Bugiri, Uganda: He diligently worked hard for twelve years at the Bugiri District-based Tilda Uganda Limited Kibimba. As a sole breadwinner of a family of six back home in Manafwa, he toiled for extra hours to fend for his family.
With a meagre wage of only Shs3000 a day, the 35 year-old Anthony Syuyu realized he couldn’t make it with the little money and he had to devise other means to gain extra dimes. Because he worked all day and night, he couldn’t get an extra work outside the rice factory. The thought of ‘man eats where he works’ set in.
On the 18th May 2018 at about 10 pm, together with yet unidentified colleague, they gave in to temptations of sneaking out with a few kilos of Kibimba rice. They did pocket them but alas! They couldn’t make it out. They succumbed to the management directive to security guards thus; ‘whoever is caught stealing, shoot to kill.’
Whereas his friend reportedly escaped with serious injuries, Anthony didn’t. After the incident, a manager called Bugiri police and asked them to pick the body. Suggestively on Kibimba’s ‘payroll’, police indeed picked the body and dumped it at the mortuary. He was no more.
The following day, Anthony’s mother, who also works at the factory was informed of his son’s death. Crying, she called their family and announced the same. “On 19th May 2018, our mother called to inform us that our brother Anthony had been shot dead at Kibimba rice factory in Bugiri.” Irene Wabule, Anthony’s sister narrated.
She adds; “Later on Sunday, they called to inform us that they had gotten an ambulance to transport the corpse of our brother for burial. The body, wrapped in polythene bag was delivered at about 6pm. It was so messed up with a huge wound in his neck and intestines were out.”
On that day, the rotting body of Anthony was laid to rest at his ancestral home of Buwalibwa village, Namaloko parish, Bukhofu Sub County in Manafwa district. He left behind a wife, two boys namely; Kevin Shambi, 4 years and Prince Mamayi of 2 years, along with his dependent sister Irene Wabule and his Aunt Juliet Nabifo.
“We are a needy family who can’t fend for ourselves and we were so shocked by the sad news that our sole bread winner in the family had been killed. We just sat here with nothing to do. People the other side in Bugiri called to inform us that the body of our beloved brother had been dumped at Bugiri hospital mortuary,” cried Juliet Nabifo.
It all started when journalists visited the factory for a small function. As they moved around, a known investigative journalist sensed sad and frightened faces of workers. He privately asked one of them why they looked sad and the answer was; ‘Batutta’, meaning “They kill us.”
The journalist took kin interest and arranged a meeting with his source who unveiled Anthony’s murder incident, adding he was the sixth victim of the Askar Security Group guards’ shoot-to-kill vice which was sanctioned by Tilda Company authorities. The concerned journalist tipped off Fred Muwema of Muwema & Co. Advocates who has since taken action.
“We can’t let them kill people with such impunity. We have decided to take on the matter and seek justice for these needy people,” Muwema confirmed to the Investigator a fortnight ago. True to his word, a team of private investigators and investigative journalists was dispatched to Bugiri, Mbale and Manafwa.
“They never gave us any report about the cause of death of our son and the people who brought the body in ambulance just dumped it, shabbily wrapped in a polythene bag and drove off without giving us any explanation,” Paul Walimbwa, the L.C I Chairman of Buwalibwa village narrated to the investigating team, indicating no signs of a postmortem in the picture.
Walimbwa adds; “His body was in bad state and it seemed not to have been treated, we cleaned it and got some old sheet that belong to his grandmother where we wrapped it and later buried it.” It sounds a nasty incident where someone was buried in just a cloth in a rainy season. “This was the saddest moment. We just immersed his body in water,” said Walimbwa.
Walimbwa said that later, one of the ambulance occupants came back using a boda-boda and announced thus; “your son was shot with his other colleague while they were stealing rice from the company. We are going back to search for his colleague. Sorry your son didn’t make it,” He jumped on the Boda and rode away, unidentified.
To this end, the Muwema & Co. Advocates have already filed a complaint with the Inspector General of Police (IGP) Ochola Martins Okoth aka OMO, calling for investigations into Anthony murder as well as the other five alleged ones. “Police in Bugiri seem compromised and we also want the police boss to reprimand his officers who picked and dumped the body at the hospital using a police vehicle,” said Muwema.
The Investigator has established that key witnesses have also been transferred to Kampala for fear of their lives until that time when police is in total control of the matter. Efforts to reach Tilda management were futile as the numbers on their web couldn’t go through. However, in their recent rebuttal in response to a similar story, they claimed that Anthony was a common thief.
In an article published two years ago by Mr. Hussein Lumumba Amin titled; Kibimba Rice Scheme – Bugiri district: Established by President Idi Amin; he write thus; Kibimba Rice Scheme is a 3900 hectare agricultural project, the largest rice production facility in Uganda.
Supplying the bulk of the rice in the country to this day. Every Ugandan, and the countries guests, regularly eat rice from this project. In 1998 this important government food sufficiency program would be sold to a company called Tilda India that sells basmati rice in blue plastic bags.
Kibimba Rice Scheme is on the Jinja-Tororo highway near the town of Bugiri in eastern Uganda. It was established in 1974 as a government venture to increase food production, create employment and reduce food imports. Foreign exchange was also brought in since some of the rice was exported to neighboring countries.
This intensive irrigated rice cultivation was formed when a dam was put in place on the Kibimba River. The rice fields have channels which allow water to flood certain fields in the production process and it is these flooded fields which are favorable to resident and migrant birds that today’s tourist birdwatchers discover.
The rice scheme also resulted in an improvement in rice growing on the whole, because it had specialists who carried out research and gave advice to small-scale rice farmers, eventually leading to an improvement in output, both qualitatively and quantitatively.
Originally, Kibimba Rice Scheme had 550 ha of paddy rice, company buildings, a huge modern rice mill and other production machinery at the processing factory Total project cost is estimated at US$6.4 million dollars today.
At the time the scheme was established, Amin settled all relocation and compensation costs.
Kibimba has a 1.5 km earthen dam called the Kibimba dam, with 3 million cubic meters of water for rice irrigation. Electricity was brought to the site from the national grid. There were also two 75 kVA back-up diesel generators on-site.
The agricultural facility included homes for the employees with electricity, water supply and sewer services. Plus waste collection. Kibimba Rice Scheme also had an elementary school and a clinic located on the main workshop site to care for ordinary illnesses plus work accidents and emergencies including those resulting from agrochemicals.
All workers had protective equipment and special attention was made to curb water borne diseases since rice production involved lots of water on vast swaths of land.
The facility also had a fire fighting unit at its establishment. The 1979 crew of liberators would later loot, mismanage and run down this important national investment before selling it off on the cheap to “an investor”.
An October 2010 article in The Africa Report by Nicholas Norbrook said that “Tilda Uganda, which runs a lowland rice farm in Kibimba, used to sell 75% of its rice in Uganda with the rest exported to neighboring countries, now almost all our rice production is sold in the domestic market,” says Tilda director Venugopal Pookat.
I remember the project when we travelled by helicopter (Bell-Huey) to
attend the official launch. Kibimba Rice Scheme was originally a Uganda government project with China whose officials were at the function. Their experts were also on the ground
operationalizing the project for Uganda.