The mediation meeting held to reconcile State Minister of housing Dr. Chris Baryomunsi and Kanungu businessman James Musinguzi Garuga on Friday ended prematurely after the latter stormed out.
Garuga, see who is also the patron of Kinkizi Tea Nursery Bed Operators Association (KTNBOA) recently sued Minister Baryomunsi for defamation.
The minister in September last year reportedly filed a complaint to the Inspector General of Government requesting for an investigation into allegations that Garuga fleeced members of KTNBOA of their Shs1.3Bn in disguised corporate social responsibility.
On 4th October 2016 the High Court deputy registrar in Kampala Alex Ajiji Mackay issued an order restraining Dr Chris Baryomunsi from using defamatory statements against James Garuga until the main case was disposed of.
On 9th January 2017 the Inspectorate of Government dismissed the claim by Minister Baryomunsi and a section of tea growers in Kanungu district that they were fleeced by Musinguzi; on grounds that it had no jurisdiction to investigate private entities.
The Friday reconciliatory meeting was convened under the guidance of the Principal Judge, help Justice Yorokamu Bamwiine and involved Patrick Katabazi and Simon Agaba (who represent the complainant Garuga) as well as Paul Akamba and Francis Turyamuhebwa who represent Minister Baryomunsi.
The meeting was held at the Kanungu District council hall where Dr Baryomunsi, James Garuga and about 200 members of the nursery bed operators association attended.
The association chairman Godfrey Karabende says however, that the meeting failed because James Garuga and his lawyers stormed out at the time he had started presenting the grievances of the farmers.
One of the farmers’ demands, he said, was that the tycoon refunds their Shs1.3Bn that was collected to build an administration block at Kanungu district headquarters but was diverted to the remodelling of Rugyeyo community hospital.
One of them Frank Byaruhanga who is also the Kanungu district social services secretary says that Shs 1.028Bn was collected from KTNBOA members in the 2013/14 Financial Year to fund selected projects including remodelling of Rugyeyo Health Center III into a community hospital, construction of the administration block at Kanungu district headquarters and modernizing Katete district stock farm.
Byaruhanga stressed however that allegations that Garuga fleeced Shs1.3Bn from the association was not only false but malicious, considering that he was not a signatory to the association’s bank account.
Citing the contradictions amongst the association members, Garuga’s lawyer Patrick Katabazi, noted that it was impossible for them to reach an agreement hence the need for the meeting to be deferred.
But Minister Baryomunsi said the meeting was proceeding well until towards the end when out of the blue, Garuga and his lawyers stormed out.
“The members signed a petition demanding for a refund of their fleeced money and even asked me to deliver their complaints to President Museveni for intervention,” Dr Baryomunsi said.
“When I asked how many still wanted their money, over 90% of the nursery operators stood up and registered to get their money back. During the meeting, a minority section said the money was meant for Rugyeyo Health centre but majority opposed that view,” he added.
“It should be appreciated that the conflict is between Garuga and nursery operators not myself. I am only involved because I was petitioned as an MP of Kinkizi East.