opinionBy Margaret Wokuri
In 2008, Bugisu Cooperative Union was set for burial. The human hawks were hovering into the sky urging that BCU remains should quickly be buried (read sold off). The Union had accumulated debts to the tune of 1.2 billion, it was in court for failure to pay workers and it was equally in court for Umeme and water bills.
The Elgon elders pained that their region was turning into a dwelling of poverty, sceptical of the education received by their grand daughters and sons, bothered by the loss of the glorious days of their once renowned clean town Mbale, put their political and religious differences aside and set out to restore the pride of their region.
Nothing could rally them together except through the old Bugisu Cooperative Union (BCU). Rev. Peter Mudonyi, Enoch Musundi, DC Wabomba, Abdallah Masaba, Samuel Namunane, Perez Lubayo, Makayi Wabalayo, Musa Wamalugu, Mayinza Wataluka, Prof. Kiboma, Charles Mungoma, John Musira, Paul Mugoya, Hajj Mumeya, James Nabende, Muliro Makhongye, Sam Magona and Hajj Ahmed Wamusitu were thus entrusted to revive this Bamasaba glory. According to one of the elders, they were aware that their age could not enable them to swiftly move things at the speed they wanted and thus chose one of their sons Hon. Nandala Mafabi to 'hold their walking stick'.
Two years down the road, BCU is not simply out of danger but bursting with achievements. The Union has renovated its housing estates at Maluku and Busamaga, rehabilitated the factory, mobilised its own working capital of 2 billion shillings and now producing 'Elgon Pride' coffee powder (pick one in the nearest super market).
The Union has equally reclaimed all its land which had been taken by 'economic hawks', the elders have built trust in farmers and are now mobilising them to sell all their coffee to BCU. A new pulpery for red cherries was opened on Sunday May 2, at Busano Village (Bunghokho South) and management is in the process of getting international certification to sell Arabica coffee on the world market. Importantly, in the two years, the Union has spent 250 million on sponsoring children for university education. Unlike other scholarships at the discretion of one individual, the BCU scholarships are communal, open and competitive for all the children of Bamasaba selling their coffee to the Union.
In comparison, in 2006, a community called Uganda, entrusted their destination to a group of elders. Some of these elders are Prof. Gilbert Bukenya, Prof. Tarsis Kabwegyere, Hon. Kirunda Kivejinja, Dr Nsaba Buturo, Prof. Nsibambi, Hon Henry Kajura, Hon. Sam Kutesa, Hon. Kahinda Otafiire, Prof. Kamuntu, Hon. Hilary Onek, Hon. Omara Atubo, Hon. Gabriel Opio, Hon. Stephen Mallinga, Hon. Kiddu Makubuya, Hon. Amama Mbabazi, Hon. John Nassasira, etc. Five years down the road, they are presiding over a community with sickly health and educational facilities.
11 million people in this community have one meal a day and unemployment rate is skyrocketing. Under their leadership, there has been gross abuse of public resources and sadly, some of the very elders are under probe for public abuse.
Most of the roads are potholed and the community has increasingly accumulated a debt burden of 8 trillion. The promised 'prosperity for all' of 2006 has since changed to prosperity for six families per parish! Why can't these government elders learn from the BCU Elders Forum?
Ms Wokuri is a social critic