated that there are criminals moving around in villages pretending to be hawkers of merchandise.

“We have received information that there are people moving around villages especially in Western region, masquerading as hawkers” read the statement in parts.

Muhwezi says the practice is banned immediately, as it’s a source of insecurity for the country.

“The practice of moving in villages selling items should not be allowed as it is a source of insecurity”

He adds that those who want to trade in the rural areas should do so in the trading areas.

The directive comes barely two days after security in Kampala got involved in running battles with city traders and hawkers in an attempt to clean up the City streets of hawkers and vendors.

On Monday, a combined team of police and the military cleared Kampala streets of hawkers.

Several hawkers were arrested pending court action as Kampala Capital City Authorities [KCCA] grappled with the perennial challenge of vendors on the streets.

Meanwhile, Kampala Lord Mayor Elias Lukwago said, Jim Muhwezi, the Security Minister is not mandated to handle issues of hawkers including stopping them from plying their trade.

Lukwago further says, there are local government units that can handle hawkers through established by-laws that can give the decision a legal backing.

“We have local government units that can handle it. Local Councils should be allowed to act by passing by-laws- that would regulate hawking, Lukwago argued while appearing on NBS television.

Katikamu South MP, Hassan Kirumira says, if implemented, the directive would deny people living in the rural areas an opportunity to access cheap merchandise at their doorstep.

“Our people have been accessing cheap goods from the hawkers, but banning hawkers would mean they have to travel to Kampala or busy markets, which becomes more challenging,” Kirumira lamented.

Kampala Resident City Commissioner [RCC], Hood Hussein says, the directive is timely and would enable them to clean up the city, including towns.

Hussein further noted that rural hawking is not bad as compared to urban vending, but once the hawkers are a threat, then they should be regulated.

“Its government’s responsibility to protect the people and their property. If hawkers are a problem then we need to clean up through laws or such directives,” says Hussein why speaking to our reporter.

Gen Jim Muhwezi’s directive also follows reports of Allied Democratic Forces [ADF] rebel infiltration in the vast part of Western Uganda recruiting youth into rebel ranks.

Last week, authorities in DRC reportedly arrested Benjamin Kisokeranio, a key Allied Democratic Forces Commander in charge of recruitment in the rebel outfit.

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UPDF launches air, artillery strikes on ADF camps in DRC

KAMPALA – The Uganda People’s Defense Forces (UPDF) has launched air and artillery strikes on Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebel positions inside the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The rebel group blamed for the Kampala twin bombings a fortnight ago, has also claimed responsibility for the attacks on the UN peace keepers under MUNUSCO inside the vast Central African Republic.

The two bomb blasts in the heart of the Capital, Kampala claimed at least seven lives, majority of whom were Police Officers and more than 30 were severely injured.

Several other bombs were since deactivated, with security attributing the attacks on the Congo based rebel group formerly led by Jamir Mukulu, now incarcerated in Luzira Prison on several offences including treason, murder among others.

The rebel group terrorized parts of the Western Axis in the district of Kasese, Bundibugyo, Kabarole, between 1995s to early 2000’s claiming more than 3,000 lives and scores left displaced.

The recent UPDF attack was a preemptive reaction, following intelligence reports indicating that the terrorist group was planning deadly attacks on Uganda in a few days.

The UN Peacekeepers in the Congo, who have also been attacked by the same group reported that the rebels had developed strategic points from where to launch the attacks on the Kampala regime.

UPDF spokesperson, Brig Flavia Byekwaso confirmed the attacks this afternoon.

“We have attacked ADF bases in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) this afternoon. After shared intelligence between Uganda and the DRC, we confirmed that the ADF terrorists were planning to conduct hostile activities against Uganda,” she said.

Contrary to the reports on social media, Brig Byekwaso clarified that the Ugandan army didn’t enter the territory of DRC, but rather they used long range artillery and planes to attack the ADF positions.

Earlier, there were numerous reports indicating heavy deployment by the UPDF along the DRC border following attacks on the UN Peace contingent by the rebel group in Eastern DRC.

The Army has also confirmed that its presence into the DRC territory was authenticated by the Kinshasa regime after Chief of Defense Forces, Gen Wilson Mbadi exchanged pleasantries with his DRC Counterpart Celestin Mbala.

In August 1998, Ugandan Army was allowed into the same territory to flash out the same group but the venture turned out into a plundering expedition.

DRC resources were plundered by the Uganda army officials, attracting the International Court of Justice to charge the Ugandan government for causing immense violation of sovereignty, illegal use of force among other charges.

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