Moto taxi riders in Rubavu district have been required by their leaders to use only petrol stations of South African company Engen.
Not only do the members fiercely question the directive, but it is such a burden to them as there are only two Engen stations in the whole of Rubavu, which borders Goma of DR Congo.
“Imagine you are at the border and you have to ride to the other side of town to buy fuel because you have been forced not to go anywhere else,” says one of the moto cooperative’s members.
The reason these moto riders are required to take fuel from only Engen has nothing to do with the company. Instead, it is supposedly trying to help them repay a Rwf 25million debt.
UCOTAMRU, the moto taxi riders association in Rubavu district has an unpaid debt. It was accumulated by previous leaders.
In a deal with Engen, the current leaders of the cooperative and the company agreed to pay the debt for them.
In exchange, all members of the motos’ cooperative must consume fuel at Engen petrol stations only.
However, the contract has tough obligations, the moment the motos’ total consumption reaches 80,000 litres, Engen pays Rwf 800,000 of the debt.
Before this Engen deal, they had been each contributing Rwf 400 monthly towards the repayment of the debt.
Despite the Engen deal, some moto riders prefer to continue paying the Rwf 400 levy which they were paying previously to cover the bank loan. They want to pay the levy so that they can be able to use any petrol station of their choice, instead of being tied to Engen.
The case is being widely reported in local media.
Phillip Safari, the leader of the cooperative says the concerned moto taxis agreed to do everything possible to pay off the Rwf 25m debt.
The deal with Engen was done in the interest of all the cooperative members, said Safari.
Jean Bosco Harerimana, the Director General of Rwanda Cooperatives Agency (RCA) also backs the move adopted by the cooperative to clear their debt.
However, he told local media that the leaders have obligation to provide as much information as needed to the members so that they do not feel they are being ripped off.
RCA cannot intervene to cancel a legally binding contract, he said, as that would be illegal.
As the situation stands now, a neutral entity may have to intervene to look into the issues being raised by the motorists.
Otherwise, if left to brew among the motorists, the issue risks causing internal wrangling, as the moto taxis do not seem to trust their leaders.
ERRATA: This story has been slightly modified. The previous version erroneously reported that the cooperative was still asking members to pay monthly levy of Rwf 400 to repay the bank loan, despite Engen deal.