Did SAACO Leaders Burn Owino?

The recent fire that gutted Owino market destroyed property worth billions
The recent fire that gutted Owino market destroyed property worth billions

A section of the Nakivubo Parkyard Market vendors have accused the leaders of their Kampala United Parkyard Cooperative Savings and Savings Credit Society (KUPYCSO) of being behind the December 4, 2013 market fire.

Many of the vendors who work in the market around Nakivubo Stadium, in downtown Kampala, are members of the KUPYCSO.

The vendors go on to accuse the Kampala Assistant Resident City Commissioner (RCC) Rose Kirabira of colluding with the KUPYCSO leadership to steal the 1 billion shillings they were supposed to receive.

The vendors who spoke to our reporters on condition of anonymity voiced these suspicions because Kirabira has been urging government to waive repayment of a 1 billion shillings loan.

The vendors were supposed to receive the money after the July 30, 2011 fire that devastated the market.

It is believed that up to 900 vendors received the money under KUPYCSO.

The vendors say that before the latest fire, Kirabira had convened two meetings at Bat Valley Primary school in October 2013 during which she tried to convince the vendors to write to government to waive the 1 billion shillings debt.

The vendors were suspicious because they had been forced to accept a 17% interest on the money they borrowed. The vendors think that the 17% interest was meant to help the KUPYCSO repay the government but this was never done.

The vendors believe that the money meant to repay the government was diverted and they accuse Kirabira of being part of the clique that diverted it.

Red Pepper Online edition  has also learned that a day before the fire, leadership of the dormant KUPYCSO visited and tried to convince the vendors to start saving with it again.

KUPYCSO had become dormant after a fire allegedly destroyed all its records in their offices on MK Plaza, Nakivubo August 2011.

KUPYCSO’s leaders then dispersed to pursue other business ventures. Siraje Bukenya (Public Relations) moved to Mukwano Arcade while Charles Lubega (Chairman) moved to Kasanga where they now operate shops.

The revived KUPYCSO claims to have its offices at Jesco building and is still headed by Charles Lubega.

Kirabira denies siphoning off any money from KUPYCSO.

Kirabira says she advised the vendors to ask for a waiver of the debt on humanitarian grounds because they had lost their property in the fire.

She says that if the debt is not waived, some of the vendors who defaulted on repayment might end up in jail.

She claims it is unfortunate the bulk of the money the vendors were supposed to have received ended up in the pockets of the KUPYCSO leadership. She claims that KUPYCSO chairman Lubega borrowed 9 million shillings from the 1 billion shillings meant for the vendors.

SAACO chairperson Lubega, however, claims he only borrowed 5 million shillings under the scheme. He is yet to repay back the loan.

But Kirabira roundly condemns those vendors who claim they failed to get any money from the KUPYCSO yet they are registered members. She says that, contrary to earlier reports all records were lost in a fire, she still has the records.

Kirabira claims she got access to KUPYCSO in her capacity as responsible for security matters in the area.

Kirabira insists she can produce records of who borrowed money from KUPYCSO and how much each borrowed and now owes.

The aggrieved vendors believe that KUPYCSO want the old debt written off so that they can access the one billion shillings President Museveni promised after the 2013 fire.

KUPYCSO was supposed to repay the 2011 loan to Microfinance Support Centre.

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