President Museveni and the National Resistance Movement (NRM) youth leaders from Kigezi sub-region on Sunday disagreed on what should be done with the piles of iron ore that has not been exported for over a year.
The NRM presidential candidate who was meeting the youths from Kisoro, Rubanda, Kabale, Rukiga, Kanungu and Rukungiri District at Karo Primary School near his country home of Rwakitura in Kiruhura District rejected the request to allow miners export iron ore that had already been mined by the time he placed a ban in February last year.
While addressing an investors’ round table meeting at State House Entebbe early last year, Mr Museveni banned the exportation of raw iron ore saying that Uganda loses a lot by selling such minerals without value addition.
With that ban in place, the youth leaders said that thousands of their colleagues who were employed in the iron ore mining industry are languishing in poverty and requested that the iron ore piles left on the roadsides be exported as the area awaits a steel-manufacturing factory.
“The youth of Rubanda District are concerned with the Wolfram and Iron Ore mining. They say since this was closed, they ask you to explain what happened. We request that you allow them to export what was already mined at least so that they can earn an income,” said Mr John Bosco Namara the NRM Youth Chairman for Kabale District while presenting a regional memorandum.
The youth reported that 2500 of their colleagues in Kabale District are affected while over 6000 are struggling to export their iron ore in Rubanda District.
However, Mr Museveni rejected their pleas saying all the mined iron ore has to wait for the steel-manufacturing factory that is planned for Rubanda District. The President said Ugandans were losing $480 (about Shs1.7m) on every ton of raw ore they exported.
“What you used to do was squandering wealth on the iron ore you were selling. The Indians were using your ignorance to underpay you. Uganda’s iron ore is second best in the world. Only that of Peru is better than ours. A ton of smelted steel is at $550 (about Shs2m)” Mr Museveni said.
The President promised that the government is going to implement its plan of constructing a steel factory in Rubanda District which will add value to the iron ore and also create jobs for regional youth.
“The Indians who have been using your ignorance get $550, get jobs for his children and earn income. We are going to construct a steel factory in Rubanda. Put your efforts there instead of asking us to allow you to eat dust from your wealth. I don’t know who gave you licenses to export iron ore but for sure the one who did that is an enemy,” he said.
The President also asked the youth to use the knowledge acquired from school to become change agents in their homes by guiding their parents on how to utilise the four-acre model to get out of poverty.
Emphasizing a message he has been passing since 1996, Mr Museveni said homes in Kigezi are capable of getting out poverty by planting coffee on one acre, fruits on another, food crops on the third one and the fourth being reserved for pasture to support cattle rearing.
“This is the gospel I want you to take to your homes and become change agents. After that you can come to politics by asking your MPs to put more money in the youth fund projects” he said.
The youth in Rukungiri also reported to the President that heifers he donated to them on the District Executive Committee were never received and efforts to get them from the designated farm ended with police tear gassing them.
Mr Museveni who is campaigning in Rukungiri today (Monday) directed State Minister for Housing Dr Chris Baryomunsi to collect the facts about what the youth were reporting so that he can deal with whoever refused to give them their cows.
He also promised to give a cow to each of the members of the new youth leadership in all the Districts of Kigezi.