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Cotu Elections Date is Fixed

By Mark Agutu, The Nation (Nairobi), 12 July 2001

New Central Organisation of Trade Unions officials will be elected in Eldoret on August 24 and 25.

The Cotu executive board said yesterday that the organisation's Governing Council would also review the constitution.

A board meeting at Nakuru's Sarova Lion Hill Lodge yesterday was attended by 18 of the organisation's 25 members. Outgoing secretary-general and Ikolomani MP Joseph Mugalla attended the meeting.

Board chairman Peter Muthee, who read the resolutions, said the Governing Council would conduct the polls at the Eldoret Municipal Council Hall starting 10am.

At the same time, the organisation rejected the new Kenya Union of Post-Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet), saying it only recognised the Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut).

Mr Mugala said: "Our stand on splinter unions is well known."

The resolution on this issue read: "The executive board rejected splinter unions, which had applied for affiliation, because this will undermine the existing spirit and philosophy of the Industrial Relations Charter."

Mr Muthee said Cotu would "make every effort" to have Knut re-affiliated to strengthen the solidarity of workers in the country.

Yesterday's meeting followed another one held on May 24, during which Kenya Plantation and Agricultural Workers Union secretary general Francis Atwoli was endorsed as the sole candidate for the post of secretary general.

His main challenger was Mr Boniface Munyao, who did not attend yesterday's meeting.

Meanwhile, Cotu has not paid its workers for the past one-and-a-half years, treasurer Joseph Bolo said yesterday.

He accused some senior officials of misappropriating funds.

Mr Bolo was speaking at the Local Government Workers Union offices in Nairobi, accompanied by secretary generals of 12 other unions.

"We have not paid our 37 employees last month's salaries, while those at the Tom Mboya Labour College have gone without pay for the past one-and-a-half years," he said.

The union leaders had met to oppose Mr Francis Atwoli's candidature, saying they supported Mr Munyao.

Delegates meeting in Nakuru have already endorsed Mr Atwoli. Mr Atwoli is the secretary-general of the Nakuru-based Kenya Plantation and Agricultural Workers Union.

However, the Nairobi group which comprised unions affiliate to COTU and led by Mr Bolo and Mr Wafula wa Musamia said they would back the current deputy, Mr Bonface Munyao.

They said Mr Atwoli was being groomed by Mr Joseph Mugalla, the outgoing secretary general but was "least qualified for the post".

Mr Bolo accused Mr Mugalla of failing the union during his tenure. Mr Mugalla and a faction of members are holding an executive meeting in Nakuru to discuss the union's elections.

The Postal Union secretary general, Mr George Owiti said he had challenged in court the nullification of their elections by Cotu.

The 12 unionists claiming to speak on behalf of 20 trade unions said the September elections will provide the organisation with quality leadership free from political manoeuvres.

They opposed retrenchment conditions set by donors saying they were punitive and had reduced its membership to less than half of its original 300,000.

Some of the unions backing Mr Munyao are Shoe and Leather, Electrical, Docks, Local Government, Kudheiwa, Quarry and Mines, Shipping, Research, Game Hunting, Postal, Chemical, Jockey and Petroleum.

Copyright 2001 The Nation. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com).