In a disturbing turn of events, a group of United Kingdom investors has taken Uganda Investment Authority (UIA) and a Chinese group to court over alleged sabotage and attempts to deprive them of their allocated land at the Namanve Industrial Park.
The investors, trading as Maroora Technologies SMC, had planned to construct a state-of-the-art Information and Communication Technology (ICT) hub on the two acres of land, but their dreams were derailed by an apparent lack of support from the authorities.
The case, set to be heard by Justice Douglas Isingiza, follows numerous attempts by the aggrieved investors to seek help from various government officials, including the attorney general and the privatisation minister. Despite President Yoweri Museveni’s call to end sabotage against investors, it seems some officials have turned a blind eye.
The investors’ lawyers from Mugenyi and Company Advocates have filed an urgent lawsuit, fearing that delays in addressing the issue could lead to them losing the land entirely. The initial phase of the ICT hub was projected to create thousands of jobs, aligning perfectly with the President’s goal of generating employment and economic growth.
The crux of the matter lies in UIA’s alleged failure to address critical infrastructural issues surrounding the project, such as the drainage system and access road network. These challenges have caused significant delays and hindered the project’s progress. Moreover, the investors claim that UIA has attempted to hand over the land to the Chinese group, allegedly working in collusion with the agency.
This move has raised suspicions of foul play, especially since the land was originally designated for the UK investors’ ICT hub by UIA’s predecessor. In an attempt to safeguard their lease, the UK investors have repeatedly reminded UIA to renew it, but their pleas have seemingly fallen on deaf ears. Instead, they believe that UIA is intentionally delaying the renewal process to create an excuse to cancel it and transfer the land to third parties.
During a recent incident on July 5, Chinese agents, accompanied by UIA officials, halted the ongoing construction work at the site and demanded that the current owners return the lease Title to UIA. This move left the investors shocked and without any prior notice or fair hearing. The investors allege that large sums of money have already changed hands to facilitate the land transfer to the Chinese group, further reinforcing suspicions of corruption and collusion.
In their defense, UIA’s director general, Robert Mukiza, has been accused of avoiding meeting with the investors and seemingly ignoring their written communications. This apparent lack of concern raises questions about UIA’s professionalism and credibility in handling foreign investments in Uganda.
The Chinese group involved in the controversy has a dubious reputation, having been linked to previous incidents of worker exploitation and abuse. Yet, no criminal sanctions have been imposed on them, leading to concerns that they may act with impunity.
As the case heads to court, all eyes will be on Justice Isingiza’s ruling, which could potentially impact Uganda’s reputation as an investment destination and raise questions about the commitment of government agencies in supporting foreign investors. The outcome will also highlight the need for transparency, accountability, and fair treatment of investors seeking to contribute to Uganda’s economic growth and development.
- Mr. Stephen Kasozi Muwambi is a seasoned crime investigative writer, majoring in judicial-based stories. His two decades’ experience as a senior investigative journalist has made him one of the best to reckon on in Uganda. He can also be reached via [email protected]
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