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Museveni intervenes in Convention Centre row

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Businessman Sudhir Ruparelia and the government of Uganda agreed to build a modern Convention Centre at Commonwealth Speke Resort Munonyo. The centre will host 3,000 delegates and its first conference will be the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) scheduled for this year.

The signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Sudhir and government was done in February 2022. It was attended by Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja, Finance Minister Matia Kasaija, Permanent Secretary Finance and Secretary to the Treasury Ramathan Ggoobi.

The construction is estimated to cost $40 million (Shs140 billion) but it remains unclear how much each side will invest.

President Museveni was due to chair a meeting on Thursday, February 2, 2023, to resolve disagreements regarding the development of the modern Convention Centre. However, it is still unclear if the President’s meeting took place as planned.

A day before the scheduled meeting, Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja held a readiness assessment meeting to update the President on the project’s progress.

In attendance at that meeting were Works and Transport Minister Gen Katumba Wamala, Junior Finance minister Henry Musasizi, the Executive Director of the Uganda Development Corporation (UDC) Patrick Birungi, and representatives from the Ministry of Trade. Mr. Sudir Ruparelia and his son, Rajiv Ruparelia, were also in attendance.

The convention center is supposed to be fully functional before November to host the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summit, followed by the South Summit of the G77 and China.

The readiness assessment meeting was expected to provide guidance to the President on the issues hindering progress on the convention center, which will include a 3,500-seat modern auditorium, a suspended restaurant overlooking Lake Victoria, and smaller conference rooms for the NAM summit.

Sources reported that 80% of the project finances have been released by the Treasury through UDC. However, Mr. Ruparelia reportedly expressed frustration at the slow release of funds during the meeting, which he says is hindering progress.

UDC, responsible for accounting for the funds, cited the need for caution to prevent government losses. Gen Katumba also mentioned the poor working relationship with the project developer, who he claims had locked out the ministry’s engineers evaluating the foundation’s structural integrity.

Preparations for hosting the two summits began in 2019 when Uganda was endorsed as the NAM chair from 2022 to 2025. The government is hoping that the summits will help improve its image on the international stage.

The NAM summit movement comprises 120 countries that are not aligned to any of the rival eastern and western power blocs and it was founded during the Asian-Africa meeting in Bandung, Indonesia in 1955.

It is leaders of these countries in Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas, with observer China and Russia who are expected to convene in Kampala in November 2023 for the movement’s summit.

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