The tobacco farmers protesting at the gate of West Nile Cooperative Union on Monday

The tobacco farmers protesting at the gate of West Nile Cooperative Union on Monday

TEREGO | RedPepper Digital – Over 100 tobacco farmers affiliated with West Nile Cooperative Union Limited took to the street on Monday to protest against Continental Tobacco Company for failing to pay their money amounting to UGX9.7billion.

The farmers who are part of the 1,500 affected persons matched to the Continental Tobacco Company offices at Wandi trading centre in Katrini Sub County, Terego District demanding an explanation about their money which the company has been holding since 2018.

Carrying placards with different inscriptions including ‘Our friends are dying of stress,’ the farmers kept on chanting ‘we want our tobacco money’ slogan until they forced their way through the gate of the West Nile Cooperative United Limited to the company’s office which is housed within the cooperative premises.

Luiji Bayo, one of the affected farmers said they have waited for so long, adding that the time has come for them to push the government of Uganda to act on Continental Tobacco Company.

Bayo who is demanding shs4.5m worth of his tobacco sold to Continental Tobacco Company said it is unfortunate that the government is only talking about the farmers in Bunyoro region forgetting about those in West Nile.

“Four years down the road, no one is thinking about us yet we are suffering down here. I lost my son recently, and I was forced to borrow money for his funeral. Now people are hard on me yet Continental Tobacco Company is holding my money. I want the government to force them to pay me now,” Bayo said.

Justo Ezati, another farmer said it has become hard for him to pay his children’s school fees because his shs22m has remained with Continental Tobacco Company.

Madelena Ozuru, a widow who is taking care of her 9 children said the company has made life very hard for her since 2018 when she sold her tobacco.

“I am demanding shs1.4m from Continental Tobacco Company. I intended to use this money for feeding my children and also buy clothes for them, but since then, the company doesn’t think of paying us thus leaving me to suffer from my family. I’m requesting President Museveni to intervene in this matter so that we can get paid,” Ozuru appealed.

Waigera speaks to the aggrieved tobacco farmers at his office on Monday

Meanwhile, Richard Andama said as farmers, they have lost hope in the West Nile Cooperative Union Limited because the Union officials are not fighting for their (farmers’) right.

“There is actually no Union here, this Union has only three to four people running it yet the government is investing a lot of money in it for nothing, look at the tractors that are lying idle here. This union is not helping us at all. We want it disbanded,” Andama demanded.

But while addressing the aggrieved farmers at his office, Peter Waigera, the Continental Tobacco Company Area Manager for West Nile region apologized to the farmers, saying the delay to pay them was as a result of no business.

“First of all, I want to apologize on behalf of the company for the delay of your payment. What I can report here is that the company has been having a lot of challenges, the business has not been doing well and that is why we were unable to pay you up to now. You are aware we used to operate in DR Congo and South Sudan but we are no longer there, so that is the situation we are in,” Waigera explained.

He, however, promised that the company is trying to get some money and see whether all the farmers can be cleared very soon.

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