Workers unions throw out chairman general Owere

Left to right: Moses Mauku, Peter Werikhe, and Stephen Mugole are seen during the meeting that impeached Usher Wilson Owere (inset) in Kampala on November 15, 2022. PHOTO/DAMALI MUKHAYE

What you need to know:

  • During a general council meeting at a tightly-guarded hotel in Kampala yesterday, the unions accused Mr Owere of incompetence, dictatorship and intrigue.

A total of 24 out of 34 workers’ unions under the National Organisation of Trade Unions (Notu) have passed a vote of no confidence in Mr Usher Wilson Owere as the body’s chairman general.

During a general council meeting at a tightly-guarded hotel in Kampala yesterday, the unions accused Mr Owere of incompetence, dictatorship and intrigue.

Mr Owere, who was reported to be nursing his mother-in-law, received the news of his impeachment while at the hospital through social media.

The unions warned the Notu leader, who has occupied the office for the last 14 years since 2008, not to step near his office until the delegates meeting slated for next year, sits to either exonerate him or drop him officially.

Mr Owere’s vice chairperson, Mr Stephen Mugole, was voted as the acting chairperson general.

In an interview with Daily Monitor, Mr Mugole said since 24 out of the 34 unions affiliated to Notu signed the resolution to impeach his boss, no one can go against the decision since it is by the majority.

“Our constitution stipulates that once we have 50 percent of members present, we have a quorum. Since we had 66 percent of members in attendance, no one can dismiss the decision we made,” he said.

The unions’ executives also accused Mr Owere of imposing policies on members and that he appointed himself as a titular head of Notu, a position Mr Mugole said does not exist in the body’s structure and had thus caused a crisis in the institution.

Mr Owere’s impeachment came one day after a court order blocking the extra ordinary general council meeting that passed the vote of no confidence in their boss.

The court order issued on November 14, blocks Mr Peter Werikhe, the Notu secretary general from holding any council meeting.

However, Mr Mugole said they did not receive the said court order.

Other members who were elected yesterday include Mr Richard Bigirwa, who was voted as the acting secretary general to replace Mr Werikhe.

Mr Werikhe stepped down at will.

Others are Mr Moses Mauku, who was elected acting treasurer general, and Ms Barbra Bandaru as the acting deputy treasurer general. All the candidates were unopposed.

Mr Usher Wilson Owere, the chairman of Notu

Mr Werikhe, who is also the MP for Bubulo West in Manafwa District, said Mr Owere was suspended with immediate effect and the new team was expected to start work immediately even before swearing-in.

Owere speaks out

Mr Owere told the Monitor yesterday that the meeting was conducted illegally and in contempt of court.

“That meeting was illegal. There was a court order addressed to the person who was supposed to call that meeting and there is nothing like ‘extra-ordinary general council’,” Mr Owere said.

“They are neglecting the law [but] we are going to follow the law. We are already in court. They are the ones who have broken the law. They should be arrested for contempt of court. Let us watch the space,” he added.

Owere instead accused Mr Werikhe of dodging to answer to some accountability issues by stepping down prematurely.

“Mr Werikhe has accountability issues he has to answer. Why is he running away from this? There is a lot of money he got form the union and he does not want to account for it,” Mr Owere said.

However, Mr Owere’s accusers defended Mr Werikhe, saying before any money is withdrawn from the union’s accounts, Mr Owere as the chairperson and his executive are supposed to be in the know.

“If the chairperson says his secretary stole money from the union, he should be part of the game because he is a signatory to all those accounts,” Mr John Oprong, the general secretary of Uganda Media Union, said.

Mr Werikhe, on the other hand, said he stepped down from the position of Notu secretary general so as to concentrate on his duties as MP.

About Notu

Notu was established by Decree No. 29 of 1973 during Idi Amin’s regime.

It’s mandated to advocate and protect workers’ rights in the formal and informal sectors of work, enhance capacity building of workers’ unions for sustainable development and growth, advocate for strong labour standards and legislation, and to offer legal services to her affiliates as a means of promoting accessible justice to vulnerable workers, among others.

Mr Owere was elected Notu chairman general in 2008. Before being elected to the position, Mr Owere first served as the operations officer and later as a security attendant at Entebbe airport, and as works secretary at Entebbe Municipal.