By Stephen Kasozi Muwambi
From the Archives: During the years President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni was fighting in Luweero and following the overthrow of the regimes of the day, there was a general scarcity of goods commonly used in the day today life.
The resumption of the war immediately after Dr. Apollo Milton Obote had taken over the reigns of power only aided to compound matters. Obote had just inherited a really stressed economy from the junta of Idi Amin Dada who had in 1976 debatably goofed by ejecting Asians who are said to have been the oil that ran the economy.
That Obote ended up replaced by military fellows who happened to know next to nothing in as far as handling the economy is concerned, let alone running the government itself, saw things surely turning from worse to the worst.
Such vital goods that were in short supply during the days of Obote and later Tito Lutwa, included sugar, table salt, soap, kerosene, cooking oil, human and veterinary drugs and so on. Given the fact that these are things which people cannot do without ordinarily, smuggling them became the order of the day.
They were being sneaked in principally from Nairobi through mostly the eastern boarder of Busia. Such was the gravity of the matter at the time that Nairobi came to be referred to as the official market for Uganda.
Because of the raging guerrilla war, there was scarcely little to talk about in terms of export of commodities. That being the case, there was a general scarcity of the much needed foreign currency particularly of the United States dollars.
Simply put, Uganda was selling almost nothing on the world market, meaning it was not earning the much needed foreign currency, yet the matooke republic was buying practically everything from the global market, hence wiping out its pitiable foreign reserves. That is how bad the situation was economy-wise during the days of Obote and Gen Tito Lutwa.
Given the fact that the dollars were in negligible supply, the regime of the day resorted to rationing them to ensure that they could at least go round those who were involved in foreign trade. Some of you who valued readers who happened to live through these miserable days, would quickly recall these were the days of window 1 and window 2 in reference to how the dollars were being rationed among those who desired to trade with that dominant tender.
For the interest of this article, this is also the time the present-day tycoon Sudhir Ruparelia is said to have joined the forbidden business of smuggling. He jumped on the illegitimate bandwagon to not only ease the availability of the much needed goods that were missing on the Ugandan market, but also make a quick but illegal buck for himself.
We know these were also the days Sudhir possibly entered the prohibited business of making what is in the crime world referred to as the black dollars. “That man had a shop near Spear Motors where he was dealing in smuggled things. He made a kill really particularly from selling table salt. Before joining smuggling, he first visited Kenya to comprehend firsthand, how it is done,” our informers inside the business community have it.
Our informers tell us, after making rounds to Nairobi, Sudhir decided to sit back in Kampala because he had secured agents good at the game of smuggling, who would replenish his stocks whenever they could run short. “He did not want to risk his life crossing the boarders with smuggled goods. He let the audacious smugglers do their thing and bring the goods directly to him” our sources enlighten.
The fact that the new government of Museveni had inherited a badly tattered economy, they let the smugglers be, since they were helping to bring into the country essential goods that were virtually absent.
Those of you who were present at the time would recall how the former rebels used to procure and then ration sugar for Ugandans through the village Resistance Councils (RCs). This can ably explain the general lack of such essential goods dominant before and after the advent of the new rulers.
Just like the new leaders were somehow lenient with the smugglers, they also looked the other way as far as the illegal business of black dollars was concerned. They did not raise a finger because the dominant tender was hard to come by since the new government was selling nothing at the world market in the first years of capturing power, but merely depended on handouts from people of goodwill in the developed world.
And given that Museveni ignored the people who thrived on making the black dollars, Sudhir and his ilk are believed to have made quite some good money from the otherwise prohibited business. It is paramount to note that what mattered most for the new leaders fresh from the jungles was to put in place new structures of government as well as engage in diplomatic talks with foreign governments looking for the much needed recognition in order to to ease the cumbersome job of running a country.
Remember also that some pockets of rebellion fighting to recapture power were also ongoing, to see how impossible it was for government to fight crime such as smuggling and making black dollars which were, besides, a blessing in disguise.
After the new leaders had consolidated power, the Sudhirs reformed by going into formal businesses with the money they had ostensibly earned from smuggling. No wonder, Sudhir who had gained a sizeable clientele selling foreign currency which was illegal, converted to the legal forex trade and hence the opening up of several forex points including Crane Forex Bureau.
But since old habits die hard, we understand how the legal forex business was also being used from now and then to do some disguised trade that was fishy. Please refer to our story last night… (In Sudhir’s Dark Closet: The Day when today’s Nepal Consul was arrested and his trading license cancelled for fraudhttps://theinvestigatornews.com/2021/09/in-sudhirs-dark-closet-the-day-when-todays-nepal-consul-was-arrested-and-his-trading-license-cancelled-for-fraud/) Watch this space…
- Uganda's First online News Paper. "More than Just News" Investigative, Informative, without Fear or Favor
- Featured2022.12.26State Takes over Former Head of Public Service and Secretary to Cabinet, Late John Mitala`s Sendoff Arrangements
- Entertainment2022.12.08Dull 2022 Music Year for Uganda: Bubble Gum Stuff, Binyanya Mixes as Azawi, Gravity and Lutalo Close the Year on a High
- Featured2022.11.30Bossa-Less Gaddafi: Play Caught Gaddafi FC’s Coach Wasswa Bossa in the Foul Lane, before he was Suspended and Fined Too
- Business2022.11.30NWSC @50: Sheikh Mubajje, Eng. Badru Kiggundu Lead Thanks Giving Prayers to Commemorate the Golden Jubilee