Kabushenga opens the Coffee Consortium scam can; the smell is not the beautiful coffee aroma

Kabushenga opens the Coffee Consortium scam can; the smell is not the beautiful coffee aroma

Kampala, Uganda | By Edward Ronald Sekyewa | The former New Vision boss and current farmer, Robert Kabushenga, has lifted the lid off the can to expose the corruption surrounding a coffee value-addition project that was conceived to promote the exportation of processed coffee products but was hijacked and mismanaged by a one Nelson Tugume.

Mr Kabushenga has for some time been expressing his dissatisfaction on social media platform X (formerly Twitter) about how the project was running, but he has in the last few days decided to name names and bringing all the facts to light.

The recent notice to sue him for defamation written by Mr Nelson Tugume’s lawyers instead added more fuel to the fire as his resolve to expose the coffee consortium mafia engaged a higher gear, and has since revealed more about how the whole scam was crafted.

The coffee consortium was started with the blessings of President Museveni operating under his son-in-law, Mr Odrek Rwabwogo’s Presidential Advisory Committee on Exports and Industrial Development (PACEID) outfit with Nelson Tugume as the head of the consortium.

Mr Odrek Rwabogo, head of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Exports and Industrial Development (PACEID)

The President has for long been advocating for value-addition for Uganda’s cash crops especially coffee, saying that the country will earn more foreign exchange if the country exports finished coffee products for international markets instead exporting the crops as raw materials for other industries abroad.

Mr Museveni agreed to ensure that the coffee consortium receives the required funds to conduct its work, especially to establish a 10 million US Dollar (approximately UGX 37 billion) fund which would provide liquidity to coffee exporters with big export volumes within the 2023-2024 financial year. The funds would be passed to the exporters through the consortium made up of members in the coffee export trade.

President Museveni also accepted to provide the consortium with 1 million US Dollars to set up shop and travel to exhibit their products at the Uganda Trade Hub in Serbia in July 2023, which he officially opened on his way back from the African leaders meeting that was held in Moscow, Russia.

After receiving the 10 million US Dollars from the Ministry of Finance, it did not take long before some members in the consortium broke ranks with Mr Tugume on realizing that he was contemplating using the money for reasons different from what they had agreed upon initially. Two months after Serbia event, some members disagreed with Mr Tugume about the direction of the consortium and accountability issues. 

Another point of contention was Mr Tugume’s idea that the fund should be used to buy coffee from Kyagalanyi Coffee instead of buying the coffee from farmers, a move that the members disagreed with. They maintained that the fund should be used for its original purpose, i.e to provide financing to members who are exporting coffee. They also accused him of failure to provide accountability for the 1 million US Dollars that they had received for the Serbia sojourn.

As a result of these disagreements, members like Jackie Arinda (Madam CEO) of Jada Coffee, Gerald Katabazi of Volcano Coffee and Kwezi Kutesa of Kwezi Coffee all left the consortium regretting why they had joined it in the first place. 

“Nelson, true to his character, changed tack. He abandoned the larger membership of the consortium. Instead he worked with three trusted confidantes and they hatched a new purpose for the 10 million US Dollars. They changed from export financing to supporting coffee hubs set up by him across the country and branding. It is only his confidantes that received some of the money,” he wrote.

On how he got wind of the consortium, Kabushenga revealed that in June 2021, the current Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) Spokesperson Simon Kasyate together with Nelson Tugume showed up unexpectedly at his Rugyeyo Farm.

“Before that, Nelson had been trying to make contact with me but I was avoiding him, but now I was cornered. Although he claimed that he wanted to tour my coffee farm, his real intention was to have me present at the launch of his Coffee City in Ntinda. He needed people of credibility in the coffee sector to be present, so I accepted and showed up for that,” he added. 

After that event, Kabushenga explains that he never engaged with Tugume again. “The reason I had been avoiding Nelson is because I got to know of his dubious character during my time in the media. I therefore did not want anything to do with him since I knew him to be slippery. After my brief visit to his outfit, I had nothing to do with Nelson again until September 2022. He tried inviting me to join the consortium but I refused.”

“Things became tight when President Museveni wanted proof of processed coffee exports to new markets. Nelson began to run around looking for coffee to buy on credit and export. He failed. To date, no coffee has been exported under any of their initiatives. Millions of dollars have vanished. Nelson was supposed to be the silver bullet for the coffee value addition initiative.

Now we know why it will never happen. There will be no export trade fund. Farmers will never see the promised good prices. 12 million Ugandans who live off coffee will be disgruntled because of the false promise. And I can predict the thieves will get away with it,” Kabushenga stated in one of his Exposes about the Coffee Consortium scam. 

Many commentators have applauded Kabushenga for daring to expose a scam involving a big name in the first family and others have pointed out that Tugume could have been a mere proxy in this whole thing with bigger boys behind him.

In one of the comments, Balaam Barugahare, the biggest proponent of President Museveni’s son Gen. Muhoozi Kainerugaba’s presidency come 2026, called upon Gen. Muhoozi to come save the nation because thieves are finishing it off in grand style heists.

Meanwhile, in the latest development, following Mr Robert Kabushenga’s exposé on the alleged corruption and mismanagement surrounding the coffee value-addition project, President Museveni has urged for transparency regarding the allocation of 37 billion Shillings to the Coffee Investment Consortium Uganda (CICU) for investment in the coffee value chain.

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Under the leadership of Nelson Tugume, the consortium received the funds from President Museveni on behalf of various coffee stakeholders, with oversight by the Minister for Science and Technology, Dr. Monica Musenero.

In response to the president’s call for accountability, Dr. Musenero has requested the consortium to furnish a progress report outlining the milestones achieved. Furthermore, the minister is insisting on a comprehensive examination of CICU’s financial records to provide a detailed account of how the funds were employed in the coffee value chain.

A letter dated January 15, 2024, directed to CICU by Dr. Musenero states that the president is seeking an update on the progress made by the Ministry of Science and Technology and CICU since the funds were disbursed. The letter also mentions that the ministry is in the process of compiling a technical financial report for the allocated funds.

Nelson Tugume, the key figure overseeing the coffee investment, is facing scrutiny for allegedly failing to provide a satisfactory account of the disbursed funds. This development has led to concerns among coffee dealers who claim they have not yet experienced the promised benefits from the substantial financial injection.

Stakeholders are hopeful that the minister’s report will bring clarity regarding the utilization and impact of the funds within the coffee industry.

Who is Nelson Tugume?

The 39 years old Nelson Tugume is the CEO of Inspire Africa, an outfit he crafted more than a decade ago to drive his business initiatives. He owned a car bond, Nela Motors and was also the Chairman of Uganda Motor Importers Association and is known for his lavish and flashy lifestyle of luxurious cars and shopping escapades abroad.

He is politically very well connected to the mighty and powerful in the country, and he is not new to controversy. He is a protégé of the powerful and feared first son-in-law, Odrek Rwabogo who heads the Presidential Advisory Committee on Exports and Industrial Development (PACEID).

Presidential Advisory Committee on Exports and Industrial Development Chairman Odrek Rwabwogo (L) greets Inspire Africa CEO Nelson Tugume during a press conference at MTN Uganda headquarters in Kampala on February 22, 2023.

He has received funding from different entities like the MasterCard Foundation and Private Sector Foundation Uganda to establish coffee drinking outlets like the Coffee City in Ntinda and the Inspire Africa Café on Twed Towers, both of which are currently closed.

Before the current coffee consortium saga, he was involved in another coffee related scandal where billions of money were forwarded to him through the Office of the Prime Minister to establish coffee hubs in different parts of the country and to ‘teach Ugandans how to drink coffee.’

Under this initiative, he had promised to provide 1 million jobs for Ugandans. This initiative has on several occasions been queried by the Auditor General in his reports because it was found out that some of the coffee hubs were never established and those that were established are non-operational.