The lawyers asked the High Court to declare the actions of the Minister of Finance and Economic Development to handpick Vinci to solely manage the coffee business, set coffee prices and related products in disregard of able Ugandan firms, as an infringement on the right to own property and open competition as well as economic rights of coffee farmers in the country.
The High Court in Kampala has fixed
December 15th 2022 to decide on the legality of the agreement
signed between the government and Uganda Vinci Coffee Company Limited to manage
the production, export and setting of coffee prices in the country.
Civil Division Judge Emmanuel Baguma fixed the date on Thursday evening when
the case filed by lawyers Michael Aboneka and Henry
Byansi came up for hearing before him.
Baguma first gave the parties in this case
between today and October 31st, 2022 to have filed their written
submissions showing why the case should be determined in their favor.
indicated that when the parties comply with his orders and timelines, he will
be able to deliver his judgment via email on December 15th, 2022.
On April 15th 2022, Aboneka
and Byansi went to court challenging the agreement signed by Ramathan Ggoobi,
the Secretary to the treasury on behalf of the government, and Enrica Pinetti,
the Board Chairperson of Uganda Vinci Coffee Company Limited to process and
export Uganda's coffee on grounds that it is illegal and irrational. The contested agreement
was signed on February 10, 2022.
As such, the lawyers asked the High Court to quash it and to declare the
actions of the Minister of Finance and Economic Development to handpick Vinci
to solely manage the coffee business, set coffee prices and related products in
disregard of able Ugandan firms, as an infringement on the right to own
property and open competition as well as economic rights of coffee farmers in
The agreement in issue grants Vinci
exclusive rights to buy Uganda’s coffee before the government can look at other
players. The agreement also exempts the company from import duty tax, stamp
duty, value-added tax, National Social Security Fund, and pay as you earn for
ten years. The company also reserves the right to determine the coffee prices
in the country on top of enjoying electricity subsidies and other benefits.
On Thursday, the Attorney General’s
representative Commissioner George Kallemera informed the court that in their written
submissions, they intend to ask the court to dismiss the case on a preliminary
point of law on the basis that it is premature and the matters raised therein
are not those that fall under the ambits of judicial review.
On his part, lawyer Gerald Batanda who
was representing Vinci also agreed with Kallemera’s submissions adding that
they will also argue that the case was wrongly brought before court since the
applicants sued a private entity whose decision cannot be challenged by way of
filing an application for judicial review.
argued that the High Court doesn’t have supervisory powers and jurisdiction to
entertain such cases against private entities as far as the framework of
judicial review matters is concerned.
In June 2022 both Vinci and the government put in formal responses
to the case asking for the case to be dismissed.
The Attorney General
while relying on an affidavit by the Acting Director of Economic Affairs in the
Ministry of Finance, Planning, and Economic Development, Moses Kaggwa indicated
that the agreement doesn't give Vinci any authority to manage production,
export, and set prices of coffee beans and its related products.
Kaggwa noted that all the required legal, administrative, and consultative
processes were adhered to and the execution of the agreement by the government
was informed by the overall government policy to invest in value addition and specifically
agro-processing in line with the National Coffee Policy and National Coffee Act
response, Vinci tabled evidence showing that Uganda exported 382,000 tonnes of
coffee between May 2021 and April 2022 and that the International Coffee
Organization indicates that Uganda has for the past two decades produced an
average of 437,650 tonnes of coffee per year with 330,540 tonnes in the coffee
year 2019-2020 alone.
This, the court
heard, it makes it impossible for Vinci Company to obtain a monopoly over
the management of the coffee business in Uganda when the maximum capacity of
their project is 60,000 tonnes.
It is against
this brief background that the Judge has asked the parties to expound on and
make written submissions to enable him to come up with his decision on whether to quash
the agreement or not.
In April the Sectoral Committee on Trade, Tourism, and Industry in Parliament unanimously
called for the cancellation of the agreement on grounds that it contravened the
constitution and other tax laws. One of the applicants Byansi wants the court
to also rely on this report and quash the agreement.