A group of taxi-moto operators from the Eastern Province, UNESCOM, has sued Rwanda Cooperatives Agency (RCA) demanding for compensation for the losses they incurred when their union was dissolved.
The group, which is comprised of twelve cooperatives from seven districts that make up the Eastern Province, alleges that their union was illegally dissolved by RCA.
This is the second time RCA and UNESCOM are locking horns in a court battle after the former sued last year and lost.
Until its dissolution last year, the union was made up of 3,755 members.
Ruhirwa Mugabo, the president of UNESCOM, told The New Times that besides seeking unspecified amount compensation from RCA, they want court to clear the union of any wrongdoing and instead hold anyone suspected of any crime to individual responsibility.
“Our members who had gotten motorcycles on loan took advantage and fled without paying. We want RCA to compensate the union for those losses and we also would like the court to hold individuals accountable. The union itself is not liable because crimes, if any, are individual,” he said.
Limited company controversy
The issues between the two institutions stem mostly from the UNESCOM’s formation of UNESCOM multi-purpose, a separate limited company that operates 30 coaster public transportation buses.
According to Mugabo, the establishment of UNESCOM multi-purpose was protested by RCA, saying that it was outside the scope of motorcycle business.
“RCA’s mandate doesn’t go beyond issuing authorisation to open a limited company, we went through the Rwanda Development Board. Our union was growing. Did any of our members complain that they had lost money? Why should we be stuck in small ideas like motorcycles when we can grow?” he wondered.
Appearing before the parliamentary Standing Committee on Political Affairs and Gender recently, the Director General of RCA, Jean Bosco Harelimana, said that UNESCOM had, among other mistakes, failed to control its members, leaving them to commit crimes, including cross border ones.
“One of their duties was to control these people and to make sure that what they are doing is productive. For that to function, there must be a functional management team,” he said.
He accused them of failing to hold two annual general assemblies, pointing out that UNESCOM management was not legally authorised to invest the union’s money.
RCA’s Chief Cooperatives Inspector in Eastern Province, Bellanale Mukarere, confirmed that they had been summoned to court insisting that the case was being dragged on by disgruntled former employees, some of whom, she said, were suspected of embezzling company funds.
“At the time of giving the union autonomy, we felt that it was a great idea but, unfortunately, they could not deliver on their mission, whether it was authorisation, training or even helping them to purchase motorcycles,” he said.
Mukarere explained that for a union to be considered legal, it must have more than three cooperatives which at the time of dissolution was not the case for UNESCOM.
“Most of the members had left after the union failed to deliver and for a union to be legal, it must have at least three or more cooperatives under its wings. It had only two active ones. The law says that if there is a reduction of more than 50 per cent members, the cooperative must be dissolved without discussion,” she explained.
MP Valens Muhakwa blamed RCA for the confusion and asked them to take responsibility for losing the court case.
“How did a union get to a point of opening a company and buy 30 coasters without your knowledge? I feel that there is an issue and you should accept responsibility. I feel losing in court is your fault because you only seem to see things from the surface until it’s too late,” he said.
The court case is scheduled for January 24.