By Oweyegha-Afunaduula

If he were a philanthropist, he would have influenced the livelihoods of Ugandans in diverse ways. However, he is not and there is no Sudhir Rupaleria Foundation in Uganda that reaches out to needy and poor Ugandans to help them overcome the deleterious effects of poverty, hopelessness and haplessness.

He is in business, not in politics, but has been close to power ever since the NRM/NRA captured power in Uganda through the barrel of the gun. There is no evidence that he funded the bush war in Luwero, but is one of the greatest beneficiaries of the victory that the NRM/NRA scored against Milton Obote and Tito Okello regimes, thereby ending the long reign by men of power from Northern Uganda, and ushering in men of power from Western Uganda.

Sudhir Rupelaria was born in Kasese in 1956, the year I was in Subgrade School at Ikumbya Primary School, in present-day Luuka District. He has risen phenomenally since 1986 to become a business magnate in Uganda and investor.

His Rupelaria Group of Companies has investments in floriculture, education, banking, hotels, resorts, broadcasting, real estate and insurance. He is the owner of Victoria University, which he bought from Edulink Holdings LTD in 2013, and of Crane Bank, which had been closed by the Bank of Uganda, but has he got it back recently with huge compensation.

With such spread in the Uganda economy, Sudhir is very influential on and in the economy. He has continuously done business with and got big deals from the NRM government. It is said that he was one of those people who, very early in the reign of President Tibuhaburwa Museveni, were capitalized by government.

Many firms like Danze, collapsed after siphoning off public money, but Sudhir’ businesses prospered to the present day, and his chain of businesses lengthened when he launched Crane Bank and acquired Victoria University. He had a betting firm, which earned him a lot of money long before other betting firms came on stage.

The good connections with power enabled Sudhir to acquire Munyonyo Conference Centre, initially developed jointly with Government, although, unconfirmed assertions are that he owns it with some powerful person or persons in Government. He has recently got a big deal to build the conference center where a forth-coming Non-Alligned Movement (NAM) meeting will be held.

So when I baptized the title of this article “Sudhirisation if the Uganda Economy, it is either the truth or nearly the truth. Just like there is no real economy of Uganda without the sugar magnates – Madhivani and Mehta – we can say there is no Uganda Economy without Sudhir.

When President Museveni said he was privatizing the economy, he put it in the fangs of such money magnates. They own the economy but it is a dualistic economy: rural economy and urban economy, connected only through channels of production and consumption.

So long as NRM continues to be in power, Sudhir will continue to rise high in the skies. The President of Uganda has a lot of trust in investors who do not have black skin. He has capitalized them and given them tax holidays, and allows them to repatriate all their scoop to their countries of origin.

There is no doubt that without them the economy would be ramshackle. However, there is need to reign in them so that they pay their workers humanizing salaries and/or humanizing prices to the raw materials producers.

It is a sad fact, for example, that Madhivani pays peanuts for sugarcane supplied to Kakira Sugar Works by the farmers, and instead of giving permits to farmers, he gives them to politicians in the Kyabazinga government and those at the centre as well as to soldiers, who have no sugarcane themselves to supply.

And these then use the permits to exploit the farmers. On the other hand, I learnt that Sudhir’s workers on his flower farms are grossly underpaid and exposed to pollution by dangerous chemicals used on the farm to fight pests.

Sir the influence of Sudhir and his counterpart s on the economy of Uganda, is not just about to get less. It is a Sudhiricentric, Madhivanicentric economy and Mehtacentric economy, with other firms as second-fiddle actors in the economy.

For God and My Country

The Writer is a Ugandan Scientist And Environmentalist

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