Under the programme, each constituency will receive sh560m
President Yoweri Museveni has directed that no government office should charge registration fees from groups that register to benefit from the Emyooga special wealth fund.
Museveni, also the National Resistance Movement (NRM) presidential flag-bearer, made the directive during a scientific campaign meeting in Kabale district on Sunday.
His clarification followed reports that officials were charging some money as registration fees for the groups that seek to benefit from the initiative meant to stimulate entrepreneurship.
Under the programme, each constituency will receive sh560m as a revolving fund for groups in any of 18 selected professions or specialisations.
Some districts have already received the money. The programme 18 clusters include bodaboda riders, taxi drivers, restaurants, welders, market vendors, women entrepreneurs, youth leaders and people with disabilities. Others are journalists, performing artists, carpenters, salon operators, tailors, mechanics, produce dealers, veterans, fishermen and elected leaders.
“Emyooga is a grant from the Government to the people. I hear that there are thieves who are asking for registration fees. We don’t want that,” he said.
“Those who are in one profession know one another. They can mobilise at parish level and register at the subcounty,” Museveni said.
He was meeting leaders from Rukiga, Kabale, Rubanda and Kisoro district, as well as businesspersons and NRM historicals, including Stephen Bamwanga and Prof. Charles Kwesiga.
However, Sheikh Kassim Kamugisha, the Kabale Municipality parliamentary aspirant, said the guidelines set by the Microfinance Support Centre require beneficiary groups to first register and set aside sh20,000 to run the group account.
Museveni told the delegates that the aim of the programme was to support individuals in small groups to engage in commercial production, not to extort from them.
Kigezi on track
The Prime Minister, Dr Ruhakana Rugunda, said Kigezi sub-region was eager to embrace the Emyooga to move more households out of subsistence production.
In Kabale, for instance, about 74% of the population survives on subsistence farming, 92% in Rubanda and 90% in Rukiga, said Rubanda East MP Henry Musasizi, who presented a memorandum highlighting some of the recent gains and challenges facing the region.
On the question of unemployment, Museveni told delegates that the Government was already tackling the challenge by attracting investors to open factories in Uganda.
He cited Apollo Nyegamehe, a businessman commonly known as Aponye, the NRM chairperson for Rukiga district, who employs 250 people at his plants in Mubende, Masaka, Lwengo and Kampala.
“If you have 80,000 people like Aponye, all Ugandans will have jobs. With more industries, we will solve the unemployment problem,” he told the leaders.
Since the start of his campaigns, Museveni has largely steered clear of making specific promises to voters in each of the regions, even when leaders in those areas have tabled unique requests.
His message to the party delegates has mostly consisted of exposition of the history of Uganda and Africa’s problems, and a tale of the NRM’s strategy in solving the crises.
It has been a uniform message of how the NRM, a military and political crusade he started as a student, has contributed to a long period of stability, which has enabled the country to thrive.
Kigezi, Karamoja and Ankole were the sub-regions that gave Museveni the biggest block votes in the 2016 elections.
The region, however, remains an epicentre of political lifts even as the influence of the Opposition appears to be waning in many areas.
Former Rukiga County MP and Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) strong man, Jack Sabiiti, lost the seat in the 2016 to an NRM candidate, Herbert Kabafunzanki.
Unlike previous electoral cycles, the race for many of the parliamentary and local council seats in Kigezi is an internal race between NRM flag-bearers and independents.
Yet, even the NRM candidates cannot rest on their laurels since a number of factors remain at play, one of which is the powerful influence of prominent clerics.
Notable among the fierce clerics is Fr Gaetano Batanyenda, an activist and priest at Kitanga Catholic Parish in Rukiga district, who has been largely opposition-leaning.
There still appears to be a lift among NRM leaders in the sub-region following the September primaries.
There has been emergence of “Kigezi NRM Front Liners Coalition” led by those who lost in the primaries.
Finance state minister David Bahati (Ndorwa West MP) is tussling it out with Simpson Mubangizi Mpirirwe, who lost to him in the primaries.
Similarly, Sheikh Kassim Kamugisha (flag-bearer Kabale Municipality) has to contend with Maj. Gen. Sabiiti Timothy Mutebile, who lost to him in the primaries.
In Bufumbira East County, Eddie Kwizera finds himself facing off with party insiders; Francis Tirwomwe Kagoma, Dan Mbonigaba and Izidoro Tumusiime, who lost in the primaries.
If there is any respite, the cue might come from Patrick Keihwa, the Kabale LC5 chairperson, who lost to Baba Baba in the primaries but has since agreed to work with the flag-bearer.
Museveni, who launched his campaign on November 9, has traversed Lango, West Nile, Acholi, Karamoja, Bugisu, Sebei, Bukedi, Busoga and Ankole sub-regions.
Health, education and roads are the top challenges that voters want addressed, according to a recent New Vision public opinion poll.
Besides common service delivery challenges, Rwanda’s closure of the border with Uganda is one of the residents’ frustrations, especially the business community.
Samuel Hakyizarugaba, a 21-year-old bodaboda rider in Katuna town, says the closure of the border has made it difficult for him to take care of his siblings.
His wish is for the two countries to normalise relations.
What is Emyooga?
The Emyooga programme is a presidential initiative on wealth and job creation. The programme targets Ugandans, especially those that come together in form of savings and credit co-operative societies.
The programme is for all active Ugandans from the age of 18 and older in the following categories; bodaboda riders, taxi drivers, restaurants owners, welders, market vendors, women entrepreneurs, youth leaders, people with disabilities, journalists, performing artists, veterans, fishermen, private teachers and elected leaders.
The project funding is sh260b, but the finance ministry has so far released sh150b to the Microfinance Support Centre, the disbursing agency.
Microfinance state minister Haruna Kasolo says in order to inculcate a savings culture for the sustainability of the Emyooga SACCOS, each individual member is required to make regular savings with the association.
The registration of the Emyooga SACCOS or association is free, but each member is required to pay a subscription fee. At least 84,147 associations and 1,390 Emyooga SACCOS had been formed by the beginning of December.