The Ugandan government has deployed military and police officers to guard Chinese investors after the latter threatened to leave the country following a wave of attacks.
Mr You Jing Shu, the chairperson of Guangdong Chamber of Commerce, a lobby of about 50 Chinese companies in Uganda, said last week that many investors were considering leaving unless the government beefed up security.
“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 October 23, a group of unknown assailants raided the residential quarters of CCLE Rubber Company in Mbalala in central Mukono District injuring five people — three Chinese nationals and two Ugandans. The attackers are said to have made away with $11,000 in cash, mobile phones, and electronic appliances whose worth was unspecified.
Mr Chen Fan, the director of the company, told Daily Monitor that machete-wielding gang beat up the security guard, injuring him, and took away 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.
Uganda police spokesman, Mr Emilian Kayima, said investigations on the attack and other similar ones are underway.
“We are taking this matter seriously. As I speak, I am in the field in Luweero (district that neighbours Mukono to the southeast) investigating a similar matter and very soon we shall come up with a solution,” Mr Kayima said.
Last week, a delegation of Chinese investors met with top government officials over the rising wave of armed and violent robberies that have resulted in loss of life and property.
The closed-door crisis meeting was attended by the minister of Internal Affairs Gen Jeje Odongo, Security minister Gen Elly Tumwine, the Inspector General of Police Okoth Ochola, the director-general of Internal Security Organisation (domestic spy agency) Col Kaka Bagyenda, and Mr Ronald Kibuule, the Mukono North MP.
The government assured the Chinese that they would be provided with armed guards.
Mr Kibuule told Daily Monitor that the meeting had been ordered by President Yoweri Museveni after the MP informed him of the attacks 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,” he said.
When Daily Monitor visited Mr Fan’s factory in Mukono, there was a deployment of armed military and police officers 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 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 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 $120 million and injured several workers. He said the investigations had hit a snag due to insufficient evidence.
“Most of the robberies have been found to be somehow an inside job. We are investigating,” Mr Kayima said.
The unsolved cases have fuelled speculations that from both locals and the foreigners.
A Mukono resident told the Daily Monitor that many of the criminals were jilted former employees in the Chinese firms.
“They come back to revenge. We know some of them but if you speak to the media, police arrests you,” a local, who preferred anonymity, told Daily Monitor on Thursday.
A Chinese national, who declined to reveal his identity, told the newspaper that the attacks had been "engineered by some big investors".
“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 their investigations.