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Letter from the Editor | Ronnie Mayanja | July 2011 | UNAA Elections In Focus

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Posted July 1, 2011 by Ugandan Diaspora News Team in Editorial ~ 4,045 views

     

By Ronnie Mayanja | Editor, UNAA Times Online | Greetings Folks, And welcome to July, the month we celebrate America’s birthday. In breaking with tradition, I will focus on the upcoming UNAA elections that will be held in the mile high city of Denver, Colorado.

UNAA has endured a turbulent past that almost saw the break up of the organization. Last year alone, several groups in an attempt to kill off UNAA, organized counter conventions during the Labor Day weekend. However, UNAA did prevail and for the record, it had the highest number of registered attendees compared to any previous UNAA convention.

This was perhaps the strongest litmus test to UNAA’s future existence. But because so many people turned up in Washington DC with all the other competing conventions taking place, this was proof enough to the viability of this institution. But whatever our past differences, UNAA could still use some new ideas as it attempts to address the concerns of its members especially the need for increased transparency and accountability.
A more open door policy also needs to be adopted in order to see a more viable UNAA. Though the newly instituted Electoral commission started off on a bumpy start, it has now issued the electoral guidelines for elections in Denver.

The Implementation of the new UNAA constitution promulgated in Washington DC during last year’s constitution review is now in full effect. Come September UNAA will be on a new course with new leadership that is meant to lead us into the “Promised Land”. The United States founding fathers who initiated the process that formed part of the US constitution saw the need to create a system of checks and balances where the executive, legislative and judicial arms of Government were kept separate; with one – unable to peddle influence on the other arms of government. This in part has allowed the US government’s transparency to survive for over 200 years.

In September, the new UNAA constitution will be given a chance to work. The new UNAA Executive (will now be composed of four executive members), The UNAA Board of Trustees, and The UNAA Council, all these branches will assume their new role in the UNAA Leadership strata. Over a period lasting six months, The Constitutional Review Commission deliberated on this and later it was time to sell the UNAA board on their findings. Initially, I had some reservations on its member composition but turns out, the CRC proved a worthy group of individuals who were committed to change UNAA and to ensure that UNAA would never be held at ransom by future leaders.

During the review process, the creation of a UNAA Council left me with alot of questions that potentially could create contention with the executive. However, following a concerted effort by the CRC, each board member was assigned a commissioner to do an individual pitch. And I had the pleasure of comparing notes with Dr. Munini Mulera; a friend and elder I respect very much. We spent over 2 hours on a Sunday evening as he labored to explain the new constitutional terms that had taken several months to debate. I did express my fears and the desire to see an end to factionalism within UNAA. Something that the good old doctor assured me the new UNAA council would seek to address.

In my view UNAA could use an infusion of new ideas. As people living in the first world, a semblance of any electoral mal-practices, double standards or conflict of interest should never be seen out here but rather things we leave in our third world democracies back in Africa. And system of checks and balances must be instituted to prevent such oversights.

Another area that might perhaps need revisiting is the $50 registration fee to allow all members their God given alienable right to vote. In my view a $50 charge would lead to minority participation and in turn disenfranchise many of our members. (of course some might disagree with this view). But what good is it if of the 1000 members who register only 200 – 300 vote in a UNAA election? I support the idea of a membership fee but hiking the fee in this kind of economy might turn away would-be swing voters and lead to election malpractices and vote buying.

That said, the new UNAA Constitution will need time to take root and the EC volunteers will need all the support to steer this transition. There were some changes I did not necessarily agree to as a board member but I believe the framers of this new constitution meant well as did the founders of the UNAA organization that has helped bring so many people together in North America. More recently, other communities like the U.K Ugandans, have launched similar conventions borrowing ideas from the UNAA Model.[http://www.unaatimes.com/uk-convention/] or [http://www.ugandanconventionuk.org/]

Recently I got a call from one of the leaders of the Rwandese community in the US who informed me that the Rwandese convention in Chicago drew in the neighborhood of about 3,000 people and was also attended by President Kagame. But what was equally surprising was their admiration of our model and what we have managed to accomplish over the past 23 years. And for this, the founders of UNAA deserve applause for keeping the UNAA flame burning for this long!

This is the UNAA I dream of seeing tomorrow. An organization that champions life insurance for its members, helps its members fight deportation and offers immigration help, a credit scheme that allows its members borrow at subsidized interest rates. A powerful lobby group that will fight for us in Washington, D.C. Talking of which I have always wondered why Kenyans have a higher Green Card Quota with over 4000 green cards during the Green card Diversity Lottery than Uganda yet we all hail from East Africa. It’s also high time UNAA moved beyond Conventions surely after 23 years and approaching our Silver Jubilee we can do better than organizing just one single event every year!

How do we build capacity that translates into something tangible as a bigger Ugandan entity? How have we utilised the 501(c) tax exempt status acquired during the reign of the past UNAA President Abdul Kimbugwe? UNAA should be applauded for introducing the dual citizenship debate in Uganda’s parliament but how can we use our remittances to lobby for more opportunities for our diaspora community. The task for all Ugandans who will be voting in Denver is to look at each candidate manifesto in detail and review the issues that affect them and vote the ideas that will help move the organization forward.

A lot more Ugandans have now settled in the US and Canada and they are looking for means and ways to grow their businesses. Most of our business forums held during conventions, have largely targeted investors both from Uganda and those from the US but how about the indigenous UNAA businessman? How are we catering for his needs and that of his business as a US based small and medium sized enterprise (SME)? There is also the next generation of UNAA teenagers that need inspiration to take over from the baby boomers.[45 plus year olds]

Finally as Ugandans let us learn to respect and celebrate each others work and successes abroad. It’s this desire to see high achievers recognised and celebrated that inspired us to create “The Ugandan Diaspora”, a project that aims at recognizing individual contributions and successes by Ugandans abroad. We therefore invite you all to join us at the Kampala Serena Hotel on 29th December, 2011. [www.ugandandiaspora.com]

As I conclude, in life there are three types of people. Those who make things happen, those who watch things happen and those who wonder what the heck happened! And remember ‘ask not what UNAA has done for you, but instead what can you do for UNAA!!!

Happy Independence Day, America!


Ronnie Mayanja | UNAA Times Online | www.unaatimes.com |
Ugandan Diaspora Inc | www.ugandandiaspora.com |
Soreel Mayas Grafx Ltd | www.soreelmayas.net | UG Media |
USA | +1-978-235-2459 | Uganda +256-773-212-007
Skype | ronnie.mayanja | Twitter | @rmayanja |


About the Author

Ugandan Diaspora News Team

Ugandan Diaspora News Online is an independent, non political news portal primarily aimed at serving Ugandans who work and reside outside Uganda. Our aim is to be a one stop shop for everything Ugandan and the celebration of our Ugandan heritage.

2 Comments


  1.  
    katende tom

    iwant to know how ican register.




  2.  
    Rev. Jessica Nakawombe

    Mr. Mayanja,
    You have raised some key issues that many of us have also raised at our local levels but have either been suppressed or ignored completely or forgotten. Naye ggwe ali mu Kintu munda ndowooza banakuwuliriza.
    It is like a change of guards with not much change.
    I am happy with the new developments of UNAA on Facebook, Ugandans in Diaspora, UNAA times and I have learned so much. I have also been informed of current issues. Even when I don’t agree with some issues, at least I am informed so I can make informed decisions.
    I had given up on UNAA, however, I feel challenged not to give a response, for I matter, I am, and you have done good thought provoking.
    I will attempt to highlight a few;

    1.”UNAA could still use some new ideas as it attempts to address the concerns of its members especially the need for increased transparency and accountability.”
    What is at stake?

    2.”A more open door policy also needs to be adopted in order to see a more viable UNAA.”

    3.”The United States founding fathers who initiated the process that formed part of the US constitution saw the need to create a system of checks and balances where the executive, legislative and judicial arms of Government were kept separate; with one – unable to peddle influence on the other arms of government. This in part has allowed the US government’s transparency to survive for over 200 years.”
    There is a need to separate objective from subjective.

    4.”A need revisiting is the $50 registration fee to allow all members their God given alienable right to vote. In my view a $50 charge would lead to minority participation and in turn disenfranchise many of our members.”

    5.”There is also the next generation of UNAA teenagers that need inspiration to take over from the baby boomers.”
    Do they even know what it is all about? Is UNAA keeping with the times? Do our children know their cultures as individual tribes and languages? So what is Ugandan? Ugandan is a collection of tribes not a fusion. Just look at the natural make up of an atom, the nucleus, electrons and neutrons. We have so much to learn from nature, from the very basics.
    Recently we had a conversation about our Ugandan American or American Ugandan children and someone said that these children will turn out like many American born adults of immigrant parents who say that their parents were either from Germany, Italy, Poland, Russia or other. But they have never been there, neither speak the language, don’t really care about that culture, since they are Americans! Is that what you want for your children and their offspring?
    Sincerely speaking, how many Ugandans will afford Health care in the Nursing Homes or will even qualify?
    There is a generational and cultural detach!

    6.Talking of which I have always wondered why Kenyans have a higher Green Card Quota with over 4000 green cards…”
    Kenyans have a higher reading and writing percentage than Ugandans perhaps that they haven’t had so many long civil wars. On the other hand, Ugandans are so much used to buying their way in and out of everything that many believe that a Green Card cannot be freely given. And we have many vultures awaiting to make money off ignorant people instead of helping them. Many Ugandans, are computer phobic, especially women. They still have the Ugandan culture of being put down as women so they do not take the initiative.
    Has UNAA helped to empower, enable and uplift women? Do women have much voice? Just do a cross section of key positions for decision making – how many women are on them?
    God created them male and female to complement and supplement each other, NOT to have authority one over another.

    7. “Finally as Ugandans let us learn to respect and celebrate each others work and successes abroad. It’s this desire to see high achievers recognised and celebrated that inspired us to create “The Ugandan Diaspora”, a project that aims at recognizing individual contributions and successes by Ugandans abroad.”
    It is good to recognise high achievers, but when will the other who are considered average or low achievers be recognised? I have always been advocating for recognition of each and everyone in our communities instead of only recognising the same people over and over again at different Fora. All of us human beings want to be recognised for it is a human need.
    Afumba obulungi emmere ewooma e Boston oba Los Angeles tulimumanya ddi?
    “Akajja obunaku kemanya…” No one is going to recognise us Ugandans if we do not lift up ourselves.

    Other key elements orsuggestions;
    A.Some key questions – Is UNAA a money making machine more than an enabler of the disadvantaged, disenfranchised, marginalised, or voiceless?

    B.UNAA leadership should learn to network and coordinate with all local churches and ministers, pastors, imams, lay and ordained, any opinion leader, any one in a key position of leadership. “Anti Agali Awamu , ge galuma enyama.” We all have different personalities, gifts, talents, opinions, ideas, political affiliations, identities, from different tribes, cultures, religions, women and men, girls and boys, which are all inherent rights. Once we learn to work with each other by respecting each others’ differences instead of looking down upon them, ignoring them, or demeaning them, we shall always make no progress.

    C. Be more creative and start giving Awards to as many as you can. This is an Award giving community/ country/Era. Right from Elememtary School to any age. Documented Community work is a much valued aspect in USA. Many people have come here and realised dreams they thought they could never achieve. E.g. Many women came here after being written off in Uganda as “off layers” after just 30 years of age! Many have taken the driving tests, passed them and can drive on the freeways and highways! Isn’t that an achievement! My Grandmother, Manjeri was one of the few women in the 60s, a Gayaza Girl, (counted on a hand) who were driving in Kampala, a Morris Minor. To me it was no big deal that women drove when I was young! But as I grew older I realised how much power driving gave to men so they looked down on women in Uganda! How many low educated men were drivers of highly educated women, yet they looked down upon them? When I learned to drive, wooowooowooo I realised how much independence and power was at my hands. I could even make other decisions that I could not have made otherwise. Driving, in other words opens up a whole new world altogether! My Muzungu friend told me in Indiana when I passed my Driving test that do you realize the independence! Yes I did. Such personal examples make our world.

    D. Many are in the Health Industry. In Uganda that was a myth. You had to pass Biology, Physics, Chemistry, Maths and English in a highly competitive climate with much biased marking that was often not impartial.

    E.Many have got Security training as guards and that is also another opened box. Every training matters even if just for 6 or 8 hours.

    F. I learned how to manage lifting weights without hurting my body. I learned how to help patients who can’t walk without lifting them. We have learned so much.

    G. I can happily help with the Awards.

    H. Each one of us has a story to tell. help us to tell our stories and in our unique God given ways.

    I. Since UNAA leadership insists that it is apolitical, then we don’t need President Museveni or his wife, Kataha to be invited to UNAA Conventions, or the political appointed Ambassador. It is a distraction. It is very expensive. As someone pointed out, that you cannot invite a person who is responsible for their being abroad on asylum, economic refugee, political refugee, or cannot even go back to Uganda without fear of reprisal. We should be getting rid of “Bully Rule” in everything. Spare us.

    SSABASSAJJA AWANGAALE

    FOR GOD AND MY COUNTRY





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