Farmers Protest Restrictions Ahead of BCU Special General Meeting

2103 Views Mbale, Eastern Region, Uganda

In short
Coffee farmers in Bugisu sub region are protesting the guidelines set by government for the Special General Meeting schedules for March 11th to resolve issues surrounding the Bugisu Cooperative Union –BCU

Farmers under Bugisu Cooperative Union-BCU are protesting the guidelines issued by Joseph William Kitandwe, the acting registrar of Cooperatives ahead of their Special General Meeting scheduled for March 11th 20014. The Special General Meeting is in response to an earlier meeting convened by Amelia Kyambadde, the Minister for Trade, Industry and Cooperative in November last year to resolve the leadership of the union. The meeting which was also attended by James Mutende, the state Minister for Industry and David Wakikona, the state Minister for trade resolved that government hands back the management of the Union to the farmers early this year. 

Amelia directed the care taker management that was appointed by government to give up-to-date accountability of the Union from the time they took over and that should be done immediately. She also directed a delegates’ meeting be organized before the end of February for the election of a new board, after which government hands back the administration of the union to the farmers. Now, government through the office of Commissioner for Cooperative Development in the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Cooperative has scheduled a special general annual meeting on Tuesday March 11th.
 
In his 14th February letter to the BCU care taker manager Joseph William Kitandwe, the acting registrar of Cooperatives lays out conditions for farmers who are eligible to attend the meeting. Among these are that observance by members of the Union’s bylaws 34 and 35 (a). Bylaw 34 provides that every member shall be entitled to send not more than two representatives at the general meeting provided that a member has patronized the union above the average of 30, 000 Kgs  and has paid more than five shares while those below this threshold is entitled to only one representative.

Bylaw 35 (a) provides that every representative shall have a certificate signed by the authorized officers of his society and shall produce such certificate at each general meeting. In the absence of this certificate he shall have no vote in the meeting and his vote is not recorded. The guidelines have drawn angry reactions from the BCU members including Nathan Nandala Mafabi, the incumbent BCU board chairperson.  They argue that the provisions quoted by the commissioner apply to the Annual General Meeting and not any special meeting as of this case.

According to Nandala, the BCU bye laws were amended to allow farmers who contribute at least 2000 Kilograms of coffee to participate in the BCU Annual General Meetings, while all farmers are eligible to participate in the special general meeting without any restrictions since the decisions that are taken affect them. He explains that the decision was made after various growers cooperatives split into smaller groups. 

He says the decision by the commissioner to  introduce new laws for the Special General Meeting is aimed at locking out many farmers who are demand their money from the union unpaid coffee supplied. John Musila, one of the farmers claims government wants to use the guideline to block some farmers from the meeting something he says they will not accept. He says the meeting should be free to all the registered members without any conditions attached.

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Musila says they will appeal against the guidelines but warns that should government fail to adjust they will seek a court injunction against the meeting.

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Polly Mugoya another farmer is bitter that government continues to peddle in the affairs of the Union which entirely belongs to the farmers who should be left alone to handle their own businesses.

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Mugoya says such guidelines will not be tolerated.

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In December 2010, government took over the management of BCU, then, one of the most vibrant cooperative unions in the country after it suspended the Nathan Nandala Mafabi led board over accusation of financial impropriety.

However, despite the fact that the board was cleared of any wrong doing, farmers have made various attempts to reclaim the management of their Union from government in vain.

 

About the author

Denis Olaka
Denis Olaka is the URN bureau chief for Lira, in northern Uganda. Apac and Otuke fall under his docket. Olaka has been a URN staff member since 2011.

Olaka started his journalism career in 2000 as a news reporter, anchor, and then editor for Radio Lira in Lira district. He was subsequently an editor with Lira's Radio Wa in 2004 and Gulu district's Mega FM.

He was also a freelance writer for the Daily Monitor and Red Pepper newspapers.

Olaka's journalism focuses on politics, health, agriculture and education. He does a lot of crime reporting too.