UNGRATEFUL SALVAR KIIR EXPOSED AS UNTOUCHABLE JUBA GENERALS SQUEEZE PRO-M7 TYCOONS OUT OF BUSINESS
By Mulengera Reporters
Investigations by Mulengera News have unmasked the extent to which lawlessness, impunity, corruption and self-aggrandizement in South Sudan is finally hitting President Museveni by crippling some of his strongest supporters in the Ugandan business community who had taken advantage of the new Juba market to expand their business tentacles and make quick buck.
We can impeccably report that at least five big name pro-Museveni tycoons are quietly bleeding (financially) as a result of being menacingly squeezed out of South Sudan where they have been forced to abandon businesses and property or equipment worth millions of dollars. Some of the victims of the South Sudanese lawlessness (that has sometimes seen known powerful Salvar Kiir regime officials openly demand bribery in form of majority shareholding in companies incorporated by Ugandans) include Hotel Africana owner BMK, wealthy Hajji Abbas Kangave (renowned for generously funding Express FC), Capt Kassami, Prof Badru Kateregga and youthful Balaam Barugahara Ateenyi.
We have established that a few years ago BMK got direct death threats from powerful political officials in Juba who openly demanded a shareholding in his construction business that was beginning to take root there. He was advised to either forfeit the shareholding in return for political patronage or resist and controversially lose his life. On realizing it was no longer safe for him to frequently travel to Juba to supervise his businesses, BMK coiled and in the process abandoned road construction units (trucks and graders) worth millions of dollars. He had to look elsewhere in his vast business empire to atone the loss occasioned by the South Sudanese madness. Kangave got equally threatened and advised to choose between life and wealth. He opted out and, in the process, lost lots of cash and equipment abandoned for the enjoyment of the rampaging South Sudanese Generals.
Prof Badru Kateregga, a man hugely respected for his great financial mobilization role for the NRA bush war basing in the Nairobi-based external wing, had accumulated vast real estate property in Juba, comprising mostly of huge premises for his Kampala University Juba campus, but he had to abandon everything to the rudimentary power brokers of Salvar Kiir after he was threatened with death after refusing to forfeit majority shareholding in favour of the SPLM/A war veterans in South Sudan.
Capt Kassami is equally grieving having lost millions of dollars in his hotel and recreation business that the Sudanese political power brokers deliberately messed up for a whole two years. For 24 months, government officials slept in his hotel, ate and drunk everything without paying even a penny. The hotel was called Rockshield in Juba and a tearful Kassami abandoned doing business in Juba and returned to Uganda empty-handed vowing never to dare step foot in South Sudan again. Taking advantage of his fear and prolonged absence, the South Sudanese mighty grabbed the hotel and split company shares among themselves; leaving Capt. Kassami in perpetual tearfulness.
There are many other tycoons now limping seriously after being made victims of the extortionist tendencies of the South Sudanese Generals and SDPLM/A war veterans who are renowned for the crudeness with which they approach things in their capital Juba.
Whereas many have chosen to die quietly, fearing that speaking out would politically humiliate Museveni who is seen as the godfather for the guys ruling Juba since independence in 2011, Balaam Barugahara offered to speak out and be interviewed on record. His story is indicative of the extent to which hapless Ugandans tycoons have continued to suffer at the hands of lawless actors running the show in war-ravaged Juba.
THE BALAAM STORY;
Saying he was feeling betrayed being treated that way by power brokers in a government his iconic role model YK Museveni propped up, an emotionally broken Balaam tearfully narrated to Mulengera News the financial misery the Sudanese madness has caused him over the years and below is a verbatim of what he said.
The year was 2007 when I began trading in South Sudan initially dealing in UBL beer products and Sodas of Coke products. I gradually expanded into exporting posho and beans there. And indeed, business boomed and we really made money in those early years when peace had just dawned to that part of Africa following the end of war with Khartoum.
It was all promising and we anticipated nothing but steady business growth. In 2013, the market in Konyokonyo was booming like never before. Ugandans were dominating everything there. I acquired land [slightly more than 2 acres] from a Sudanese businesswoman called Fatma Ramadan Albesheir under lease terms being a foreigner who can’t outrightly own land. It was located in the prime location called Riverside Gardens Plot 22b.
It was a leasehold meant to last 25 years and I acquired it very expensively; 4000 Sudanese Pounds per month. The lease agreement provided that that price could be revised upwards after 10 years and I accepted all that because it was just lucrative to have such business in Juba. The land was prime located on the sides of River Nile. The lease agreement allowed me to develop the land in whatever way I wished and I developed it by putting up huge structures.
Trading under my two companies-RedBal Investments Ltd and Balaam Marketing Agency-I erected businesses worth over $5m which is over Shs17bn in Ugandan terms. I put up a water factory that cost over $2.5m and I actually became the biggest water manufacturer in Juba. We grew to the level of producing 1m bottles of mineral water per day and this was lucrative business in a country like South Sudan.
We invested in TV business and installed everything to begin broadcasting but we halted it when we realized there was a lot of censorship and you couldn’t air stuff that would compete because there was no media freedom to air the violence that was happening in the public spaces. Everything was intact and our TV business lay in abeyance for years.
We also established Radio1 South Sudan and that was all on top of the warehouses I established on the same land. The warehouse stretched 8,000 square meters. I had two huge commercial buildings on the same land-one double storied and another with 5 stories. At some point, the Southern Sudan government chief valuer put my investments at over $4.5m which roughly is Shs17bn Ugandan money.
In 2013, things began to gradually fall apart because of the war. We incurred huge losses but kept hanging in there hoping things would improve. We couldn’t close because we had sunk in a lot of money. Actually, MTN rented one of my buildings to serve as their warehouse and call centre. I even had masts on the land because the lease agreement provisions permitted all that. I simply had a prime location adjacent to the Juba River Port which was a very busy business hub.
In 2018, the lady [the lessor who leased the land to him] began acting funny. She secured the backing of a powerful General to illegally evict me from the land that had legally been leased to me by the same lady. The General reached out to me demanding for 50% shareholding in my business in return for his protection against the land lessor. He made it clear I would be compelled to raze my buildings to the ground and surrender vacant possession to the lady. I tried to resist because I wouldn’t surrender my sweat just like that. Mind you I accumulated all that business through hard work and it was never free money from anyone.
I petitioned Brig Ronnie Balya the Ugandan Ambassador in South Sudan. The Embassy tried to help me out by writing to the Sudanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. They wrote a letter showing this would be unfair treatment to an investor who has over $4,5m investments in the country. The letter was written in September last year calling for protection of the Ugandan investor but up to this day the Foreign Affairs Ministry, which essentially is the government of South Sudan, has never responded.
The lady later turned around saying I must pay a lot of money to atone the damage I caused on her land when I ferried down trees to be able to develop the land as permitted under the lease agreement. The claim was obviously unfair but I agreed and paid a lot of money just to buy peace. I didn’t want litigation over that claim because in South Sudan even winning a court case means nothing. Those Generals disregard court orders with impunity because they themselves are above the law and the courts that administer the same.
It has really not been easy all these months but then came the escalation of last night [Friday 15th October] which I considered dangerous and worrying. My business General Manager called Andrew Leju was seized in the night and taken to a place we are yet to know. This was after he refused to sign sham papers purporting to be surrendering away the same property on my behalf. He was right because he had no such instructions from me but we are now worried about his safety and whereabouts. It’s such a lawless country we have nobody to contact or report to.
We are appealing to President YK Museveni to weigh in and use his clout as the guarantor of the South Sudanese peace and prevail over his friend Gen Salvar Kiir to rein in his men who are acting with so much impunity. We have Generals in Uganda like Gen Salim Saleh, Gen Kyaligonza or even Katumba Wamala but none of them ever acts this way. They are subject to civilian authority and none of them ever uses their credentials as Generals to grab things from private business people. We have gone through a lot at the hands of those Generals. Some have lost life and there is no remedy whatsoever. I have personally been getting phone calls from the Sudanese Generals vowing to kill me unless I denounce my claim in that land.
I’m only alive because I have avoided going to South Sudan but who does that to some one who has invested $5m in a country? This impunity must stop and President Museveni has a role to play. He is the only one who can reach out and call President Salvar Kiir to order. I’m just bold being Balaam but there are many who have opted to keep quiet but they are financially hurting because of this Sudanese injustice. I have thrice won court cases against that lady regarding that land but all these court orders don’t mean anything to those South Sudan Generals. I have them but can’t enforce anything against anyone. (For comments on this story, call/text or whatsapp us on 0200900416 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org).