Opiyo Oloya, Letter from Toronto – UNAA in Deep Crisis

Posted December 19, 2013 by Ugandan Diaspora News Team in UNAA Politics ~ 3,618 views


unaa dallas

“The UNAA president clearly has intelligence, charm and charisma to stop the slow bleeding of UNAA by calling for a ceasefire in the factional warfare”

After more than two decades uniting Ugandans in the diaspora every year, Uganda North American Association (UNAA) is in a deep crisis that could determine its very survival.

Since the convention last September in Dallas, Texas, fierce factional battles have been fought almost daily on UNAALIST, the online forum for UNAA members. To complicate the issue, and unlike the majority of UNAA leaders who preceded him, the current UNAA President Brian Kwesiga has openly allied himself with a group of elected Council members.

Equally determined in their stance are eight UNAA councilors (known simply as C8) who maintain that a certain unelected member continues to sit illegally on council meetings.

This, according to the so named C8, renders all decisions made by UNAA council null and void including the appointments of directors.

The controversy has led to the allegation of corruption that now threatens to derail next year’s convention in San Diego, California.

The problem rose after Rahim Kabagambe of Edmonton, Alberta, was presented for nomination as Male Youth Representative for Canada. Then presidential candidate, now president Brian Kwesiga supported the nomination.

There was no one else for the position, and Kabagambe was declared elected at the Dallas Convention. However, it emerged soon after that Kabagambe had not met the basic requirements to be a candidate, let alone be elected. The issue was promptly raised by the C8 in a formal petition to the UNAA Board of Trustees asking that the matter be thoroughly reviewed to determine whether Kabagambe was a candidate at the time of the election in Dallas.

After investigating the matter, the UNAA Board of Trustees determined that Kabagambe, indeed, had not qualified to be a candidate for the elections. Among others, the body wrote that he was “not a UNAA member in good standing before the deadline for candidate registration.”

More sternly, the board went further to state, “Mr. Kabagambe’s nomination paper was fraudulent in that he claimed recommendation by a person who had not done so.”

But in a surprising move UNAA President Kwesiga ignored the ruling by the UNAA Board of Trustees choosing instead to stand behind his friend. Kwesiga trashed the entire ruling as a little too late.

In an email to the membership on September 24, 2013, he wrote that the constitution was clear that the question whether Kabagambe’s nomination was in order should have been resolved before the elections.

He argued, “The election is over and nothing of the sort happened, which means the matter is completely resolved and is not subject to appeal.”

Never mind that the investigation had uncovered a fraud in the nomination of Kabagambe. As far as the president was concerned, the UNAABOT’s conclusion that Kabagambe’s candidature was fraudulent was inconsequential. Then metaphorically wagging his fingers, he lectured the UNAABOT to “fall back in line and re-acquaint yourselves with the constitution as written.”

Unfortunately, for the organisation, the president’s contempt, arrogance and imperious approach in defending his buddy Rahim Kabagambe stood in stark contrast to the incredible talent he demonstrated in mobilising support for his election to lead the organisation for the next two years.

In Dallas, Kwesiga worked very hard and outperformed two other candidates as the choice for leader. But only three months in office, he has run roughshod over the constitution, aligned himself to less than half of the elected council, and presided over questionable financial transactions that may have contravened the organisation’s fiduciary guidelines.

To make matters worse, the president’s abrasive attitude sent packing the entire local organising committee for the San Diego Convention. Tense disagreement rose between the local group and national UNAA executive over the selection of the convention hotel.

The local committee had systematically investigated several hotels as potential venues for the convention in September 2014, but at the last minute its efforts were sidelined when the UNAA executive chose the more expensive hotel outside downtown San Diego.

The humiliating snub of the San Diego local committee even spurred some talks of a parallel convention emerging to compete with the main event. But whether such a scenario emerges or not, will depend on how Kwesiga negotiates the next few weeks and months before San Diego. His window of opportunity, however, is narrowing fast. The UNAA president clearly has the intelligence, charm and charisma to stop the slow bleeding of UNAA by calling for a ceasefire in the factional warfare.

He needs to recognise that many people including the C8 wish to see UNAA succeed, and will rally behind him in show of support. To that end, he must jettison Kabagambe whose continued illegal sitting on UNAA Council has become an albatross around his presidential neck, and then reach out to disaffected members. Whether there is a successful convention in San Diego in 2014 may become a moot point if UNAA itself dies from disunity, the very thing it was created to overcome in the first place.

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.


Be the first to comment!

Leave a Response