Kampala — Chinese investors have threatened to leave Uganda and invest elsewhere in Africa unless the government provides security to stop criminal attacks on their companies and killing of members of their families or workers.
Mr You Jing Shu, the chairperson of Guangdong Chamber of Commerce, a coalition that brings together about 50 Chinese companies in Uganda, told Daily Monitor on Friday that the criminal attacks have left many Chinese investors in fear of losing lives and property and many are considering the option of leaving Uganda.
"I may personally be resilient to this kind of insecurity because I lived in South Sudan, which is more hostile than here, but other investors who are faint-hearted can leave," Mr Shu said in an interview with Daily Monitor on Thursday last week.
On the night of October 23, criminals raided the residential quarters of the CCLE Rubber Company staff in Mbalala Village in Mukono District and injured five people. Three of the victims were Chinese and two local workers of the same company. The criminals made off with $11,000 (about Shs41m) cash, mobile phones, various appliances and other property worth unspecified amounts.
Mr Chen Fan, the director of the company, told Daily Monitor that the attackers beat up a security guard on duty that night and hacked him with machetes a couple of times. They took his gun, which they later abandoned.
"This is scaring us. I feel I should leave the country because this is not the first company to be attacked. It is very bad," Mr Fan said.
The police spokesperson, Mr Emilian Kayima, said they are treating the matter with utmost seriousness and have received strong leads about the perpetrators of these and similar attacks.
"We are taking this matter seriously. As I speak, I am in the field in Luweero (District) investigating a similar matter and very soon we shall come up with a solution," Mr Kayima said.
Following a spate of armed attacks and robberies, involving loss of life and property, Chinese investors last Wednesday met security chiefs, seeking a solution.
They met minister of Internal Affairs Gen Jeje Odongo, Security minister Gen Elly Tumwine, Inspector General of Police Martins Okoth Ochola, Director General of Internal Security Organisation Col Kaka Bagyenda, and Mr Ronald Kibuule (Mukono North MP).
During the closed-door crisis meeting in Kampala, the security agencies agreed to provide armed guards to the Chinese investors and their companies.
Mr Kibuule told Daily Monitor that the meeting was ordered by President Museveni, whom he had informed about the continued attacks on the companies in his constituency.
Mr Fan confirmed receiving security guards from government.
"I have already received at least 40 security officers at the factory and two of them are guarding me," Mr Fan said.
When Daily Monitor visited Mr Fan's factory in Mukono, there was deployment of armed military and police personnel backed by private guards.
Asked whether the military deployment was informed by police's lack of capacity to handle crime, the army spokesperson, Brig Richard Karemire, did not specifically admit or deny the matter but said investors are one of the government's top priorities and their security requires adequate attention.
"The investors provide jobs to our youth and pay taxes to government. We take that in high regard," Brig. Karemire said.
Police are investigating more cases of aggravated robbery of Chinese factories, some of which were committed as far back as 2016.
Mr Kayima said police are also investigating a 2017 attack on a Chinese firm in Bugolobi, a Kampala suburb, where criminals took at least $120m (about Shs450 billion) and injured several workers. He said the investigations had hit a snag due to insufficient evidence.
Clues on the attacks
Causes. Police spokesperson Emilian Kayima said investigations have not established the actual causes of the attacks but attributed them to increasing criminal gangs and said internal collusion cannot be ruled out.
"Most of the robberies have been found to be somehow an inside job. We are investigating," Mr Kayima said.
Some residents told Daily Monitor that many of the criminals are former workers of the attacked companies.
"They come back to revenge. We know some of them but if you speak to the media, police arrests you," a resident of Mukono Town, who preferred anonymity, told Daily Monitor on Thursday.
However, another source, a Chinese national who also declined to reveal his identity, suggested the attacks are engineered by some "big" investors who want to drive the smaller ones out of the industry.
"We are aware that some big companies want to knock the small companies out of the country so that they remain monopolists. When these robberies started, they told people not to report to authorities as it could discourage other investors. They could be behind these attacks," he speculated.
Daily Monitor could not readily ascertain the extent of damage or loss on the affected companies and individual investors because police declined to reveal details on account that disclosure would jeopardise the investigations.
Clues on the attacks
Robbery. Detectives at Nansana Police Station in Wakiso District are also investigating a robbery case SD REF: 07/07/06/2018. Mr Lin Jie, a Chinese investor, is the principal complainant.
In another incident, Wakiso Police Station received a complaint from Mr Chen Wei, a Chinese, of aggravated robbery which was entered as SD REF: 25/ 16/06/2018.
Theft. Naguru Drive Police Post received a case of theft reported by Mr Wang Chao, a Chinese, under SD REF: 05/26/03/2018.
Kira Road Police Station registered a theft case SD REF: 78/27/7/17.
In September 2017, two gunmen broke into Nile Steel and Plastics factory premises in Mukono and killed a Chinese manager, Yondi Yang and ran away with unknown amount of money.