National Unity Platform leader Robert Kyagulanyi, also known as Bobi Wine, has sent a message to the government, urging them not to label khat or mairungi cultivation as illegal, but to acknowledge it as a valuable cash crop. He emphasized that some farmers heavily rely on khat cultivation for their livelihoods.
A new law, the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Control) Bill, 2023, recently passed by the Parliament, proposes substantial fines for farmers who grow khat without proper licenses. The law is now pending approval from President Museveni.
Bobi Wine firmly believes that khat farming should not be prohibited. He stated, “I recognize that waragi (a local alcoholic beverage) can be more hazardous than khat, but the government hasn’t taken steps to ban it. Similar to regulations in countries like Kenya and Yemen, they should consider controlled cultivation. People are profiting from khat farming.”
Speaking on a local radio show in Fort Portal City during his area tour, Bobi Wine promised that the new Uganda would institute equitable laws, inclusive of khat cultivators.
Listeners who phoned into the show criticized Parliament for potentially endangering their livelihoods through the prohibition of khat farming. Joram Bitamanya, a member of the FDC party, highlighted that numerous sub-counties in Kabarole District rely heavily on khat cultivation.
For years, the residents of Kabarole, particularly in sub-counties such as Hakibaale, Kijura, Harugongo, and Kibatsi, have depended on khat cultivation to make ends meet. Aisha Kabanda, Butambala’s Woman MP, shared that the Bill includes provisions for creating alternative income sources for khat growers.
After the radio show, Bobi Wine inaugurated NUP party offices on Ruhandiika Street.
Expounding on his vision during an address to party supporters at Whispering Palm Gardens, Bobi Wine expressed his desire to transform the Tooro Sub-region into a bustling tourism hub. He outlined plans to enhance infrastructure, including roads and an airport, to attract tourists to Fort Portal City, which boasts natural attractions, including numerous crater lakes.
He also emphasized his intention to reform traditional schools, aiming to equip students with skills to become entrepreneurs. Bobi Wine commended security forces for their non-interference with his activities in both Mbarara and Fort Portal cities.
Currently on a nationwide mobilization tour, Bobi Wine has inaugurated NUP offices in various regions and engaged with party leaders. As witnessed in Mbarara City, his supporters thronged the streets of Fort Portal City to welcome him.
Regarding the bill, the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Control) Bill, 2023, states that those cultivating and producing khat without licenses could face fines of Shs2.4 million. Repeat offenders might be subjected to five years’ imprisonment or even a life sentence. Additionally, pharmacists prescribing prohibited drugs might incur a fine of Shs1 billion, along with a ten-year jail term or both.