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Museveni says EAC leaders to meet over cost of living

NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 30 – Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni on Saturday proposed that all the East African Heads of State meet for an emergency gathering to discuss the escalating inflation in the region so as to manage it effectively.

President Museveni who was speaking at the Mindspeak forum in Nairobi said it was necessary to come up with a way forward on the rising cost of living in the region before it spiraled out of control.

Some countries in Africa including Uganda have already started witnessing riots from citizens who want their governments to bring down the rising cost of living.

“We had a report on food insecurity in the region when we met in Dar es Salaam recently but we should have a dedicated summit to deal with this issue. For example Uganda produces food easily and we are going to quadruple food production so we could help in this way,” he observed.

The Ugandan Head of State however rubbished concerns raised about his planned government’s spending at his swearing in ceremony as well as the purchase of war planes at the expense of other crucial needs.

“The swearing in meetings are business meetings; don’t just think we go to discuss Arsenal or other European football clubs. When those leaders come for the swearing in ceremonies we transact business,” he said.

“As for the war planes, when we took over Kampala we had an army of about 20,000 troops and our army grew to about 100,000 so we decided to reduce it to 40,000. The logic of reducing it was to make it smaller but better equipped. That’s exactly what we are doing,” he explained.

He challenged Kenya to help pull up the rest of the East African countries by promoting more trade. Mr Museveni also argued that economic integration of the region was impossible without political integration.

He also blamed Africa’s middle class for the slow pace of development saying it ought to do better.

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“A productive middle class will most likely be an importing middle class that is, one that sells products from outside for example in Uganda we have a middle class that doesn’t serve national interests but the interests of foreigners,” he said.

He further denied claims that his government sent military troops to Kenya to interfere in local affairs adding that he did not know who ordered the internet blackout in Uganda.

Mr Museveni who accused the western countries of exploiting Africa’s resources also challenged Africans to focus on matters of development rather than issues that were retrogressive.

“The total coffee trade in the world is now $161 billion. However out of this the coffee producers only take $16.5 billion; the remaining is taken by the coffee consuming countries,” he said.

“To be specific Uganda has been earning one dollar per kilogram of coffee. When the coffee is roasted and grounded in London the same kilogram earns $15 dollars. So for each kilogram of coffee Uganda has been donating to UK $14,” he quipped.

The forum was attended by various guests including Nairobi Metropolitan Minister Njeru Githae, Kenya Anti Corruption Commission Director Patrick Lumumba, Kenya Commercial Bank Chief Executive Officer, Martin Oduor, among others.

Dr Lumumba also asked Kenyans to remain focused on achieving reforms for their country and urged them to choose a crop of leaders that would guide them towards the same.

“The tragedy in this country is that we are given an opportunity many times to acquire a Mercedes Benz but we acquire a Volkswagen and we expect it to perform like a Mercedes Benz. 2012 is coming, will you once again buy a tuk tuk and expect it to perform as a concord?” he posed.

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