By Ngor Arol Garang
February 16, 2010 (KHARTOUM) — Engineer Stephen Juma, an undersecretary in the ministry of telecommunications and postal services, of the Juba based regional government of South Sudan, has confirmed the sale of Gemtel to a Libyan telecom company
Ugandan Telecom announced this week the Libyan Arab Investment Portfolio (LAP) Green Networks signed an agreement to buy a stake of 80 per cent of Gemtel on January 16. The dealwas signed by Abdulbaset Elazzabi, the managing director of LAP Green Networks and Augustus Ceaser Mulenga, I-Telecom’s CEO and proprietor of Gemtel.
The official attending a follow up meeting on communication gateway with authorities from federal ministry of telecommunication and postal services said the sale is in line with decision to own separate gateway with the same country code number +249.
The ministry upon approval by authorities from the regional government of South Sudan has decided to stop using Ugandan dialing code for Gemtel line, because usage of this code +256 has been a centre of heated debates in the Ugandan parliament, he said.
"Our use of this code was being misconstrued by some members of parliament in the government of Uganda;" he commented adding talks are underway to complete discussions for separate gateway for South Sudan. We are at conclusion phase with federal ministry of telecommunication and postal services, he adds.
He further added that Ugandans have repeatedly been asking questions why I-Telecom Ltd, a Ugandan telecommunication company, has given out South Sudan a permit to use its national code +256 since 2006.
Ugandan members of parliament have persistently complained that country had lost millions of shillings for usage of code without paying direct taxes to their government.
But Gemtel executive officer, identified as Augustus Caesar Mulenga had disputed the claim saying his company was paying UTL 50,000 dollars, an approximate amount of 89.5million shillings for connection fees.
The Ugandan minister also buttressed Caesar’s statement saying allegations that Gemtel uses the Ugandan dialing code for free holds no water. "It is not correct that to say that the code is for free, the operators have interconnected charges," the minister reportedly said.
General Gier Chuang Aluong, minister of internal affairs in the government of South Sudan, who previously served as minister of telecommunications and postal service also recommended to his successor General Madut Biar Yel to increase follow up meetings with federal ministry of telecommunications and postal services.
"We have already agreed with the federal ministry of telecommunications and postal services and there was a memo that the central government would give one gateway to south Sudan based on understanding that it will maintain one code +249 for operation in the whole country," said Stephen Juma.
They two parties also agreed to form National Telecommunication Corporation to regulate and supervise operational functions / activities of the telecommunication companies, he said adding this body was to be formed as stipulated in the CPA.
The agreement to form this telecommunication corporation was reached by high executive committee representing both NCP and the SPLM in 2008, he explained.
He continued to say the branch of this body in the south would look after FM radio stations and radio communications while the postal service remains the same under the federal ministry of communication and information with regional branch offices in Juba , Khartoum and other places .