KAMPALA, Uganda: Member of Parliament representing Kilak North Constituency Hon. Gilbert Oulanya last week for the second time, petitioned parliament of Uganda seeking responsible government agencies to intervene in the investigation of a salt product that has allegedly put ‘his’ constituents’ lives at stake.
While speaking on the floor of parliament, Oulanya noted that it had been brought to his attention by his constituents about a salt product on the local market known as Pearl Salt which he claims is tasteless, doesn’t dissolve, but also one has to pour more quantities of it in the food in order to get the preferred taste, compared to other traditional brands.
The FDC fire brand, who was swinging empty packets of the said brand, the no-nonsense Speaker Jacob Oulanya asked him to bring salt as evidence as opposed to packaging material. MP Oulanya went ahead to tell parliament that many of his area residents are in complete disarray and living in fear at the time he was addressing parliament. He in fact insinuated as if his constituents were watching him live but from a hideout!
“Mr. Speaker, the complaint of the community is that this salt has particles that do not dissolve in water. Two, the salt is tasteless. You may add large quantities but it does not taste like the salt we eat every time,” Oulanya lamented.
However, his namesake and the Deputy Speaker Jacob Oulanya objected to his submission saying that the legislator needed to table evidential value owing to the fact that the problem at hand is the salt not the packet. Alternatively, he advised him to avail samples of the additive to responsible bodies such as UNBS for quality testing.
Owing to the fact that this is now a public concern and journalists must at all times serve the interests of the same people that politicians represent, Independent Online Journalists Association (Indoja), a body that brings together online journalists decided to carry out an undercover and deep investigations to come to the bottom of this matter, in the interest of the public. After five days of our investigations, we elect to bring out the other side of Oulanya’s story.
Our investigations unveiled a business rivalry of how the whole battle comes from Habari Salt and Bahari salt! No other, just like if your mind still serves you right about the battle between Kansai Plascon and Dutch global paints and coatings company, AkzoNobel or simply say Sadolin and Plascon titanic battle. The Habari Salt and Bahari Salt battles and identical twins of the mentioned cases above, we can authoritatively reveal.
Initially, Habari salt belonged to Dr. Hasmukh Dawda’s Umbrella groups, trading under House of Dawda (Uganda) and House of Manji (Kenya) respectively. His salt company, Mombasa salt works was based in Mombasa Kenya and he started it way back in 1975.
However, in 2007, he sold his Habari salt brand to Crystalline Salt Company belonging to another business man in Mombasa Kenya and later on emerged with two new Brands; BAHARI and PEARL salt! It should be noted that because Dawda had been in the market for decades, it was easy for him to market his new brands and even surpass the pioneer Habari brand which he had marketed himself.
He had all the market intelligence on fingertips. So because Habari and Bahari have close similarities in name and branding, this caused anxiety, because even customers who are not very vigilant can easily buy the other brand when they meant to buy the other.
Another advantage Dawda had, especially in northern Uganda is that he was born and raised up in Lira, he knows most of the market dynamics there. Locals would see him during 1986 Kony insurgency distributing aide. He is literally at home.
So both brands started competing in the open market country wide, which is a healthy practice in business anyway, as long as the competition is kept within the right context. However, after several years, Habari reportedly started losing market steadily and more significantly to Bahari.
Our investigations reveal that before this negative campaign begun around April 2016, Bahari salt brand alone was selling 400 tons (around 14 full truck trailers) of salt per month as compared to 100 tons of Habari and hence, the current reaction was expected.
We further gather that a few years ago, Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) reportedly got evidence that Crystalline Company, Mombasa, the manufacture of Habari salt was evading taxes by claiming that their salt was being manufactured in Kenya yet URA had got evidence that actually the salt was being imported from India with ‘made in Mombasa Kenya’ lines.
Habari was heavily penalized in billions of Shillings by URA after they impounded their tracks on transit into Uganda. “They paid through their nose”, our source recalls. To this, they attributed it to Bahari management as having licked information to URA. Whether the allegations are true or not, we couldn’t verily confirm.
There are several tax waivers which companies from EAC member countries enjoy, compared to imported goods from other countries, according to URA sources, for Habari salt, though the company is in Mombasa, it had reportedly become cheaper for them to import from India than manufacturing in Mombasa.
With all the above factors at play, serious allegations arose of how some gullible politicians, reportedly in a plot to ‘attract some dimes into their ever wanting pockets’, sat and advised the already worried business man how they could help him reclaims the market, and that they would start with rallying Northern masses to shun the products by crafting a message that would scatter them away from the competitor product.
According to our sources, their strategy was that after one of them raising the matter on the floor of parliament, where he is protected from legal prosecution when it comes to laying false allegations on the August House floor, they would now start backing up the campaign with sponsored radio talk shows guised as ‘Health talk shows.’ They would talk about health matters and then adopt social media platforms where they’ve already set out some of the media personalities in Northern region to spread the campaign. Indeed the social media campaign begun on Tuesday this week on some Northern radio presenters’ platforms.
It’s important to note that in 2016, Hon. Gilbert Oulanya’s first concern the moment he entered parliament was the condition of Bahari salt where he claimed his people had complained to him. UNBS later took the matter, tested it but found no health problems were associated with it
Since then, the salt is still on market. Now again, as the road to 2021 elections draw near and as the hunt for money for campaigns intensifies, the problem has reportedly shifted to Pearl salt, making history repeat self in an obvious manner. It his healthy to note that both Oulanya’s targeted victim brands belong to Okapi Trading Co. Ltd, who are under House of Manji (Kenya) and House of Dawda (Uganda).
Also interesting and worthy noting is that, although these two brands have been distributed country wide in Uganda and Kenya for years, it’s only Oulanya’s ‘people’ in Northern Uganda that are apparently affected every after five years to election period!
Name and Shame: In our next issue, we shall name the media stations and personalities who have been contracted to run the obviously malicious campaign just to invite a few bucks in their coffers at the cost of the businessman’s trade and market…. Watch this space.
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