Struggle for power threatens to tear apart workers union

Labour Congress and the Brotherhood-Rwanda (Cotraf), is embroiled in a power struggle, with one faction accusing the head of the union, Dominique Bicamumpaka of over staying in power.
Bicamumpaka (right) addresses journalists at a news briefing on Tuesday. (Edwin Musoni)
Bicamumpaka (right) addresses journalists at a news briefing on Tuesday. (Edwin Musoni)

Labour Congress and the Brotherhood-Rwanda (Cotraf), is embroiled in a power struggle, with one faction accusing the head of the union, Dominique Bicamumpaka of over staying in power.

The feud came to the limelight early this week, when a splinter group led by former executive secretary Alexis Rusine, called the Police seeking to be authorised to take over the union offices from Bicamumpaka on grounds that his five-year term had expired in November last year. The Police didn’t offer the authorisation.

However, Bicamumpaka accuses the rival faction of abuse of office and attempting to assume power by force.

“We called an executive committee meeting to address the issue and plan for a general assembly but we failed to raise the required quorum after the complainants failed to show up,” said Bicamumpaka during a news briefing on Tuesday.

Insisting that the general assembly must be held before the end of 2015, Bicamumpaka also accused Rusine’s faction of not paying periodical members’ contributions.

The four former members of the Contraf executive committee that are against Bicamumpaka, include Rusine, Sylvestre Viguziga, Francois Ntakiyimana and Chatal Mukarutabana.

Bicamumpaka read out 11 charges against Rusine mainly rotating around poor service, abuse of office and misappropriation of the union funds.

But Rusine, who was once the union vice-president and secretary general told The New Times, that he had stepped down because he could not stand the gross abuse of office by his boss.

“His mandate ended and he is neither willing to step down nor call a general assembly,” Rusine said.

“I am not craving for leadership, I was already occupying top positions before I stepped down. If I wanted power, I would have stayed but I cannot work with someone who exhibits favoritism and nepotism tendencies. Bicamumpaka has never presented any financial report of Cotraf because he knows he has misappropriated Cotraf money.”

Although the divisions seem to be sharp, members of the union say the problems are likely to be solved before the next general assembly.

Currently, the union which was established in 2003 has 21,000 members with annual revenue totaling to Rwf50 million much of which comes from foreign donors and remittances of members.

editorial@newtimes.co.rw