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Hoima leaders locked in fight over cooperative union

Even before it gets off the paper, a plan by businessman Abdu Mariki Mugisa to form Bunyoro farmer’s Cooperative has drawn strong opposition largely from leaders in the western district of Hoima who claim the union might be used to exploit farmers.

Mugisa, who claims to be the acting chairperson of the union, used radio announcements recently to urge people to join him in forming a union.

He said so far he had registered 40,000 members.

He said he wanted to mobilize farmers to engage in growing spices like garlic. He said the garlic market has been secured and will need about 20,000 metric tons per day.

He projects the union will be up and running by 15th June 2021 and President Museveni has promised to launch the union.

However, some leaders have expressed lingering skepticism about the union’s prospects, which is planned to cater to farmers from eight districts of the Bunyoro region, including; Hoima, Masindi, Buliisa, Kiryandongo, Kikuube, Kagadi, Kibaale, and Kakumiro.

Buhaguzi MP-elect Steven Itaza, who claims to be an acting union board member, said he is currently registering the primary societies from his constituency, which will be incorporated in the union.

He said that they are organizing farmers to see that they get funds from the Microfinance Support Center (MSC) and Islamic financing. 

“There is Shs 50 million in the MSC which is given to a group of 15 members so we have started registering the groups to benefit from this money and I want to register three cooperative societies in my constituency and these societies will feed into Bunyoro Farmers’ Cooperative Union,” he said, adding that so far 900 members from 65 groups have been registered in his area.

Hoima District Chairman Kirungi Kadiri said his council has asked Mugisa and his team to seek guidance from district leaders and they refused. He noted that Mugisa was mobilizing frustrated Emyooga SACCO members to register with his union, a move the leaders do not agree with.

“During a joint meeting of district leaders and security we agreed that we stop this man from proceeding with the formation of his union and we directed the district chief administrative officer to write to Mugisa stopping him from continuing with the mobilization of farmers to join him, in fact, farmers joining this union are doing so at their own risk,” he said.

Kirungi said leaders fear that Mugisa might use the union to exploit farmers.

“He has never engaged anyone; we just heard an announcement on the radio. So if we allow our people to join such a group, they will blame us for not advising them when things backfire. When you are forming a cooperative union, you do not start calling for groups and associations that come and we start a union, unions are formed by primary societies,” Kadiri explained.

A source from the office of the Hoima district commercial officer said the office suspects the group behind the formation of the union could be having a hidden agenda.

“Primary societies form a union, this man calls himself the acting chairperson of the union, which primary societies voted for him and his group members?, ” a source asked, adding that the group is targeting a piece of the Shs 10billion, which might be given to cooperative unions.

Hoima City Resident Commissioner Samuel Kisembo said Mugisa was summoned and cautioned about his scheme. He noted that Mugisa was interfering with the issues of Emyooga with his scheme of forming a cooperative union.

“These are totally different things, Emyooga is a government program with its structures and we do not work with any individuals, mixing Emyooga program with Cooperatives. So we are not part of this arrangement, using the structures of Emyooga to form a cooperative union as it is not right because it will make our people get lost. The Ministry of trade, industry, and cooperative has not yet given us any information regarding the formation of a cooperative union as of now, so when we get official information the district leader and commercial officers will help to mobilize”  he said.

Interviewed for this story, the Assistant Commissioner Cooperatives Robert Mpakibi Waiswa told theCooperator that he was not aware of anything to do with the formation of a cooperative union in Hoima.

“A Cooperative union is made up of primary societies, which societies is he working with? If he is to form a cooperative union, each of those primary societies must have an annual general meeting and make a resolution to join. When we are registering a union, part of the application is made of a resolution of primary societies and I have not seen anything like this and I am not aware,” he explained adding that cooperatives do not work with individuals.

Interviewed for a comment, Mugisa said he wrote to all relevant offices about his plans to form a farmers union but none of these offices have replied to his communication.

“We are going to give farmers garlic seeds, what is wrong with that?. Why are they fearing someone who is mobilizing farmers and is going to finance them? Let them come and show us what to do because we wrote to them but they have not replied,” Mugisa said.     

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