By Micheal Atwakiire
Sheema: Kigarama People’s SACCO is at the verge of collapsing totally, due to the alleged violent behaviour by some of its managers, who are allegedly severely torturing members of the SACCO.
Despite being one of the first 4 biggest SACCOs in western Uganda, Kigarama, which operates in various districts with more than 10 branches with it’s head office in Kanyeganyegye, Masheruka Town council, Sheema district, currently face accusation of torture and human rights abuse from its members.
Recently, Spy Uganda ran a story about Kigarama SACCO managers torturing one of its members whom they beat and broke a tooth. The story has since helped to unearth more afflicted members who came out to testify about how they were mistreated and tortured by Kigarama SACCO bosses.
Charles Karuhanga, 32, from Mutanoga, Nyakambu ward Masheruka Town council Sheema district told us that “Whenever I think or hear of the word Kigarama, I shed tears. I obtained a loan of Shs4M from that Sacco on 25th June 2018, and I was supposed to pay it within 22 months.
On 28th May 2019 I went to the SACCO to talk to the manager to tell him that I was to bring loan interests on that day in the afternoon because I had spent two months without paying loan interests.
That day I was proceeding to St John’s to pick my money totaling Shs1.5M. But when I told the branch manager Nyakambu called Boroba Aliphonse, he told me that they won’t allow me to go out of the bank without giving them money. To cut the story short, I insisted on moving out. Boroba and the loans officer Tashobya Innocent ordered the Askari Muhwezi Simon to grab me.
They started beating me like a cockroach. Muhwezi stabbed me with the bayonet on his gun on the right hand. One of them gave me a heavy blow which left my tooth broken. When people gathered and saw I was bleeding, the SACCO managers left me and entered their offices. I have been getting treatment from Mayanja hospital Mbarara and reported the case to police under the file number SD REF 08/28/2019. The case is in currently at the magistrates court in Kagango sheema.”
Sabstiano Byangire, 62, from Kakondo, Bukiro-Kashaari, in Mbarara district said that;
“I have spent more than 16 years in Kigarama people’s SACCO as member, owning over 80 shares. But the young men tortured me and I will never save with Kigarama people’s Sacco again. Over my dead body! I obtained Shs7M from the SACCO which I to pay in 24 months. I was supposed to complete payment on 8/7/2019 because I had remained with only Shs100,000. On 10th July 2019 as I was seated on my veranda, I saw over 16 motorcycles, each with two Kigarama People’s SACCO staff arriving.
They harshly told me to pay their money Shs100,000 and transport of Shs110,000 or else face arrest. I tried explaining that i didn’t have money but the loans officer Duncan Nuwagira pulled me on the ground like a dead body, while three others helped him to carry me harshly. I was saved by my daughter who gave them Shs100,000 and they left me. I have been in a private clinic treating these injuries on my knees and ribs. I reported the case to Masheruka police but they told me to first get letters from LC one and two which I have since got. I feel ashamed to see young boys who are my sons’agemates slapping me because of Shs100,000 out of 7M. In case I dream that one of my children has opened an account in Kigarama people’s SACCO , I will automatically chase him or her out of my family.
Honorata Kadesemba, 43, from Kaziga, Bukiro Kashaari Mbarara district also narrated to us the whole story saying that ” I was from bathing one day when I saw like 12 motorcycles, each with two Kigarama people’s Sacco staff members. I rushed to my bedroom to dress up but as soon as I entered the manager stood outside my bedroom window and told me ‘please nyabo put on your ka dress !’ Immediately a young lady stood on my bedroom window commanding me to move out; remember I was still naked.
I called my son to bring my half-petti which I had forgotten in the bathroom. I told them to leave me and I first put on but they refused. I struggled to close the window and door of my bedroom. One of the staff members whom I don’t know broke my bedroom’s door and they pulled me out. Remember they wanted only Shs25000 . After giving them their money, they went but I’m still asking myself, out of a loan of Shs2M, how can you break my door because of Shs25000?. Although the general manager Kigarama people’s SACCO convinced us that the SACCO would repair the broken door, I vow in the name of Almighty God in Heaven that I will never go back to Kigarama again.”
Tunanukye John, 64, from Katojo Masheruka sub county told us that staff members detained him inside the SACCO at the head office in Kanyeganyegye for over 5 hours on 30th May 2019. “I had gone to clear our group loan; for us we knew that we had a balance of Ssh300,000 out of Shs1.5M. But when I reached the office, they told me we owed them Shs600000, so we had to pay more Shs300000, I told them that since we still have two months to complete our loan, let me go back and sit with my fellow members to explain to them that issue.
The branch manager Osbert directed the Askari not to allow me move out until I paid their money. But remember I’m diabetic and didn’t have airtime on my phone. I asked them permission to go buy airtime such that I would call somebody to bring for me medicine but they refused, until I got a friend who had come to depoist money, who helped me and paid the remaining balance of Shs300,000 before I was released. I reported the case at Masheruka police station under file number SD REF 11/30/05/2019. They didn’t only lock me inside but the Askari even intimidated me by cocking his gun.”
Tumuhairwe Grace, 34, was also tortured by Kigarama people’s SACCO staff who found her in class teaching and carried her like a sack of coffee out of the school gate on 6/7/2019. They accused her of defaulting two days of paying her loan installment. “They were like 20 motorcycles and I had their balance of Shs130,000 out of Shs1.5M I had borrowed. When they reached school at around 2:00pm, they directed me to pay Shs470,000 saying that I’d added in transport fee, surcharge and SMS money.”
However, Harriet Kyosimire, the general manager Kigarama People’s SACCO, told us those clients who claim to have been tortured are debtors who had defaulted.
“None of our staff has ever tortured any customer or member; those people failed to pay their loans and are now looking for ways to dodge paying.” Kyosimire said.
Some staff members who clients complain about include; Boroba Aliphonse branch manager Nyakambu, Duncan Nuwagira credits manager, Tashobya Innocent loans officer and Muhwezi Simon. Some Kigarama Pople’s SACCO staff are to reappear in court in Kagango before the Chief Magistrate Grade One on August 23rd, 2019 for charges of torturing clients.