By Fred Kiva, Masindi
Masindi Sugarcane farmers have petitioned the parliamentary committee on trade and industry over their shares in Kinyara Sugar factory.
During an interface with members of the committee on Monday, the farmers argued that during the privatization of Kinyara in 2005, they were reserved 10% shares in the Sugar factory.
Led by Kaitano Bitalimwanya, the sugarcane farmers said little is now known about these shares, adding that government must explain whether the shares were sold and if so, why was it done without their knowledge?
“Where did our shares go? If they were sold without our consent those who sold them made a grave mistake. Our shares must be given back. We are even being suffocated by Kinyara simply because we don’t have a say in the factory anymore,” said Bitalimwanya during a meeting with the committee members at Kabango in Bwijanga Sub County.
Rai Holdings Group is currently the major shareholder in Kinyara, owning 70% shares.
The farmers say the 10% shares meant for them can’t be traced. It’s not also clear whether 10% shares were preserved for the public or not, while controversy surrounds the 10% shares for the kingdom. Recent reports have indicated that the cultural institution’s shares were sold off.
During the meeting, the Committee Chairperson, Alex Ruhunda tasked the Bunyoro Kingdom Minister for forestry, Willy Rujumba Kahigwa to explain about the alleged sale of Kingdom shares in Kinyara.
“Tell us about the kingdom shares, we hear you sold, is that true?” Ruhunda asked the Bunyoro Kingdom Minister for forestry.
However, Kahigwa declined to comment on the matter saying, “I came here to represent the Kingdom Prime Minister, not to answer about the shares, if you want answers the kingdom has established offices”, Kahigwa said attracting interjection from Kampala Woman MP and committee member, Nabillah Naggayi who said “we
want to know where these shares are, but everyone tells us doesn’t know, we shall summon you to the committee to explain”
Committee Chairperson, Alex Ruhunda said the committee will seek answers from Ministry of Finance on Kinyara shares.
Earlier in a separate meeting with the Members of Parliament, Kinyara Sugar Company secretary Russell Moru revealed that Rai owns 70% shares in the factory, adding that the 30% shares were recently recalled by government. “All I know is that government recently recalled the 30% shares, don’t ask me what for”, he said.
Bunyoro Kingdom recently issued a statement, denying having sold off the kingdom shares in Kinyara. This was after reports made rounds that the shares had been illegally sold and money credited on individual bank accounts.
The Parliamentary committee was in Masindi as part of its countrywide consultations on the Sugar Bill 2016. In their submissions the farmers rejected the Bill’s proposal on zoning of Sugar Mills, saying it promotes monopoly of millers and suffocates farmers.
The farmers also complained of being cheated at the factory weighbridge, poor price for their sugarcane among other issues.
Alex Ruhunda said the views gathered will be compiled in a report to parliament for consideration before the Sugar Bill is debated and passed.