By Mike Sebalu
Leader of Opposition in Parliament (LoP), Mathias Mpuuga, has challenged the Chinese Ambassador to Uganda, Zhang Lizhong, to persuade Chinese investors not to degrade Uganda’s environment but work towards its protection and preservation.
This was during an interaction between the LoP and Chinese ambassador, who paid a courtesy call on him at his office at Parliament.
Mpuuga noted that the Chinese government needs to pick interest in reports of environmental degradation by Chinese investors, adding that while Chinese investments in the country are welcome, activities that degrade the environment are likely to negatively affect their projects.
“Sustainability of the projects depends on how well we protect Uganda’s environment. This being a small country but with a huge population, sooner than later, feeding our people will become difficult unless we preserve our environment,” Mpuuga told the ambassador.
The LoP further asked his guest to act upon reports of alleged mistreatment of Ugandans working with Chinese companies in various parts of the country.
“You need to encourage them to treat Ugandans with dignity. Ugandans need these jobs, but they should be handled as people, treated well, and respect their rights at employment, ” Mpuuga said.
Shadow Ministers, Yusuf Nsibambi (Works and Transport), Francis Katabaazi (East African Community Affairs), Francis Mwijukye (Trade and Industry), and Joyce Bagala (Information and Anti-Corruption), who were in Mpuuga’s company voiced their concerns about the human rights situation in some of the Chinese companies mentioning among others, poor working conditions, sexual harassment of the female workers, and eviction of locals from their lands without adequate compensation.
The MPs further wondered why some infrastructural projects such as roads are poorly done and sometimes take longer to get completed.
In response, Zhang Lizhong said that while the embassy endeavours to encourage Chinese investors to respect local laws and customs, it finds challenges in reaching out to privately owned companies.
“The embassy has maintained close contact with these companies, especially the state-owned companies [and some] private investors. We may not cover all of them because there are so many small investors that we may not be aware of but we try to reach out to them to help them to solve problems and to guide them,” Lizhong said.
The meeting, which was requested by the Chinese embassy was intended to exchange views on strengthening exchanges and cooperation between the legislative bodies of both Uganda and China.