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Teso MPs Reject Sale Of Soroti Fruit Factory

Teso Fruit Factory is the maker of Teju Juice among other products.

The decision by the government to privatize Soroti Fruit Factory for a private investor has sparked protests in Parliament, where some lawmakers have questioned if the people fronting this proposal only want to condemn their electorates to perpetual poverty.

Last week, the Minister of State for Teso Affairs, Clement Ongalo Obote, informed the local leaders in the Teso region of plans by the government to privatize the factory because, since its inception in 2019, the factory has only been making losses, with the government opting to sell it off.

The protest was led by Jonathan Ebwalu (Soroti West Division), who wondered why President Museveni, who commissioned the Soroti Fruit Factory in April 2019 under the pretext that the factory would help improve the socio-economic condition of the people in that region, had now turned around to sell off the factory to the former First Lady of Ethiopia, Azeb Mesfin Haile.

Ebwalu remarked, “The same President has made a u-turn that we are going to privatize the company; we are protesting as a region that we aren’t going to accept, but we are going to put up a very strong fight not to allow the fruit factory to be privatized. We have seen a number of entities that have been privatized; they have all collapsed. It isn’t our fault; it is the government people who went and put the equipment in, knowing very well the kind of oranges that we have.”

Ebwalu tasked the Prime Minister, Robina Nabbanja, to explain why the government opted for a soft landing of ridding itself of the factory instead of trying to fix the financial mismanagement and poor governance challenges at the factory by implementing the 21 recommendations made by Parliament in March 2022.

“The Prime Minister should tell us why we haven’t implemented the recommendations of Parliament before we go ahead to privatize this company,” remarked Ebwalu.

Susan Amero (Amuria DWR) argued that the decision to give the factory to an investor is a deliberate move by the government to keep people in Teso in poverty, asking, “The people who are advising the President to establish these kinds of factories, do they do due diligence before they establish these factories because I see many of them are mushrooming; when are they going to end?”

However, Prime Minister Robina Nabbanja says the decision is aimed at having the investor put up adequate equipment that can serve the purpose for which the factory was put up.

Deputy Speaker Thomas Tayebwa tasked the Attorney General Kiryowa Kiwanuka to explain what will happen to the 20% shares that the local community owns in the factory, to which the Attorney General replied, saying the status quo shall be maintained and people need not worry about their shareholders even with the emergence of a new investor.

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