Chaos on Friday erupted at Murue Farmers’ Cooperative Society in Embu, as rival coffee farmers groups engaged each other in a meeting called to chat the way forward with regard to the controversial Sh. 66 million loan facility secured by the management.
Police had a hard time controlling the charged groups that were engaging each other in a shouting match and the meeting-cum-voting exercise ended abruptly as the situation started degenerating into a physical brawl.
The meeting had been called by the Directorate of Cooperatives Development, to enable the divided farmers to vote on whether to carry out an inquiry over the contentious loan and financial dealings by the management that a section of farmers as opposed to.
The directorate in its probe through the auditor general had unearthed minor wrongdoings on the part of the management team, including unavailability of some financial records, lack of inventory of the society assets, and minutes sanctioning the loan taking.
The office recommended that the management could continue holding office subject to proper disclosure of their financial dealings and make necessary amends.
However, not all farmers were agreeable with the recommendation issued in December last year with some demanding for a forensic audit of the society that prompted the Directorate to call for a meeting for farmers to cast a vote to unlock the stalemate.
The management team has been accused of taking the loan facility without express authority from members, the majority of who claim it ended up in their pockets at the expense of poor farmers who have been left with the repayment burden.
“ We have totally lost confidence with our management and are opposed to the proposal that they continue holding office in a bid to make amends,” farmer Joseph Kanyi said as he insisted that they were not going to settle on anything short of a forensic audit.
He continued, “We want to know who sanctioned the loan because the majority of us were not a party to the arrangement and how the money was spent.”
They called on Agriculture CS Peter Munya to intervene to have the crisis solved in order to restore farmers’ confidence.
Another farmer opposed to the inquiry, Benson Mucangi, said the management team should be allowed to complete its term set to end in September this year to avoid putting their current crop harvest in jeopardy.
“What will happen to the coffee we have so far delivered to the society that is under the hands of the current management team?” the farmer asked.
The embattled society Chairman John Muruku exonerated his team from any wrongdoing, saying no loan can be taken without the consent of farmers who have the ‘supreme authority in any decision making.
He said the auditor general report gave the society a clean bill of health, noting that the heat was coming from a section of farmers bent on bringing the society down.
“We have an open-door policy and anyone who has any concern is free to come and enquire from us and will get the right facts,” the Chairman said.