By Jean Gatera
Tribert Ayabatwa Rujugiro who has a tobacco factory in Uganda – in which, reliable sources say, the country’s ruling family has shares – is also well known as the chief financier of the terrorist organization Rwanda National Congress (RNC). Given his close connections to President Museveni and his younger brother Gen. Salim Saleh, sources comment, it is not surprising that Rujugiro is openly flaunting laws by declining to label his cigarettes as dangerous to health in accordince to international practices.
Rujugiro’s tobacco company, Leaf Tobacco Commodities (LTC), has refused to apply health-warning graphics on their cigarette packets. The requirement is both a national and an international requirement. When he established his company in Uganda some years back, Rujugiro made Gen. Saleh his business partner, giving him a 15 percent stake, according to Ugandan company registration records.
Article 11 of the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC), of which Uganda is a signatory, says: “Parties to the Convention are to implement large, rotating health warnings on all tobacco product packaging and labeling”.
Rujugiro’s refusal to play by the rules and conform to regulations is a clear business malpractice that gives him undue advantages to other competitors and jeopardizes Uganda’s reputation in implementing international treaties. “He has so much political clout that even government officials were unable to offer a clear comment on the issue,” observed a business analyst who sought anonymity fearing reprisals from Rujugiro.
Dr. Hafsa Lukwata of the Ministry of Health revealed that TLC had boldly refused to comply by the Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS). Lukwata essentially was admitting that Rujugiro was too powerful for any Uganda government entity to enforce the law against him. “Of course for Museveni the interests of the chief financier of a terrorist group that’s his main proxy in plans to destabilize Rwanda are far more important than the health, or the laws of Uganda!” said a Kampala-based security.
Strangely, in March 2019, President Museveni published a letter in the state newspaper, The New Vision, defending Rujugiro as an ordinary businessman. About a year ago, Rujugiro donated Ushs 250 million to a covid-19 fundraising organized by President Museveni, money that ended up in the pockets of the president’s family members. “He has so much political clout that even government officials are unable to offer a clear comment on the issue,” observed a business analyst who sought anonymity fearing reprisals from Rujugiro.
The analyst expounded that in Uganda, when one has a business partner like Gen. Saleh (who actually is in charge of his elder brother’s corrupt business interests), normal rules and regulations do not apply. Even reporting on the matter is dangerous!
Labeling cigarettes packages with visible warning messages is largely done to inform potential new smokers of the grave health risk associated with smoking. According to our sources, with no such warnings on Rujugiro’s cigarettes his company reaps big. Rujugiro and his partners, the rulers of Uganda are taking advantage of the absence of rule of law in the country, without a care how that jeopardizes the health of millions.