Pakwach: Rising L. Albert waters destroy local businesses

Business owners in Panyimur Town Council, Pakwach district, are in tears over the rising levels of Lake Albert that have submerged several business premises in the area, leading to loss of income estimated in the millions of shillings.

Genaro Muswa Maditwun, who owns one of the top hotels in Panyimur Town Council, Pakwach district, says he started his hotel business in 1998 in Panyimur, then one of the busiest landing sites in West Nile.

However, he says his business has been decimated by waters from L. Albert which have cut off access to his hotel and submerged a significant portion of it.

“I am making a loss of Shs 1.2m in monthly income, before factoring in the repair costs once the waters recede,” Muswa said.

Several businesses and infrastructure along the buffer zones of lakes and rivers in Panyimur Town Council, Pakwach district, have been submerged or destroyed following increased rains that started last year, resulting in the rising water level of L. Albert.

All income generating activities at the landing sites, both government-funded and privately owned, have come to a standstill as a result of the ongoing disaster.

“I am currently suffering from diabetics and [high blood] pressure, in addition to servicing a loan. I can no longer look for capital to start a new business,” a despondent Muswa says.

Paul Kinobe, the Chairman of Panyimur’s business community says majority of the business premises in the area have been submerged by water, making them impossible for customers to access.

“Accommodation facilities like hotels, bars and lodges have been the most affected,” he said.

Kinobe called upon the government to assess the situation of business owners affected by the flooding and come to their rescue.

“Our local business operators are in a panic about how to pay back loans they had borrowed, since their businesses are greatly affected by the rising water level and the lowered incomes as a result,” Kinobe said.

Cholera fears

Meanwhile, Panyimur Sub County, LC III Chairman, Shaban Ofoi expressed concern that the area, known in the past as an epicenter for Cholera in the region, might be headed for another attack of the epidemic since most of the latrines have collapsed or been submerged by the rising water levels.

“Our latrines and clean water sources at the landing sites are submerged with water. The few facilities left are being overwhelmed by the population. We could face another Cholera epidemic if close attention is not paid to helping the local community,” Ofoi said.

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400 farmers in Kwania receive heifers under restocking program

More than 400 farmers from six sub-counties in Kwania district have received heifers worth Shs 576m under the restocking program.

In 2014, the government earmarked Shs 20 bn to restore livelihoods and alleviate poverty in West Nile, Acholi, Lango and the Teso-sub regions through restocking under the Peace, Recovery and Development Plan (PRDP) following the two-decades-long rebellion by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).

The heifers will benefit widows, widowers, the elderly, persons with disabilities, orphans and the Ex-combatants from the Sub Counties of Aduku, Inomo, Chawente, Nambieso, Abongomola and Aduku Town Council.

Bazil Okello Onac, the Kwania District LCV Chairperson asked the beneficiaries to adhere to the restocking guidelines issued by the government and use the animals to alleviate poverty at the grassroots.

“They should keep these animals for at least four years, according to the government guidelines, and let them multiply in order to eradicate poverty. We want to hear success stories on what the restocking program has done for them,” he said.

In a similar vein, Salim Komakech, the Kwania Resident District Commissioner cautioned the beneficiaries against selling off the animals, but rather urged them to use them to improve their income.

“The president’s vision is to empower households that are not yet in the money-making economy. Beneficiaries should not sell off these animals, but instead use them for production. We as security shall ensure that these guidelines are indeed followed,” he said in an interview.

Bonny Okello, a resident of Ikwera cell in Aduku Town Council and beneficiary of the program, thanked the government for the donation, saying the animals will go a long way to improve on his livelihood.

Another beneficiary, a widow and resident of Anginyi Village in Aduku Sub County, Shopia Odul, says this is the first time she has personally benefitted from the government.

“I am going to look after the animal well and once it multiplies, I will use the income to pay for my four children school and provide us a better life,” she pledged.

Dr Charles Opeto, the Kwania District Veterinary Officer said that Aduku Town Council was slated to receive 26 herds of cattle, Aduku 65, Nambieso 130, Inomo 95, while Abongomola and Chawente would each get 82.

The restocking program has faced a host of challenges since its inception, including inadequate supervision and alleged ghost beneficiaries.

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UCDA cracks down on immature coffee trade

The Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA) has declared war against traders engaged in buying immature coffee from farmers.

UCDA’s regional extension officer for Rwenzori region, Emmanuel Tumwizere, said picking immature coffee berries affects the quality of coffee in the country.

“Coffee is continuously losing quality because of some farmers harvesting immature coffee which ends up rotting. Others use poor post harvest handling methods like drying it on the bare ground, which also negatively impacts on its quality,” he said.

Even consumers are put at risk by immature coffee, which Tumwizere says can become “hazardous”.

“When farmers pick immature coffee, they first keep it in sacks and hence it ends up molding. This develops a toxic acid which is hazardous to consumers because it causes cancer,” he said.

He further noted that such poor harvesting practices threaten to undermine the progress that has been made in promoting coffee farming in the region.

“People in the Rwenzori region have responded positively to planting more coffee but there are some farmers who are not adhering to good harvesting standards by harvesting immature coffee,” he said.

Traders involved in buying immature coffee tend to lure farmers into selling to them by offering more money for it than they would pay at harvest time when mature coffee floods the market.

According to locals, traders buy a basin of immature coffee at Shs 10,000, which Tumwizere said is more than what they would get for coffee that is ready for harvest.

In response, UCDA has intensified efforts to curb the vice by threatening to arrest farmers involved in the trade.

“We shall start arresting any farmer that we find harvesting immature coffee because it affects the quality of coffee on the market which not only affects the farmer but also the country’s exports” he said.

Taking action

On Wednesday this week, Tumwizere impounded 26 sacks of immature coffee and arrested two workers accused of engaging in the illicit trade at a coffee store in Kiburara village, Hakibale Sub County, in Kabarole district.

The operation, which was conducted by Tumwizere and an official from the Operation Wealth Creation (OWC), followed a tip off from locals that some traders were buying immature coffee within their village. The traders were apprehended and handed over to the police, and their coffee impounded.

In 2017, during an operation OWC officials impounded more than 500kgs of green coffee berries from traders in Mitandi Kyamukube town council, now part of Bunyangabu district and arrested one of the traders.

Richard Waako, the in-charge, defence, in Kiburara village where the culprits were netted, said the two individuals had been arrested twice before over the same practice (dealing in immature coffee), but they have persisted in the illicit trade.

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Gulu: Farmers shun beehives worth Shs 12m

At least 200 beehives worth Shs 12m have been shunned by the farmers they were intended for, with some reportedly turning them into fire wood for cooking and construction materials for chicken houses.

The beehives were distributed to farmers in Olwo, Lamoroto, Bokeber and Bura villages in early March, 2020 under the Project for the Restoration of Livelihoods in the Northern Region (PRELNOR), a government project.

The farmers however failed to pick up the hives claiming that they are too big and would cost them Shs 20,000 in transport.

Josephine Akwero, a local farmer in Bokeber village said locals shunned the beehives because they are too big and heavy to transport.

“I myself picked only one small beehive. The remaining ones were very heavy,” she said.

The bee hives were placed at her home where other farmers were expected to pick them up.

Akwero blamed Gulu district for wasting taxpayers’ money by making big hives which the community cannot use.

Phillip Ongwech Agela, the L.C II Chairperson Pagik parish said some of the beehives are now rotting after being pounded by the heavy rains recently experienced in the region.

Ongwech said the district should have educated the community on how to use the new type of beehives.

“The community is used to the small bee hives and the district did not bother to sensitize farmers on how to use this new type. Some farmers decided to use them as fire wood while others decided to split the beehives and use the wood to build chicken houses,” he said.

Simon Peter Oola, the Vice Gulu District Chairperson agrees with Ongwech saying the community will be sensitized on how to use the new beehives.

“Traditionally, beehives are placed on tree trunks but these new hives are too big and heavy to be placed on a tree,” he said.

Oola said that the farmers were expected to cut tree trunks and put them on the ground so that they can place the beehives on them.

“The intention of making the big bee hives was to increase the volumes of honey that farmers would harvest but unfortunately, they did not know how to use them,” he explained.

Oola said that the new beehives are estimated to produce at least 20 litres of honey unlike the traditional ones which produce between 5-7 litres.

He said that unlike many agricultural products whose prices fluctuate, the price of honey is relatively stable. A litre of honey currently costs Shs 20,000.

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Cooperators urged to embrace responsibility

Cooperators have been urged to take back control of their cooperatives by taking up membership roles and responsibilities in order to enhance the resilience and success of their organizations.

During the recent launch of Sino Uganda Trader’s Cooperative Society at Grand Imperial Hotel in Kampala, Denis Tukahikaho, the Technical Advisor for development of Cooperatives to The Uhuru Institute for Social Development underscored that member participation would define the success or failure of any cooperative.

Tukahikaho said that when individuals belong to two or more Cooperatives, their ability to patronize and grow either cooperative is undermined.

“One of the challenges we (the Cooperative movement) face is where you find one person belongs to five or six Cooperatives. Each Cooperative has its demands. You have to attend meetings, save, buy shares and so on.. In the end, you are split all over,” Tukahikaho said.

He called on Cooperators to focus on the long-term.

“For a Cooperative to be successful, you have to look at the next generation. Your needs might not be met tomorrow or the other day, but it can be met after two years or three. So, if you drop out today because your needs have not been met, you are doing a disservice to yourself,” Tukahikaho argued.

The cooperative developer also noted that many people form or join Cooperatives with the agenda of getting money from government, something he says has affected prospective Cooperatives because of lack of sustainability and membership input.

Sino Uganda Cooperative Society was launched with 52 members, having been registered and granted a probationary certificate by the Commissioner for Cooperatives in February this year. The bulk of the Cooperative’s membership comprises of city traders under the Kampala Arcaders and Traders Association (KATA).

Last year KATA, who together with Kampala She-traders Association (KASTA) were organizers for the launch of Sino Uganda, launched Kampala Arcaders and Traders Cooperative Savings and Credit Society (KATCSCS) at JBK hotel in Kampala. However, the Cooperative failed to set off with operations.

Ssekulima Amir Ssebowa, the Chairperson of Sino Uganda Cooperative Society said part of the problem in the past arose from the fact that members did not understand what they were engaging in (cooperatives).

“With the leadership training we have received, we are now ready to steer Sino Uganda Cooperative Society to success,” Ssekulima said.

Ssekulima said Sino Uganda aims to help local traders liaise with trade partners in China and other countries and facilitate ease in trade.

For Wilberforce Waliggo, the KCCA Commercial Officer for the Central Division, members ought to be clear what they expect to benefit from joining a cooperative.

“Someone will join a Cooperative for personal objectives, which if not met, the member will move on to another SACCO. The challenge is lack of sensitization. Before a member is admitted, he should be educated on how that SACCO operates, Waliggo said.

Waliggo argues that belonging to many cooperatives and frequent member exoduses have led to the collapse of many cooperatives.

“A number of Cooperatives have failed because of this challenge, members leaving and jumping onto other SACCOs! In the end, the society they are leaving may not survive because they will have pulled out whatever they injected in. Many cooperatives have died at infancy because of this challenge, which also affects the cooperative movement as it creates mistrust in the public.” Waliggo said.

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Bishop Stuart University, Cooperatives to collaborate on internship placement

Bishop Stuart University has put in place collaborations with more than 50 cooperatives where their students can go for hands-on internship practice and skills training.

The revelation was made last week by Ass. Prof. Gershom Atukunda, the university’s Dean for the Faculty of Business Economics.

“We signed MoUs with over 50 cooperatives around Ankole so that our students do their internship on their farms and it’s farmers who will evaluate them,” Atukunda explained.

The move is part of the institution’s shift from the four-wall classroom model to the field-classroom model that aims to train hands-on graduates for the African market.

“The farmers will be the professors to enable us produce quality skilled graduates in the fields of agriculture and cooperatives,” he said, adding that students must satisfy the farmers’ needs as they also help the students to reach where they want to be.

Embracing online learning

Meanwhile, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to haunt institutions, the university has adopted e-learning technology to enable students continue their studies online.

According to Prof Mauda Kamatenesi, the Vice Chancellor, Bishop Stuart University, the institution recently received official approval from the National Council for Higher Education (NCHE) to conduct an online teaching system.

“It is now a new era of information which is going to be characterized by digital information. With my science background I don’t see COVID-19 ending soon and the world cannot stop because of COVID-19,” Kamatenesi said.

The e-system, dubbed ODEL (Open distance e-learning) platform, will facilitate learning for continuing students in 89 programs.

Some of the courses to be taught online include; B.A. of Cooperatives’ Management and Development, PhD in Agriculture and Community Innovation, Master of Agriculture and Rural Innovation, Bachelor of Agriculture and Community Management, MSc. in Climate Change And Food Security among others.

The online program will start on November 2, 2020 and each student is required to own a smart phone, laptop or tablet in order to access the classes.

The Vice Chancellor urged lecturers and students to take up online studies.

“We shall be conducting trainings and running meetings online, so if you do not embrace it, you will be left behind,” she cautioned.

“I have already directed all my staff to upload all their material online and develop modules in the system. Any university that is not ready to endorse the fourth industrial revolution is likely not to survive,” the VC said, citing banks which leveraged a robust digital/ e-banking system to continue running during the pandemic.

Kamatenesi says students will first undergo training on how to use the technology, then receive handouts to ensure a smooth transition into e-learning.

“The ultimate goal is to migrate to blended learning” the Vice Chancellor said

Addressing cost concerns related to adopting the new technology, Prof. Kamatenesi suggested that the cost of acquiring new gadgets would be offset by savings on school uniform and other items like books and pens.

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Farmers in Northern Uganda to embark on growing Rosemary

Hundreds of farmers in Acoli and Lango sub regions have received training on Rosemary growing from Special Anointing Oil, SAO-Uganda, an NGO that promotes growth of the popular herb around the country.

Rosemary is a perennial evergreen herb with blue flowers and minty, piney aroma. Native to the Mediterranean, it is now naturalised in East Africa.

In August this year, SAO-Uganda started training farmers interested in growing Rosemary in Lango sub-region.

Peter Otim, a farmer in Atuku town Council in Kwania district, is among the farmers who received training in growing the medicinal plant.

Otim told theCooperator that about at least 26 farmers in his area underwent the training, and more are showing interest in joining.

“I took interest in the plant because I learned about its numerous medicinal benefits. Secondly, the plant is drought-, pest- and disease-resistant,” he said.

Otim, who confessed that he first heard about Rosemary during the training, plans to dedicate two acres of land to growing the herb because he is convinced that he will get good returns from the venture.

“Besides, the company that trained us will buy the harvest, so I won’t have to worry about marketing it,” he added.

Pascal Osire, the Northern Uganda Regional Coordinator SAO-Uganda observes that the company trained farmers in all districts in Lango and Acoli sub-regions, except Amolatar, Dokolo and Amuru districts. The company expects to recruit 36 farmers per district after the training.

“Planting of the crop will start next season. Right now, we are training farmers and preparing their mindset. Next month we will be able to know how many people per village are willing to do the Rosemary growing,” Osire said.

“We want to recruit community investors who will be in charge of our projects in each district, then ambassadors at the parish level, for effective communication, reporting and quick response when a farmer needs assistance,” he added.

The agreement

Osire said the company is drafting a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to be signed by the farmers on acquisition of seedlings and marketing.

Under the proposed MoU, the company would supply farmers with seedlings on credit, which would then be paid for by the farmers in two instalments.

Osire said a farmer requires 6,000 seedlings of Rosemary to cover an acre of garden, which will be sold to them at Shs 1000 each. Other dealers in Rosemary seedlings, he says, sell each seedling at Shs 5,000.

“This implies that if a farmer wants to plant an acre, they will need Shs 6m. But we are giving the seedlings on credit because most of our farmers can’t raise Shs 6m at once,” he said.

“This will motivate the farmers take care of the crop well, knowing that they have a debt to pay,” Osire said.

Harvesting and marketing

Osire said the first harvest of Rosemary is done after 6-7 months, with a minimum yield of 1500 kilograms per acre, which is then sold at Shs 5000 per kilogram.

“That means a farmer will get Shs 7.5 million in the first harvest, and the same amount after subsequent harvests that will be done after every four months, for five years,” Osire said.

“However, when one does value addition, by for instance drying the Rosemary, they get between Shs 11-12m per harvest,” he said.

Osire noted farmers’ concerns over marketability of the product, but assured them that under the proposed MoU to be signed with the farmers, SAO-Uganda would commit to buying all the their Rosemary harvests.

Why Rosemary?

According to Osire, the company chose the Rosemary project after researching on and learning of its numerous health benefits.

“We found that it [Rosemary] heals many diseases. So, we want farmers to grow it and we make herbal medicine out of them. We can make 40 products out of Rosemary,” he said.

In addition to being used to treat headaches, poor circulation, depression, muscle cramps, to detoxify and boost the immune system, Rosemary is also used in the kitchen for food seasoning.

Osire said the company recently installed a machine for processing Rosemary oil in Kyengera.

“When we start using that machine, we will need about 10 tonnes of Rosemary every day,” he said.

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UNBS develops 110 new standards for food and agricultural sector

In a move aimed at promoting the quality, safety and competitiveness of agricultural commodities on the Ugandan market, the Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) has developed over 110 new standards for products in the food and agricultural sector.

The Executive Director of UNBS, Eng. Dr. Ben Manyindo, made the revelation while presenting the 2019/20 UNBS annual performance report at Uganda Media Centre recently, saying:

“Standards and conformity assessments improve efficiency of production, facilitate international trade and contribute towards Uganda’s economic development, food security and the livelihood of the people.”

Manyindo urged those involved in the trade of food and agricultural produce to familiarise themselves with the standards in order to avoid falling afoul of the law.

“UNBS will have the standards enforced with no body having any excuse for pleading ignorance,” he warned.

The Standards boss revealed that the Bureau developed 505 standards last financial year, of which 110 are in the food and agricultural sector, bringing the total number of standards in use in the country today to 3948.

In other areas, 125 standards were developed for engineering, 148 in chemicals and consumer products and 122 for management and services. Manyindo stated that the newly developed standards will support key sectors and catalyse Uganda’s economic growth.

To boost comprehension and implementation of the standards, the bureau has moved on to simplify select food and agricultural standards into easy-to-use guidelines, translated into widely spoken local languages, a move that has benefitted over 600 farmers in the country so far.

The UNBS report also noted an 11% improvement in its market surveillance and inspection performance from 6,648 done the previous year to 7,345 inspections conducted last financial year, covering 56% of the entire country.

The surveillance effort unearthed some areas of concern with regard to sub-standard goods and non-compliance with standards requirements.

“The prevalence of sub-standards goods on the market is still a challenge especially from the informal business, thus calling for more efforts in consumer vigilance, market information sharing, partnership at local governments and consumer awareness,” Manyindo commented.

From import inspection and surveillance in 2019/20, Manyindo said that UNBS intercepted and destroyed a total of 232 metric tonnes of sub-standard goods, worth over Shs 2.5bn. Although the Executive Director said UNBS is moving to tighten inspection at border points and decentralize services to different districts, he notes that there is a staff gap as they currently have over 1,400 workers out of an expected 6,000.

Manyindo also says that out of a total of Shs 68.9bn approved, government released only Shs 59.7bn as budget for financial year 2019/2020 out of which the bureau generated and remitted Non Tax Revenue of Shs 38.2bn to the consolidated fund.

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Local non-profit mentors farmers into entrepreneurs

In a bid to break the cycle of poverty, thousands of farmers in Gulu, Nwoya, and Kitgum district have embraced entrepreneurship, engaging in income generating activities like retailing silver fish, vegetables and other produce.

This after they were mentored by Village Enterprise, a non-profit organization through its Saving With A Purpose(SWAP) scheme that teaches members to first identify their need and then save for it for a particular period.

Participants in the scheme say the practice of targeted saving it encourages has been a life-changer. Last Tuesday, the group members shared their savings after nine months of saving.

Milly Achola, a 50-year old resident of Kiceke village in Paicho Sub county, Gulu district says that she has belonged to saving groups before, but her experience with SWAP has been different.

“I did not know much about business. I would just save for schools fees and had no money to buy even just household utensils, but now I can proudly host my friends and relatives,” the mother of five said, showing off the household items she had bought through the scheme.

Okot Patrick Obbo, the L.C I General Secretary Kiceke village said the SWAP scheme has reduced gender based violence in the area by involving the entire family.

“In other saving groups, locals sneak to save money; sometimes women will even steal farm produce to sell off in order to get money to save weekly but usually ends in fights between couples. With SWAP, both partners and their children are involved, so it’s a collective effort which discourages secrecy,” he said.

Farmers to entrepreneurs

Village enterprise’s Saving With A Purpose (SWAP) scheme was launched in 2016 in Nwoya district to help individuals and businesses set and achieve specific targets. The non-profit which also operates in Gulu and Nwoya recently extended operations to Kiryandongo and Masindi.

They mostly deal with farmers, retailers, produce dealers and skilled business people like tailors and restaurant operators.

Agnes Aryemo, a business mentor at Village Enterprise, says each group consisting of three members is given a grant of Shs 520,000 to start an enterprise of their choice.

“Being in a group encourages sustainability of the project and safety of the grant. If one person decides to leave the group, the remaining two members can continue,” she said.

“Much as many of the members are farmers, the program encourages them to engage in income generating activities so that they can have a good cash flow,” Aryemo added.

Aryemo trains the group members on skills like writing business plans and record keeping, among others to ensure that the businesses are sustainable and profit making.

“I have seen families transformed. There are families which did not have even cups with which to drink water when the project started.

It’s common for saving groups to spend all their money on clothes, food and unnecessary things because they don’t save with a purpose,” she pointed out.

According to Zita Akwero, the Northern Regional Manager Village Enterprise, a total of 4,075 farmers in Gulu, Nwoya and Kitgum have since 2016 benefited from the project.

In Kiceke village, Paicho Sub County, Gulu district, 30 women-mostly farmers under Rubangatwero Bolicup saving group told Mega FM, a local radio station, that they have been able to acquire household assets after engaging in commercial farming and other income generating activities like retailing vegetables.

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Thugs hit Mbarara cooperative, kill two guards

Police in Mbarara is investigating circumstances under which two security guards were killed on Sunday after unknown assailants attacked a local cooperative.

According to Rwizi Region Police spokesperson, ASP Samson Kasasira, the deceased were guarding Nyakayojo People’s SACCO located in Karama 1 cell Rwakishakizi ward Nyakayojo Division Mbarara City.

The incident happened over the weekend (Sunday) when the as-yet-unidentified assailants attacked Nyakayojo SACCO with the suspected aim of robbing its property.

“Today 11th October at about 0700hrs we received information from Nyakayojo Police Post that two security guards guarding at Nyakayojo People’s SACCO were found dead,” Kasasira said.

The spokesperson said a team of investigators including the Rwizi Regional Scene of Crime Officer (SOCO), canine and homicide investigators rushed to the scene to begin inquiries into the incident.

The deceased were identified as Herbert Tugume aged 22 a resident of Kitabo cell in Kashongi Sub County, Kiruhura district, and 22-year old Igga Budalla from Buteraniro Nyeihanga Rwampara district, both attached to Securiwise Security Company Ltd.

According to the police, two guards were stuck with blunt objects that led to their death on spot. Kasasira further disclosed that a rifle with three rounds and a baton were recovered at the scene.

He said the assailants first destroyed the CCTV camera at the cooperative before breaking into the co-op’s premises to steal a 32-inch LG television, an HP laptop, Network router and a TECNO Pop 2 mobile phone.

However, the SACCO money was not taken after the assailants attempted but apparently failed to break into the safe.

“Cash in the strong room was found intact because the safe was too strong for the thieves to break into,” said one of the SACCO’s employees.

Nyakayojo people’s SACCO is one of the leading financial cooperatives in Mbarara, with a total turnover of more than Shs 2 bn.

Attempts by theCooperator to reach the SACCO’s Manager for comment on the incident were unfruitful as he repeatedly turned down our calls.

The bodies of the deceased were taken to Mbarara Regional Referral hospital for post-mortem.

Kasasira says no arrests have been made so far, but investigations are ongoing.

He advised financial institutions to employ competently trained security personnel to guarantee the safety of their members’ savings.

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