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Kasese SACCO closes over COVID -19

As the COVID-19 related lockdown continues, many financial cooperatives (SACCOs) are finding it hard to stay afloat as out-of-work members struggle to make ends meet, let alone save with their respective SACCOs, during this period. For Moja Ni Nguvu SACCO in Kasese, the death knell sounded this week. 

The 50-member cooperative was forced to close its doors following a prolonged period in which members have been unable to save, having been put out of action by the COVID-19 related lockdown..

 Moja Ni Nguvu SACCO was established by porters of heavy baggage at Kayanja landing site at the Uganda-DRC border on Lake Edward, Kasese district.

The SACCO’s members all eked out a living by loading and off loading import and export goods from vessels coming to Uganda from the DRC and vice verse via the waters.

However, following a presidential directive closing all borders, cross-border activity at the lake has come to a standstill, leaving the porters redundant.

Since then, all the SACCO’s savings have been withdrawn by members left without income during the lockdown period.

According to Kambambu Kasyatu, Chairman, Moja Ni Nguvu SACCO, the five-month old SACCO simply could not withstand members’ pressure to withdraw their savings since they had no other means of survival. Others who had taken small loans have not been able to pay them back. 

“Since all the money we had in savings was withdrawn, we had no option but to close the SACCO until further notice,” he said.

Shafik  Muhamad, a member of the group, said that he has been idle for a month now ever since vessels coming from or going to the DRC were stopped.  He is worried for his family’s survival since they solely depended on his work as a porter at the lake.

 “I have a wife with three children but I no longer have work. Government must also consider our survival by providing us with alternatives,” Muhamad said.

Another porter, now out of work,  Moris Bwambale , a father of nine, narrated that they used to save Shs 9000 after each day’s work, but since the border’s closure, they have instead withdrawn all their savings which are finished by now.

 “The government should inject money into our SACCO so that we can look for an alternative means of living,” he said.

Permit water cargo vessels

The SACCO’s Chairman, Kambambu Kasyatu, appealed to government to allow vessels bearing cargo to resume operations on the lake, just as it is with land and air cargo.

“The president’s directives allowed cargo transport to continue, but at our site it was completely stopped. Government must consider reopening water transport soon,” Kasyatu said. 

Fango Bwambale, the Chairperson for the traders at Kayanja makes the same point.

“If all cargo trucks are allowed to move on the road, why not cargo on the water?” he wondered. 

Bwambale said that previous to the lockdown, the DRC was the biggest market for Ugandan goods. 

“We used to export beer, salt and other items and import Coffee from DRC, all of which has stopped now,” he noted.

Sunday Peter Kakule , Chairperson of Nyakiyumbu sub-county, where the border is situated, noted that Kayanja has a population of 28,000 that depends solely on the lake for survival.

“My worry is that if the lock down is extended after May 5, criminals are most likely to increase as people look for what to eat,” he said. 

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