Gulu City Traders Issue Ultimatum To Umeme

GULU – Gulu Market vendors have issued a two weeks ultimatum to electricity distribution company, Umeme: Stop the power outages or brace for street protests.

Complaints have been piling but the latest power outage that lasted three weeks triggered an outpouring of anger from mainly members of Gulu Main Market Vendors SACCO.

On April 20, at least 400 residents of Gulu City petitioned Umeme to stop the power outages.

The petition was handed over to Gulu Resident City Commissioner, Nsubuga Bwehayo and Doreen Ogenga, the area Umeme manager. Aswa River Region Police Commander, the District Police Commander and the 4th division army barracks commander got copies.

The petitioners are demanding constant and adequate power supply lest they pour onto streets in protests in two weeks.

Patrick Omaya, the Chairman Gulu Main Market Vendors SACCO, said constant power outages, have cost them clients. He said some business can’t do without power, such as salons, milk coolers, and tailors.

“And there are some sections of the market such as the basement that need constant power. We have tried with Gulu city, vendors clear all their bills and Umeme cuts power claiming council has not cleared the bills,” he said.

Joyce Luyom, the vice chairperson of Gulu Main Market SACCO, said power outages are a big nightmare.

“If you go to the basement during day or night you can’t carry out any meaningful transaction. And if a criminal decides to enter that place, they can kill without their victim recognizing them,” Luyom said.

Since 2016, a year after the main market was commissioned, vendors have been complaining about poor lighting during day time. In the same year, vendors called for the installation of solar panels to address the issue of power outages.

The poor lighting in the basement forced vendors with stalls there to move out and display their goods in the market compound.

This has also drawn complaints from other vendors who claim they are being undercut by colleagues selling merchandise in the compound.

Margaret Auma, who sells second hand clothes in the basement, said when there is no power, she gets no more than two clients a day.

“Constant power blackout in the market forces me to carry my goods to the compound twice daily, which is very tiring,” Auma said, adding “that is the only way I can at least get some money.

Susan Adong, a tailor, said when there is no power, she is completely out of business.

“The machine I use to design patterns on my clients’ clothes cannot work without power,” Adong said.

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Anger In Hoima As Leaders Cling On To Emyooga Cash

HOIMA –As district authorities in Hoima continue to hold on to certificates of 62 savings and credit co-operatives (Sacco) denying them access to Emyooga cash for weeks, angry complaints are piling and some savers are demanding refunds.

The complainants are largely members of different Emyooga associations, who formed SACCOs hoping to benefit from the Presidential Initiative On job And Wealth Creation.

Florence Asaba, the Chairperson of Hoima West Women Entrepreneur SACCO, said some members have lost hope of getting the Emyooga cash and are demanding refunds.

Much as the money is already on the SACCO accounts, she said savers cannot access it because they don’t have certificates. She demanded to know why government is delaying to release certificates to members.

“As the chairperson of the SACCO I am finding challenges, people have been saving, others paid for share and subscription fees but what they expected is not materializing, so some members have started demanding for refunds so that they withdraw from the SACCO,” she said.

Interviewed for comment, Andrew Zimbe, the Midwestern Regional Manager for the Microfinance Support Center (MSC), said the SACCO certificates were released to the district leadership headed by Hoima Resident City Commissioner (RCC) Samuel Kisembo.

He said the center released 62 out of 72 certificates to the district leaders.

According to him, Hoima district has 72 SACCOs, which were formed from 1,460 Emyooga associations.

The SACCOs are in four constituencies; Hoima West division, Hoima East division, Kigorobya and Bugahya County. Each constituency has 18 SACCOs.

Each constituency is supposed to get Shs 560 million out of Shs 2.24 billion disbursed to the entire Western district of Hoima to benefit 1,460 Emyooga SACCOs.

“We handed over 62 certificates to the RCC two weeks ago, we are just left with 10 certificates, which we are planning to deliver soon,” Zimbe said by telephone on Friday, April 16.

Interviewed on April 19, Kisembo, the RCC, admitted the district received the certificates.

He said they are holding on to the certificates because there are no guidelines on how the money should be managed.

He said they want to train SACCO leaders, beneficiaries and commercial banks managers in SACCO management.

“We received the certificates from MSC but we want to first prepare ourselves before members start accessing this money and we are doing this to avoid what is happening in other districts like Kikuube where SACCO leaders are embezzling the money.” Kisembo said.

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Emyooga Program Is Not Political –Lira RDC

LIRA –Appearing on 88.0 Voice of Lango FM, Lira Deputy Resident Commissioner rigorously fended off pointed allegations that the Presidential Initiative On Job and Wealth Creation, Emyooga program, was introduced to benefit President Museveni’s re-election.

Speaking on Coop Talks on April 20, a radio-talk show sponsored by The Uhuru Institute for Social Development, James Chemutai, said they have heard malicious rumors, which are false that Emyooga program was a political campaign tool.

The malicious rumor, he said, has been propelled by some local leaders, who did not understand the concept of the new government program.

Chemutai said the Emyooga program was established to empower Ugandans with seed capital to fight unemployment. He urged people to steer away from political propaganda.

“Emyooga program targets Ugandans, especially in the informal sector that come together and form savings and credit cooperatives (SACCOs) under 18 Clusters,” he said.

Chemutai said the clusters include; boda-boda riders, taxi drivers, restaurants, welders, market vendors, women entrepreneurs, youth leaders, people with disabilities, journalists, performing artists, carpenters, salon operators, tailors, mechanics, produce dealers, veterans, fishermen and elected leaders.

From the time of its launch in August, 2019 by President Yoweri Museveni, Chemutai noted that about 51 SACCOs including, 33 from Erute North and Erute South constituencies, and 18 in Lira City have already received Shs 30 million each.

Several emyooga beneficiaries who called into the talk show, expressed dissatisfaction with the way the program is handled by the responsible government officials. They said some beneficiaries have either failed to get the funds or get less than expected.

Emmanuel Ogwal, a youth chairperson of Dokolo North Carpenters’ Association, which comprises 30 members, said they were given Shs 30 million but were told to first raise Shs 500 million from other sources before withdrawing the cash.

Lillian Owino, an entrepreneur from Alebtong district, said there are too many fees beneficiaries pay before they finally get the money. She said, however that before she got her money, she was asked whether she supported NRM. When she said yes, her papers were processed.

Denis Okonye from Abim district decried the long process and troubles beneficiaries have to endure including walking for several days to the offices to access the money.

Okonye wondered why government does not use the established structures in different sectors including member-associations like Uganda Manufacturers Association.

In response, Lira district Commercial Officer, Josephine Alobo said they have been gathering people’s views on the rescue funds and are compiling a paper to submit to the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development for redress.

Alobo said the red-tape is meant to ensure the money is not mismanaged. She however, reminded emyooga beneficiaries to save a lot.

“It’s only a foolish farmer who begins to cook the seed and eat it up, the president has made an initiative to give you the seed and it’s upon you to grow or plant this seed so that you can be able to get many seeds, so that at the end of the day you are socially and economically empowered,” she noted.

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Beneficiaries: Emyooga Cash For SACCOs Too Little

“You find a Sacco with over 500 members in different associations in a constituency getting Shs 30 million, do you expect it to help them out of poverty. I saw some members in my area getting Shs 50,000. How do you move from one step to another with that meager support?” one caller asked.

MASINDI –During an appearance on Kings Radio recently, Moses Kalyegira, the District Commercial Officer of Masindi, said disbursement of emyooga funds in the Western district is almost complete.

Speaking on a talk show program sponsored by The Uhuru Institute for Social Development on April 20, Kalyegira said there are only four savings and credit cooperatives, SACCOs, which haven’t got their money because they have a few issues to resolve.

“We are helping these SACCOs get their money. They have a few challenges but we are helping to resolve them. The money is there on their SACCO accounts. After resolving their issues they will access the money. The other SACCOs have all got their money and they have started using it,” he said.

He also dismissed as false claims that emyooga funds were introduced as bait for votes for President Museveni during the January 14 2021 presidential election. He said the program was introduced before campaigns started.

“This program was introduced to supplement on what people were doing already and also to support other program like the National Agriculture Advisory Services (NAADS), Operation Wealth Creation (OWC) and the Uganda Women Entrepreneurship Program (UWEP) among others,” Kalyegira added.

He also used the radio appearance to clarify that the program never came to kill the traditional SACCOs as many people claim. He said the program is tailored to organize and support people who are organized in one cluster.

According to Kalyegira, Masindi District received Shs 1.6 billion, channeled through 54 SACCOs. The 54 SACCOs were formed in three constituencies; Masindi Municipality, Bujenje County and Buruli.

The official disbursement of the funds was launched in March 2021 by Rose Kirabira, the Masindi Resident District Commissioner.

Kalyegira however, said SACCO members need to have saved at least 30 percent of the money they are applying for to access emyooga cash from the bank. He said requirement is a big challenge for most SACCOs.

Pamela Nyakato, the chairperson of Bujenje Constituency Leaders Emyooga SACCO, said the program has created jobs, knowledge and skills sharing since people doing similar things meet and share experiences.

Challenges faced

Nyakato also noted that the program is saddled with many challenges and a lot of sensitization is needed.

“Many people thought this program was a thank you (to them) from the president for mobilizing voter support for him. It’s very hard to remove this thinking from the members but we’re trying hard to do the needful and some members have started understanding it,” she noted.

Nyakato also said most members have a poor saving culture. She said many people save in anticipation of getting emyooga money and once they lay their hands on it, they disappear.

“Many SACCOs are also facing a challenge of unskilled leaders. Many people are illiterate and are running these SACCOs. Proper record keeping is a problem. Even accessing the money from the bank is a problem since many are forced to sign several times. You find their signatures varying,” she said.

“For instance, for a member to get money from the Sacco he or she should have saved at least 30% of the money he or she is applying for but few meet this requirement and yet this is the applicants’ security,” she said.

People’s reaction

Most callers however, expressed dissatisfaction with the program. They said the money is too little to move members to another level.

“You find a SACCO with over 500 members in different associations in a constituency getting Shs 30 million, do you expect it to help them out of poverty. I saw some members in my area getting Shs 50,000. How do you move from one step to another with that meager support?” one caller asked.

Another caller was unhappy with the delayed disbursement of the funds. He said they spent a lot on transport following up on their applications.

“We have been putting in a lot of money following up the matter with the bank and other officials but what we are getting as members is very little compared to what we put in. SACCOs with many associations would have been given more money instead of only Shs. 30 million per Sacco,” he said.

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