22 June 2017

Uganda: Cooperatives Demand Compensation for Members

Kampala — The Uganda Cooperatives Alliance Ltd has asked the government of Uganda to fully compensate its members who lost their properties and money during the war that brought the National Resistance Movement into power.

Samuel Ssentumbwe, the UCA Programmes Officer said in Kampala that a number of their members lost property and valuables that have not yet been compensated since the war and, the eventual privatization of all government parastatals.

This was during a joint press conference, the organization held with a number of its affiliate organizations that included the Uhuru Institute, Oxfam, Uganda Cooperatives Transport Union Ltd, Bugishu Cooperative Union, Uganda Housing Cooperative among others.

This was in preparation for the International Cooperatives Day that will climax at the Mbale Cricket Grounds in Eastern Uganda on July 1.

The International Co-operative Alliance adopted this year's theme for the International Cooperative Day as "Co-operatives ensure no one is left behind".

It is in tune with the global sustainable development goals (SDGs) and the increasing realisation that the current neo-liberal economic policy framework has increased inequalities in the world.

Ssentumbwe said they are grappling with a weak Cooperatives Law of 1991 CAP 112 that created a loophole for uncontrolled embezzlement of members savings especially in financial cooperatives that are popularly trading as SACCOS. This is until the recent passing of Tier 4 Microfinance and Money Lenders Act 2016.

"Up to now, creditors of Uganda Cooperative Bank are still incurring interests on their loans. That bank has never been closed because we have never received a liquidation report," said Ssentumbwe.

He said they are also lobbying for an independent Cooperatives Ministry to ensure that all matters related to the cooperatives movement are well catered for.

Jane Amuge Okello the Operations Director of the Uhuru Institute noted that the revival of Cooperatives will ensure equity by equally distributing resources among the poor and the rich.

"With Cooperatives, it doesn't matter whether you're rich or poor, uneducated or educated. The major aim is to ensure prosperity for all members by equally ensuring fair distribution of resources," said Okello.

She said, as Cooperatives campaigners, they are demanding for a tax regime that ensures that all members are fairly taxed.

"It true SACCOS got a tax waiver in this year's budget. But it's not only SACCOS which are members of cooperatives. We think agriculture cooperatives must also get such waivers," she said.

She said when the get the Liquidation report, they will be able to learn from the mistakes that were committed from the past to help them shape the future.

Oxfam international in a series and reports on the growing inequality in the world recognised that by 2015 while global wealth had hit a staggering $255 trillion over 50% of this wealth is in the hands of 1%. Eight men own the same wealth as the poorest half of the world.

In a similar Oxfam report on inequality in Uganda released in 2017, glaring inequalities exist and are increasing.

The report dubbed "Who is Growing" found out that while Uganda has experienced an average GDP growth of 6% per annum since 1990, income inequalities has increased tremendously since 1990 to the extent that the richest 10% of the population of this country enjoy 35.7% of national income while the poorest 10% claim a meager 2.5% and the poorest 20% have only 5.8% income.

The growth is mainly in industry and services often financed by foreign direct investments. While agriculture employs about 70% of the population the same sector contributes only 25% of the GDP.

According to Oxfam, the country is having a non-inclusive growth in which the majority does not benefit from the said growth.

By the very nature co-operatives worldwide are private businesses that promote inclusive growth through mobilization of members to take collective responsibility, increase production, saving and investments for the good of the members and the community they live in.

Cooperatives campaigners believe that the cooperative movement is probably the one most relevant infrastructure for actualizing inclusive, equitable economic development as expressed in the United Nations Agenda 2030 for sustainable development.

Cooperatives are governed by popular values and principles that recognizes and promotes the active participation of and adding value to the livelihood and wellbeing of member cooperators ad their families. Below are the seven international principles of the cooperative movement.

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