Bugisu Cooperative Union (BCU) was barred from conducting their 2018 Annual General Meeting (AGM) and elections, on the slated date of 15 November 2018.
Police deployed heavily at the BCU factory premises in Mbale town where the AGM was supposed to be held, to prevent the delegates including the union leaders and staff from accessing the premises.
This followed a court injunction by Lady Justice Mugambe due to a petition filed by Budidi Growers Cooperative society led by Mr. Julius Nakiyi.
The petition seeks a judicial review into the operations and management of BCU. In their petition they accused the Hon. Nathan Nandala Mafabi Board of setting up some rules that are not in the by-laws of BCU, for example, setting minimum academic qualifications for one to be a Director, giving two weeks’ time for one to apply, which is against the 60 days stipulated in the by-laws, among others. Consequently, the Court postponed the AGM and elections.
In September 2018, Mbale High Court issued an injunction, stopping the BCU Board led by Hon. Nandala Mafabi from handling the affairs of the Union. The Court argued that their term of office had expired. This was a result of a petition filed by Five farmer groups, members of BCU.
Hon. Mafabi has served as BCU Chairperson for two consecutive terms since 2014. In the latest term, he was elected in 2016 and his term of office expired in March 2018.
On 6 November 2018, BCU advertised Board positions in the media.
The advert stipulated that applicants for the Board positions must possess a minimum of an Ordinary Level certificate or its equivalent, must be a member of a registered Primary Society, must have supported their society in the last two consecutive years, must not be indebted to their cooperative or BCU and must be delegates to BCU. Proven experience in cooperatives, public affairs, business and civic activities was a pre-requisite. Applications were required by 9 November 2018.
While speaking at the botched AGM, Hon. Frederick Gume Ngobi, the State Minister for Cooperatives asked the police officers to allow him to address the delegates and in his speech, he confirmed the postponement of the meeting until the ruling which is expected next Thursday 22 November 2018. He however revealed that the Nandala led board will continue running the Union until the 22 November court ruling. He called for calmness among the farmers and leaders as they await the court ruling.
Hon. Nathan Nandala Mafabi, the Chairman of Bugisu Cooperative Union, who also doubles as the Member of Parliament for Budadiri West in Sironko district revealed that they are going to adhere to the court order.
“This is an inconvenience because we had planned for this meeting since March 2018. Unfortunately, we cannot proceed with our meeting because of the Court injunction which was filed by people with selfish interests. Those who filed the petition are not even farmers. They think that they will manipulate the system and seize the property of the Bagisu but this will not happen. Another opportunity will come and we will hold an election,” said Hon. Nandala Mafabi.
Hon. Gume said the manner in which members file petitions hurts the Union. “I am happy that the Court has given a directive that members of cooperatives must obtain resolutions from their cooperative, before filing a petition against the Union,” the Minister said.
BCU has faced tumultuous leadership challenges, including allegations of abuse of office, lack of transparency, mismanagement of funds.
The Nandala leadership denies the allegations and instead accuses government of political interference.
BCU is one of Uganda’s surviving cooperative unions, and is one of the leading exporters of Arabica coffee in the country.