By PATRICK JARAMOGI
KAMPALA-SHIFTMEDIA- Elements described as “mafia gangs’ by those close to them have infiltrated the labour unions in Uganda.
The infiltration is sharply threatening to ruin the two existing Labour unions, Confederation of Free Trade Unions (COFTU), and the National Organisation of Trade Union (NOTU), our investigations have unearthed.
Just like the ‘elements’ within COFTU ganged up and booted its chairman General Milton Tuyrareeba in a ‘kangaroo’ like elections held in the middle of an island in Busia on April 23, 2021, a similar scenario awaits NOTU.
We have established that similar elements within NOTU have planned for a ‘surreptitious’ meeting geared at booting out Chairman General Usher Wilson Owere above this Friday.
How COFTU Chairman was thrown out
When disagreements arise among leaders, with another objecting to what he/she perceives not to be right, divisions always emerge.
We have established, though yet to ascertain its gravity, in terms of truth, that when Workers MP and COFTU Secretary-General Dr. Sam Lyomoki lost his seat, he attributed his failure to his chairman General Milton Tuyrareeba.
On Saturday, April 23, 2021, COFTU Secretary-General Dr. Sam Lyomoki called his members for a prompt congress in Busi Islands in Busia district.
According to Tuyrareeba, Lyomoki ambushed the members. “There was no agenda apart from the election of a chairman General, my position. Lyomoki was the returning officer, the organizer, as well as announcer of the winner,” said Turyareeba.
“The whole thing was just circus. Some delegates were not paid up members. The guidelines, as per our constitution was not followed,” he said.
He said Lyomoki had ganged up with his inner circle diehards, Peninah Tukamwesiga to have him thrown out.
“All these fights against me started in 2018. I replaced Christopher Kahirita who had abandoned the center because of Lyomoki’s behaviors. Kahirita warned me as he left,” said Turyareeba
He said when the slot for NSSF board member arose, Lyomoki asked for his papers, but he didn’t submit them despite having the required qualifications of a Masters in Finance and Accounting. “Though he (Lyomoki) took my papers, he didn’t submit them. He instead fronted his brother a one Magoola and that of Peninah into the NSSF Board,” fumed Turyareeba.
He said: “Lyomoki decided to throw me out because I didn’t support him in the recent campaigns where he lost the MP workers seat. I did my part to ensure that he wins, but workers were asking us on the ground what he had done for the past 30 years.” “He lost because for 30 years he did literally nothing.”
Turyareeba has since petitioned the Ministry of Gender challenging his booting. In the petition to Registrar Labour Unions (that we have obtained) Martin Wandera dated April 26 2021, Turyamureeba notes that articles 7 (1), 19 (3), 25 (4), and (26) were breached.
“Any person contesting for the position of Chairman General is supposed to pay in the bank shs200,000 before picking nomination fees from the secretariat.” “The contestants are also required to get at least 5 signatures from each of the 12 affiliated COFTU unions in the country. This wasn’t done,” he explained.
Turyareeba also castigated the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) Boss Richard Byarugaba for funding the fraudulent elections by donating shs25m. “What is he (Byarugaba) funding? How can you fund a project without a budget and work plan? He must be held accountable for funding people who destabilize leaders of workers,” said Turyareeba.
Richard Byarugaba however said as NSSF they fund both unions as a practice. “I wouldnt know what the funds we gave them was meant for. We normally contribute to both Unions, NOTU and COFTU, for their congresses. How they utilize the money is on thier accountability. I only know more about the two union representantive from NOTU and COFTU who seat on the NSSF Board. I didn’t even know Milton until you told me about him”.
Turyareeba also accused Lyomoki of lying to the president about the 2011 Presidential pledge to COFTU during the Labor day celebrations. “The president in 2011 promised COFTU shs983m for the establishment of COFTU centre. I have been following this money, it hasn’t yet come, now he wants to claim it so that they can chew it.”
When we contacted the COFTU Secretary-General, lashed out at Turyareeba’s allegations. “All that he claims are not true. It wasn’t a vote of no confidence but the 4th congress of COFTU,” said Lyomoki.
He said COFTU annually has ADCs and 5 tiers Congresses so this was the 4th Congress, 20 years of ADC. Responding to claims that Milton was booted out, Lyomoki said: “Milton had never been a Chairman General, but merely acting in an interim capacity.”
He said John Oketcho Siel, the former Deputy Secretary-General was elected as the new Chairman General.
Registrar Labour Union directs
After receiving Turyareeba’s petition, Martin Wandera the Registrar Labour Union wrote to Dr. Lyomoki instructing him to respond to the allegations raised by the chairman General with evidence. He gave him 14 days that expired on May 10, 2021.
Lyomoki in a 24-page rebuttal responded saying Milton has never been an elected Chairman General. He notes that due to his unpopularity, he only managed to get 17 votes, while his competitor Oketcho Siel got 84 votes. He described Turyamureeba’s petition as a betrayal and embarrassment to COFTU.