“Why Do They Punish Us?” Uganda Charcoal Ban Ignites Transition Debate
By John Okot
Earlier this year, Hamidu Ssenyondo, a charcoal trader in northern Uganda, was full of hope as he acquired a loan to help him grow his successful business. Over the past two decades, the 54-year-old had built a reputation for selling “quality” charcoal – so much so that he became known among his clients as “Hajji Magumu”, a fond nickname with connotations of “durable charcoal” in Luganda. The time was right, he decided, to expand his activities so he could supply more communities in Uganda and perhaps even across its borders.
But Ssenyondo’s plan didn’t go as expected. A mere week after investing his loan, he was arrested by police. Along with seven other traders, he was charged with contravening a presidential order, issued two months earlier in May, banning the commercial trade of charcoal. The eight businessmen were ordered by a court to pay heavy fines or risk serving three years in jail. Authorities impounded 1,900 bags of charcoal, 200 of which were from Ssenyondo, and auctioned them off.
Photo courtesy of Mbishapoa.