Bunyoro Growers’ Cooperative Union Limited is demanding over Shs 4 billion in compensation from government for losses caused by NRA liberation war in the 1980s.
Barnabas Barugahara, the cooperative’s Manager, says several of the co-op’s assets were vandalized during the war, including tractors, a fully fledged machine workshop, lorries, trucks, and a cotton ginnery. Also lost were the union’s cattle and goats ranches, along with over 500 heads of cattle and goats.
According to Wilson Byaruhanga the Union’s vice Chairperson, the union submitted a war claim to government amounting to Shs 5.2 billion for assets, stocks, vehicles and livestock lost during the liberation war.
Following an April 2018 verification visit by a government-appointed verification committee, the total amount owed to the Union was established at Shs 4.8bn.
Byaruhanga revealed that since then they have been following up on the claim with relevant ministries, and substantial progress had been made. However, promised payments on the same are yet to materialise.
“We had been promised partial payments before the end of FY 2019/20, but nothing much has materialised yet,” he said.
More than just lost property, Barugahara says the insurgency-related disruption crippled the union’s ability to offer key services to members.
Bunyoro Growers’ Cooperative Union was formed and registered in 1954 to offer marketing services to its primary cooperative societies which were confronting difficulties finding market for members’ crops like coffee, cotton and other produce.
Other services included extending credit, training cooperators, transporting produce, delivering agricultural inputs and advisory extension services.
“All these services were crippled by the liberation war of 1980s,” Barugahara said.
He added that many members were deprived of employment either directly or indirectly, which negatively impacted economic development, among other adverse effects.
“Therefore, to reverse the trend, Bunyoro Growers’ Cooperative Union has been requesting government to consider compensating them for the losses caused by the liberation struggle so that the union could concentrate on agriculture,” he said.
The union has had ongoing engagements with government over its compensation claims as well as other unfulfilled pledges.
For instance, Barugahara said, on November 12, 2009, then Minister of Trade and Industry, Maj. General Kahinda Otafire, pledged that the union would be given a fleet of five trucks and five tractors as government’s contribution to its revitalization process.
“Since then, several visits and reminders have been made to the office of the minister but in vain,” the manager said.
“With the appointment of the Minister of State for Bunyoro Affairs, Hon Ernest Kiiza we anticipated that this had given the union leverage to once again engage the government so as to quicken the process of compensation but it has still remained unresolved,” he added.
Wilson Byaruhanga, the Union’s vice Chairperson explained that currently the union’s sources of income consist of office and stores rentals, a cattle ranch, maize mill and a machine fabrication workshop.
He added that if the government compensated them, they would be able to improve their business and reduce poverty among the members by offering better services and at subsidized costs.
He also expressed his hope that more government initiatives, such as the Operation Wealth Creation (OWC), be channelled through cooperatives to ensure their future stability.