President Yoweri Museveni has opposed plans by some of his officials to reiterate against Kenya for confiscating Lato Milk, a Ugandan brand, produced by Mbarara-based Pearl Dairies Limited.
His position comes at the height of a trade war between the two countries, following the confiscation of trucks of Lato Milk by the Kenya Bureau of Standards and the Kenya Revenue Authority. The authorities said that the products were substandard. Kenya had earlier said that it was going to impose a 16 per cent Value Added Tax on the product.
According to Uganda Revenue Authority, at least 19 truck-loads worth more than a billion Shillings have either been returned to Uganda or seized from within Kenya, even after being cleared by the government bodies for importation into Kenya.
Through the ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Trade and Cooperatives Amelia Kyambadde wrote to the Kenyan government demanding that the milk be released or else Uganda would reiterate against especially that Kenya exports more products to Uganda.
But speaking to members of his party, the ruling National Resistance Movement at State House Entebbe last evening, Museveni said that countries that are looking towards economic and political unification can’t be seen imposing trade restrictions.
“I saw people say reiterate; I will not accept because President Kenyatta is a very friendly person, very clear-headed on business because he is a businessman himself. He’s also very clear-headed on African issues,” Museveni said.
Museveni added that there is need to explain to East Africans that protectionism is not the right way to grow their countries’ economies but rather the need to work to help those countries to produce cheaply by providing labour and other factors of production.
He said in the 1960s before the East African Community disintegrated, Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania which then constituted the block, each produced only those commodities it had a comparative advantage over. He hence called for the fast-tracking of the East African federation.
“This closing of borders is because the borders are there. [Referring to the Rwanda border that was closed almost a year ago]. If people are united which borders are you going to close? We need to have an economic union for the whole of Africa and for the political union it should be those countries near each other like EAC. These borders are the ones allowing that confusion to go on,” Museveni said.