Mystery Surrounds Two Impounded Mineral Containers Top story

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In short
The URA Publicists, Herbert Ssempogo denied knowledge of the containers, saying they have never heard about them.

There is a mystery surrounding two containers of suspected minerals impounded by the Minerals Protection Police Unit-MPPU almost two months ago. 


The two containers were impounded near Katuna Boarder on August 5th 2018 on suspicion that they being used to transport Gold and Iron ore from Uganda illegally.



The Deputy Police Spokesperson, Patrick Onyango sent out a message inviting journalists on August 16th 2018 to witness the opening of the containers at the SPEDAG Interfreight Uganda offices in Nakawa in Kampala.


However, the press briefing was called off under clear circumstances and no explanation was given. Since then, no clear information has been given on the contents of the containers.

 
According to reliable sources, shortly after the containers were intercepted, their owners reportedly showed up with documents showing that they had been cleared by Rwanda Revenue Authority (RRA) and Uganda Revenue Authority (URA).  


Both containers had RRA seals. They businessmen also reportedly claimed that they had picked the minerals from Ngororero District in Western Rwanda and were in transit to United States of America. However, a month and half later, the containers have been changing hands between Police and the Ministry of Energy, Mineral Development. 


A reliable source in the Mineral Protection Police Unit told URN that highly placed persons in government have stalled investigations into the source of the containers. "Immediately those containers were impounded, phone calls started coming in from every side. The documents containing details of the Owner of the Containers whom we had found out was a Rwandan National were called by the Ministry of Energy," the source said. 



The Deputy Police Spokesperson, Patrick Onyango revealed that the documentation purportedly issued by RRA and URA turned out to be forgeries. "Whatever is in those containers was picked from Kabale or Kisoro districts and the clearances of RRA and URA were forged," Onyango said. 


Police Spokesperson, Emilian Kayima told URN on August 14th 2018 that they have never opened the containers and had handed them over to URA. 

But the URA Publicists, Herbert Ssempogo denied knowledge of the containers, saying they have never heard about them. 


"I have contacted our enforcement Manager and we don't have any such trucks or containers. Let the person who told you we have them show you any documentary proof," Ssempogo said.


A source at the Ministry of Energy Directorate of Geology, Surverys and Mining (DGSM) told URN on condition of anonymity that the containers were opened and samples taken for analysis. "The owners of containers got a clearance and export of a different Mineral but when they opened it was found that they had Iron Ore from Kabale District, which the President had earlier stopped from being exported," the source said.


In 2013, President Museveni banned the export of Iron Ore as a way of encouraging value addition. His position was that the Iron ore should be locally processed and its steel used to feed the steel industry, which relies on imported iron.


The directive also suggested importation of coal from Mozambique to smelt the iron since Uganda doesn't have its own coal. The directive has been implemented largely and only Moses Kamuntu, a Kampala based businessman has written clearance from President Museveni to export Iron Ore.

 

According to Global Witness, an organisation that monitors the operation of the Extractive Industry, Kamuntu exports 10,000 tonnes of iron ore monthly. In July 2018, police impounded an estimated 150 tonnes of iron ore that was heading to Kenya.


Records at the Ministry of Energy indicate that Uganda has 200million tons of proven iron ore while it is believed that there are 500 million more tons underground, which are yet to be proved.

 

About the author

Dear Jeanne
Dear Jeanne is a URN journalist based in Kampala. Jeanne has been a URN staff member since 2014.

Jeanne started out as a political and crime reporter for NBS television in 2010. She went on to become a news director at the station before leaving in 2012 to join The Daily Monitor as an investigative reporter in 2012.

Jeanne is ambitious to improve her investigative reporting skills. Jeanne’s focus for much of her five year career has been to report on crime and security.