19 April 2017

Uganda: Red Cross Sued Over Sale of Its Warehouse

Balikuddembe Mukasa, a life member of the Uganda Red Cross Society, has sued the national humanitarian organization for selling off its own property.

In a suit lodged recently at the land division of the High court, Mukasa accuses the Red Cross of unilaterally selling off a warehouse in Ntinda, Kampala district, in order to pay off debts.

According to Mukasa, the sale of the warehouse by Red Cross was in total disregard of its members' interests since it will affect the organization's ability to fulfill its core statutory mandate as a humanitarian relief service provider.

"As a life member of the defendant [Red Cross], the plaintiff's [Mukasa] stake in the defendant entitles him to proper and transparent management of the latter's assets including proper accountability for any proceeds from any sale thereof given that it is a humanitarian organization with core statutory duties... ," the suit reads.

Though the warehouse is key in helping Red Cross fulfill its mandate of providing humanitarian aid, Mukasa says that on March 14, 2017, he read a newspaper article indicating that the organization was selling off the said property ostensibly to pay off debts.

In the article, which Mukasa has attached to the suit, New Vision newspaper reported that in order to pay off debts left by its managers, who were sacked amid allegations of fraud, Red Cross had so far sold its former headquarters on Lumumba avenue, Kampala and a number of old vehicles, which reduced the debt from Shs 20bn to Shs 10bn.

It was also reported in the same article that even the warehouse, valued at Shs 10bn, was also up for sale to raise money to clear the balance. But through Buwule and Mayiga advocates, Mukasa says court should stop the sale of the warehouse since Red Cross has already disposed of other prime properties without proper accountability to its members. According to him, any further disposal of assets will greatly affect the organization's activities in fulfilling its core statutory mandate.

"The plaintiff [Mukasa] further avers that given prior unaccounted-for sales of other properties belonging to the defendant [Red Cross], by selling off the property in issue, the plaintiff, just like the other members, will be made to suffer untold loss," the suits reads.

Despite being aware of his objections to the sale of the warehouse, Mukasa says that no action or alternative efforts have been made by Red Cross to avert the likely loss of the key warehouse facility.

"The plaintiff further avers that the defendant's actions or omissions have caused him mental anguish and inconvenience arising from the uncertainty or likelihood of the defendant's ability to fulfill its mandate without its key warehousing facilities including that one at Ntinda that are being sold off haphazardly without accountability," the suit goes on.

Consequently, Mukasa wants the court to issue a permanent injunction restraining Red Cross from "unilaterally" selling off the warehouse without following the proper procedures provided under the society's constitution.

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