Ever since the World Health Organisation declared COVID-19 a global pandemic at the beginning of March 2020, one item that has been on high demand is not the vaccine, but gold.
Gold has climbed by 14 percent, the highest it has ever sold in a decade.
While the world closed its doors to COVID-19, there was a panic purchase of products for day to day use by different country citizens, while the dealers and the wealthy rushed to purchase gold bars and stashed them away.
Now with different shipping routes closed, and several airports shut, the high demand for Gold has brought the matter home- Uganda, which has been spotted as a smuggling route for Gold through cargo at Entebbe Airport and different porous borders.
Not to say that Uganda has not been a known smuggling route for decades immemorial. Indeed, according to a report from the United Nations; at least $100m worth of illicit gold is smuggled through Uganda at different entry points per month.
It is also important to note that 95 percent of Gold smuggled out of Uganda does not actually come from Uganda, where does it come from- Congo. And so it has been since the era of Mobutu.
In 2019, Uganda’s gold exports doubled, cocking $1.25billion, down from $514million. This makes gold a bigger export than coffee.
However, if gold Uganda is exporting does not come from Uganda, there how does it get to Uganda?
Nile Post contacted a staff member at Entebbe Airport who confirmed that during the lockdown, many flights that have been landing at Entebbe have been ‘hijacked’ by dealers and used to smuggle gold out the country to mostly Dubai or India.
“Gold has been a common business here, and now that we have less activity at the airport, the cargo section is booming with gold smuggling. Police has been here a couple of times and unlucky ones have been netted,” the staff member told Nile Post on condition of anonymity.
On further pestering, the staff member revealed that most flights are those heading towards Dubai, which Nile Post confirms is one of the booming Gold selling points together with India.
The Wall Street Journal also reports that recently, a pickup truck that had delivered contents o be loaded onto a Dubai bound cargo plane was intercepted and checked by security personnel at the airport only to discover gold at the value of $5million.
Uganda Police Spokesperson confirmed that gold smuggling rackets have worsened in recent months and in a quote by Wall Street Journal urged that the security is doing all that is possible to ensure the ‘wrong elements do not use our airport as a conduit for smuggled gold.’
How does the Gold reach Uganda and from where?
Uganda’s Gold can be traced from Mongbwalu, a remote village in Ituri District, Northeastern Congo, where gold has been extracted from the ground from the early 90s with no supervision from the central government since the area is never out of the war.
In 1998, Ituri was invaded by Uganda and Rwanda. Troops from Uganda maintained occupation in the area and managed to fly several deposits of Gold back to Kampala, an activity that was stopped following the 2003 sun city agreement in South Africa, calling for foreign troops to cease activity in Ituri.
On that background, Uganda was also dragged to ICC and ordered to pay$10b to DRC for plunder.
However, since then, Congolese gold dealers have found a hub in Uganda, since it is gold is more expensive as it reaches Kampala, and far to easy to bring in.
Official Ugandan import statistics show a tiny amount of gold imported to the country and show no statistics for transit goods.
According to a study conducted in 2004 by the Ugandan Bureau of Statistics (UBOS), over 50 percent of all imports and exports went unrecorded at six border posts.