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400 cooperatives oppose new Bill, term it as punitive

EASTERN
By Phares Mutembei | November 26th 2021

A view of Meru Town. [Courtesy]

At least 400 cooperative societies in Meru County have opposed the draft Co-operative Bill, 2021.

Under the umbrella of the Meru Cooperators Forum that brings together dairy, coffee, tea and other sub-sectors, leaders of the societies termed the proposed laws as punitive.

The farmers and society leaders had converged at St Michael Catholic Retreat Centre, where they vowed to resist the draft laws. They said there were various contentious clauses they were against “because they were meant to wrest control of cooperatives from farmers.”

Among the areas of contention is Section 7(c), which gives registration of cooperatives to the Commissioner for Cooperatives based in Nairobi.

Section 33 of the Bill gives amendment of cooperatives by-laws to the commissioner, while Section 51(7)(a) requires all audited accounts to be submitted to the commissioner for approval before presentation to the members during their annual general meeting.

Farmers are also against Section 58(4)(b), which caps the age limit for board members at 70.

Meru Dairy Union Chief Executive Kenneth Gitonga said cooperatives were a devolved function and vowed that farmers would resist the changes.

“We have gone through all clauses and we are saying it is not good. Taking over power to the commissioner makes the county director of cooperatives irrelevant. None of our 400 cooperatives was given a chance to air its views. We are going to fight this Bill,” he said.

Mr Gitonga said forcing farmers to travel to Nairobi to register new societies did not make sense because the service was available at the county level.

“We are seeing a duplication of services. It gives the commissioner too many powers to run cooperatives. We used to camp in Nairobi looking for a commissioner. In Meru, we have 400 societies and there are many others around the country. How will the commissioner solve our problems if we all go there? We want services near us,” said Gitonga.

He also said farmers should decide on the level of education and age of the leaders of the societies.

Meru Central Coffee Union chairman Ephantus Majau said some of the societies “were started a long time ago by people who were now over 70 years old.”

Meru Dairy Union Secretary Edith Nkatha said they were against the Bill, which also proposes the creation of an independent director to be appointed by the Cabinet secretary.

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