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INSIDE STORY: Why Bar Owners Association Bitterly Split

Bar business is one of the most booming ventures in Uganda.  Bars and clubs are mushrooming across the country simply because Uganda is one of the leading alcohol consumers in the world.

In 2016, US based Moguldom Media Group arm AFKinsider ranked Uganda as the drunkest African country after Nigeria.

Another 2014 survey by the Global Status on Alcohol and Health ranked Uganda the highest consumer of alcohol per capita in the East African region.

The survey showed that 23.7 litres of pure alcohol are consumed per capita by drinkers annually in Uganda.

This business is so important and powerful because it brings Ugandans and foreigners from all works of life together. The Crème de la crème in this country often meet in top bars to party, socialize and have quality time.

To organize and sanitize the bar business, a group of bar owners formed an association to push their collective interests.

It was named Bar, Club and Entertainment Owners Association, bringing together up to 150 top bars in the country.

The main objective of the association was to play a lobbying role and organize themselves for better opportunities.

However, the association has bitterly split as a result of governance issues typical of many Ugandan owned associations.

This has come at a time the association members were about to meet President Yoweri Museveni.

Business Focus has learnt that the association was registered in the names of the pioneer Chairman, Rugiirwa Katatumba (pictured), who was one of the brains behind its founding.

It is understood that after getting names and signatures of some founding members, Rugiirwa went ahead to register the association in his name and close family members without the knowledge of other members.

In simple terms, he owned the association.

Since its registration, members say, he kept most of the essential documents including the constitution to himself, sister, wife and a few close members.

Upon learning of this, many members became furious and called for an Annual General Meeting (AGM) in order to get answers from the Chairman especially answers to the core accountability component!

The meeting was scheduled to take place on 11th February 2020, but the Chairman-without consulting anybody called it off.

According to leaked WhatsApp chats, association members blasted him and asked him to give accountability for the little money the association has received in membership fees since inception.

Rugiirwa gave the accountability but members were shocked to learn that he was renting an office for the association at his own building without their knowledge and thus raising conflict of interest questions.

Some of the leaked WhatsApp chats

Matters came to a hit learning that he had declared that Rajiv Ruparelia had offered free office space for 6 months the same period Rugwiira purported to have been paying rent!

He even paid his domestic servant a monthly pay of 200k per month without the knowledge of executive and members!

Ruggirwa Katatumba having quality time

Rugiirwa ousted

With Rugiirwa insisting that the AGM won’t take place, other members of the association’s executive opted for an extra ordinary meeting which took place at Texas club on 11th February 2020.

 A number of resolutions were taken including getting new leadership to steer the association in the right direction.

Like the 1971 coup when Idi Amin Dada ousted then Uganda’s President Milton Obote when he (Obote) was away in Singapore attending a Commonwealth conference, the members passed a vote of no confidence in the Chair (Rugiirwa) and subsequently ousted him.

A new interim executive was elected to run for a period of six months to “streamline the objectives of the association.”

A one Tess, who was Rugiirwa’s deputy, was elected the new Chairman of the association with Robert Ssemwogere as his deputy.

Others elected include Stanely Ndawula (Secretary General), Sheila Kamanda (Vice Secretary General), Gurprit Kaur Chadda (Treasurer), Singh Katongore (Vice Treasure), Patrick Musinguzi (Publicity Secretary), Grace Mbabazi (Vice Publicity Secretary), Timothy Harango (Executive Committee Member), Medard Rukundo (Executive Committee Member) and George Waiswa (Executive Committee Member).

It is understood that the new leadership immediately started another WhatsApp Group and they are seriously mobilizing others members to join them.

The new leadership is also pondering on how to legally handle the former chairman and ensure that the association’s registration status changes from individual ownership.

One of the members described Rugiirwa’s act of registering the association as his using members’ names and signatures as fraud. Further scrutiny indicated that he simply added his wife (Sheenah)and twin sister Angella Katatumba as the official directors for the association and the same as signatories to association accounts!

 In here he became the principal signatory and any other two would make transactions legit!!!

Rugiirwa fights back

A furious Rugiirwa hit back at the decision taken by members, saying he was extremely disappointed in the ‘so-called botched coup by some of our members mostly Executive’.

In a leaked WhatsApp exchange, Rugiirwa fumed: “…do they know who This Bar, Club and Entertainment Owners Association is Registered under?? It’s registered under my names Rugiirwa Katatumba. Any lawyer can do a search and confirm.  So how can you remove me as The Chairman.” He added: “This failed coup is like someone stealing a car with a Tracker on it. It may seem successful at take off but the vehicle can be immobilized with the press of a button.  Sometimes when you are blinded by greed and envy you end up crushing…I want our members to remember what I have done for this Association mostly because of passion and not because of selfish Ambitions of meeting The President like others are hoping.”

He went on ranting: “So on this note, I have now *FIRED* and will remove all those members that were involved in this *nonsensical coup.* I appreciate this whole saga because It has been a very good learning experience for all of us and I am now more than willing to streamline our Association for the better.”

It remains to be seen how this fight among bar and club owners will attend.

Watch the space!

Taddewo William Senyonyi
William is a seasoned business and finance journalist. He is also an agripreneur and a coffee enthusiast.

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