15 November 2012

Uganda: Traders Abandon Kenyan Compensation Request

Everyman has his limit. Ugandan traders, who for the last four years have been pushing Kenya's government for the compensation of their property destroyed in the mayhem of the post election violence of late 2007 and early 2008, appear to have reached their limit; the traders are giving up the fight.

"Up to now, we haven't received anything," says Kampala city traders' chairperson Everest Kayondo. "Whenever we talk to diplomats like the Kenyan ambassador to Uganda, they just tell us something is cooking. But we never get to see what is cooking."

Ugandan and Rwandan business communities have for the past four years been engaged in stormy engagements with their Kenyan counterparts over the compensation. Traders in the two landlocked countries are demanding a compensation of Shs 5bn from the Kenyan government.

Few traders anticipated that their calls would go unheeded for all this time, with Kenya slated to hold its next general elections in March 2013. The next general election will throw up another president other than Mwai Kibaki, whose government the traders have been engaging over the compensation.

The failure by the Kenyan government to compensate the traders will feed into another long standing accusation, one that especially comes from Uganda: that Kenya remains one big bully in the region!

Discussions surrounding different regional issues continue to be clouded under the suspicion that a decision that mainly favours Kenya tends to always carry the day. This particular decision of Kenya delaying payment is likely to further fuel such suspicions.

Although Ugandan traders are giving up, it was not for lack of trying. Two years ago, the traders took advantage of Prime Minister Raila Odinga's visit to Uganda to demand for their dues. They say that Odinga told them that Kenya's Attorney General's office had worked on their claim and promised that payment would be coming soon. It was an empty promise.

In mid October this year, the traders offered the Kenyan government an ultimatum of two weeks to pay up or else they would go on strike. The Kenyans looked on. The ultimatum expired on November 1. There was no strike.

"We only advise our traders not to use the Mombasa port and just take the Dar-es-salaam route in the coming elections or else they take up insurance from those companies that are willing to cover political insurance," Kayondo advises traders.

That is expensive advice, and one that few are willing to listen to. Dar es Salam is far and it will cost traders a lot more to transport their goods through that route. Kayondo says that they have left the issue to politicians. "We as traders have where we stop."

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