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Opinion | A House Divided Cannot Stand — Why Ugandans in North America (UNAA) Need Each Other To Survive

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Posted April 18, 2014 by Ugandan Diaspora News Team in UNAA Politics ~ 5,558 views

     

unaa-dallas

Ugandan Diaspora News Correspondent — The story of Ugandan North America Association or UNAA as its commonly called is one — if not the best things to have ever come out of North America for Uganda’s more than 100,000 member diaspora community. As a result of the creation of UNAA,  several other regional and tribal groupings followed and later Uganda’s Parliament recognizing these numbers adopted the Dual Citizenship law in part as result of the efforts of the UNAA leadership then.

However fast forward and today UNAA is seemingly a shadow of its former self splintered and divided by cliques and some say along political and tribal lines. Attempts to break up UNAA first appeared in the year UNAA’s leadership took the convention to Uganda. Those staying behind who felt UNAA had been created to serve the interests of the Diaspora attended various events planned across America. That year we saw Ugandans meet in San Diego and Miami, Florida after boycotting the previous year. The mainstream UNAA as we know it held their convention in Detroit and due to the low turn out the convention and UNAA suffered its worst loss ever as key elders ended up bearing the burden of this financial loss.

The next fault-lines would appear after the defeat of Lt. Frank Musisi in Chicago. Following this bitterly contested election his supporters later morphed and started UADA or Uganda American Development Association. The group attempted to hold a Convention in 2010 in Boston which never took off since people were not in support of splitting UNAA. Then came the UNAA – Transformers.  This group would later unearth details that included the fact that UNAA’s registration in Texas had long expired. Their attempt to take over UNAA Leadership and seek redress at the delegates conference in Denver yielded little impact as it was later determined that only those registered by a certain date could vote in the election in Denver. As a result only about about 200 members determined the election in which a new constitution with three separate but equal arms of government had been adopted.

The recent impasse that has perhaps led to the sharpest disagreements yet and threatens to split UNAA has several members in arms and communities divided. The new UNAA Council has never sat or fully constituted itself to legislate UNAA Business. As a result the Hotel selection in San Diego has been shrouded in controversy. UNAA’s Official Hotel will be the Hyatt while those who disagree with this selection process and decisions made by the new Executive have a rival hotel with a cheaper rate at the La Jolla Marriott.

For those therefore planning to be in San Diego expect two Conventions with fully fledged programs and two Boat Cruises. A first for UNAA but the real question is how sustainable is this in the long term. Some predict that should UNAA continue on the same course we might see an end to UNAA as we know it. Various forums are now awash with commentaries of members demanding more accountability and transparency in the way UNAA contracts are handed down.

For its part the proponents of UNAA Causes claims they sprung out of the need to address the excesses in the new leadership that violated the new constitution and the failure for the council to execute its duties as the formerly elected legislative arm of UNAA government. The resulting impasse has exposed the challenges associated with the new constitution. Of course UNAA Causes have articulated their case in a write up on their website under the tab — Save UNAA! See website below.

Perhaps it is now that we the people need to pay closer scrutiny to the leaders we elect. Sometime people tend to forget that UNAA in its 26 years is bigger than each of our individuals egos. I personally had hoped that the new leadership would steer us out of the murky waters with their slogan – Good judgement for change. In my view leadership is also about compromise and in Dallas we saw a peaceful transfer of power with the defeated President conceding something that was absent in Chicago. Therefore this was a missed opportunity to win over those wounded from that election. In politics one of the lessons our leaders ought to learn is that after winning you also serve as a leader to those who never voted for you. And depending on the margin of victory — a middle ground approach is always a long term solution to end strife within an organization.

Therefore having witnessed our divisions and the politics of pulling each other down, intrigue, malice and personal attacks within UNAA, it’s high time UNAA went back to the original vision and mission intended for this organisation by its founders. A repeal of some clauses and revisiting others within the new constitution or a modification of the past Constitutional document might help since the new constitution has resulted in more divisions within UNAA thereby killing the functionality of this once vibrant organisation.

During the Chicago amendments I was among those who supported limiting government influence and voters from Uganda. However the use of Uganda government officials and tax payer resources in a partisan way to control UNAA should never be allowed to happen. Those attempting to pitch the young generation against the UNAA elders are also doing UNAA a disservice since one way to ensure continuity is by grooming those capable of steering UNAA to its golden Jubilee anniversary.

The issue that needs redress soon is the Hotel selection process and the bids submitted by host cities for the future reference. The process is now open to manipulation and no longer follows the procedure once outlined were local chapters submitted bids and the best city carried the day. Politics and elections along with a few beneficiaries from the selection process play a huge role in who gets awarded the next conventions. To put this into perspective by the time a convention leaves a host city UNAA and its membership would have spent close to between $400,000 and $500,000 dollars (guesstimate) adding the food/hotel contract, entertainment, PA system, Convention dinner, hotel room expenditure and all the additional revenue streams such as parking, internet, happy hour all of which contribute to the huge revenue flows for hotels in addition to our convention budgets.

What UNAA needs is leadership from — the BOT elders, the Executive and the UNAA Council and respect for decisions handed down by all oversight bodies. Should we leave San Diego a divided group then UNAA as we all know it maybe a thing of the past. This approach of them versus us or the young versus the old will soon backfire if cool heads do not prevail. We also need a new policy that vets and tests those vying for UNAA’s top leadership,  especially their values and accomplishments as they relate to UNAA!

I can predict that San Diego will definitely impact UNAA financially. But who will pick up final tab will be a story for another day. In Detroit some UNAA volunteers picked up the tab though the majority of these members were never paid back. A town-hall therefore in an agreed location by all parties and the UNAA fraternity along with a UNAA VOTE to do away with individuals and clauses dividing UNAA might be the only way to save UNAA as an institution that has brought so many of us together. Remember that for every action there will always be an equal and opposite reaction according to Newton’s law!

UNAA Official website — http://www.unaa.org/
UNAA Causes website — http://www.unaacauses.org/

As I conclude allow me to state categorically that starting a new organisation like UNAA Causes is not a long term solution to our ongoing disputes as Ugandans living in Diaspora. It could treat the symptoms but the not root out the causes and therefore I am for a UNITED UNAA but with checks that will prevent such excesses in the future leadership. As a non profit organisation with several volunteers to choose from we need to allow new members to lead instead of assuming that the same individuals will always have a monopoly on good ideas for UNAA!

By now UNAA should be empowering its local Chapters, have a Bereavement Fund for members, a UNAA savings scheme is long overdue, have a UNAA Community Center helping bring in revenue, An Immigration Lawyer helping our people, a fund-raising team to help reduce convention costs, a forum that lobby’s for our Interests in Washington DC and Ottawa and many other Diaspora Insurance packages for members.

Perhaps the words of Abraham Lincoln the famous American President who governed at the height of the American Civil war can help us put our current differences into perspective.

A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure, permanently, half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other. Either the opponents of slavery will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction; or its advocates will push it forward, till it shall become lawful in all the States, old as well as new — North as well as South.

For a flashback to the UNAA Elections in Dallas see link below —

http://www.ugandandiasporanews.com/2013/09/02/unaa-decides-brian-kwesiga-elected-new-unaa-president-defeats-incumbent/

Editor’s note — This was an opinion piece aimed at the entire UNAA membership and how we can re-align our goals after revisiting our past and present history as a Diaspora community. UNAA belongs to all of us and no individual or group should ever hold us hostage!


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.

11 Comments


  1.  
    Omtwin

    I totally agree, UNAA should refocus on Ugandans in Diaspora and their welfare. We can borrow a leaf from the Hispanic American Association and their focus on the welfare of their people in these great United States and Canada. Yes, we Ugandan Diaspora can do better, far better.




  2.  

    Ronnie:

    Thanks for the commentary.

    UNAA’ s crisis is grounded in failure of leadership and the utter lack of respect among the organs that constitute UNAA’s leadership. The issues that separate us were miniscule in the beginning as far as the greater scheme of things is concerned. But these issues were allowed to fester by the UNAA executive leading us to the current impasse.

    For us at UNAACAUSES.ORG, we are more of a “pressure group” out to hold our leadership’s feet to the fire, so to speak. So that they can pay anttention and hopefully realize what they are doing to the organization.

    Our intention is NOT to break up UNAA, but rather to make our current and future leaders accountable to the people, UNAA’s constitution and the organization’s well being in general.

    Benon Mukasa- UNAA member..




  3.  
    Rev. Joseph Kamugisha

    Ronnie:

    Thank you for the commentary, however, let us remain mindful that per your own observation, “The New UNAA Council has never sat or fully constituted itself to legislate UNAA Business…..” since the last convention and elections ended in Dallas 2013. Therefore, To state that “UNAA’s Official Hotel will be the Hyatt….” is not true simply because that hotel selection does not have any constitutional mandate, which therefore makes it an illegal selection. If anything, the Council of 8 which has the majority of Council members on it’s side should be considered for their hotel selection as La Jolla Marriott being the OFFICIAL Hotel, even as the later’s rates are way too much lower and affordable than the former. Lastly, allow me to reemphasize one more time that UNAAcauses.org is NOT a splinter organization. It is not meant to Break or Divide UNAA but to serve as a Pressure Group with the main intentions of bringing back the rogue leadership to the “Straight and Narrow” if you will.

    Joseph W. Kamugisha – UNAA Member




  4.  
    Swain tamale

    Many people would like to join but funds/got official from our government in Uganda has made the all thing a hell.if we can find a better way to handle that, then maybe UNAA might shine again as before




  5.  
    Jimmy

    All in all we can see the cause but not sure of the consequences because the future is Un predictable therefore it has to be planned for. My suggestion could be”Reform Not Revolution”.
    May the leaders on both sides start working on a solution to avoid blame in years ahead




  6.  
    Jane Stanley

    I agree with most of what the writer said. However, in my humble opinion, UNAA has been dying for quite some time. We as a volunteer organization members should never have allowed the politics to play a part in the decisions made. We live in the United States and should have kept that in mind, especially, when choosing convention venues and main speakers. I hate to say this, but in order to save UNAA organization, we may have to let it die and we start over. That is my take.
    Jane Bayenda Stanley
    Former Secretary of UNAA.




  7.  
    Doreen

    Dear Ed,

    Many thanks for sharing this opinion piece on the shenanigans happening within UNAA. I should note that, even non-members of UNAA take pride in its existence, as a “brand name” of all Ugandans living in the Diaspora. We, therefore, have an intrinsic interest in its outstanding performance and existence. We enjoy observing its activities and developments from the outside looking in, and often pride in sharing about it to non-Uganda or members of the Uganda Diaspora not resident in North America. So, I do hope UNAA will get back on track and re-focus its agenda on bringing harmony, support, pride and celebration to Ugandans in North America and around the globe.

    Two quick comments:

    1) For factual communication, it would be helpful to provide dates of events as they happened. Throughout this piece, you refer to incidents of changes of leadership, elections, constitutional review, and more, without tagging them to specific dates. That, in my opinion would provide more validity and reliability to the opinions shared

    2) It is astounding to me that UNAA would accept a monetary “donation” from the Uganda government drawn from the contributions of taxpayers resident in Uganda! Moreover, a community, which often holds itself on a “higher moral ground”, and very often plenty within UNAA membership “throw stones” at the Ugandan government and folks living in geographical Uganda for corruption, misuse of public resources and wasteful expenditure. On what grounds should such donation be accepted, when there is overwhelming evidence that: hospitals lack supplies, doctors are not ably paid, so are teachers, and many other public servants in Uganda? Ironically, very often Ugandans in the Diaspora pride themselves in “holding together” the Ugandan economy with their remittences back home. Yet, it appears UNAA is now feeding off taxpayers who receive no direct benefit from its activities or existence. UNAA is not a government institution, that requires the support of GoU. I would suggest the new UNAA leadership discontinues accepting any donations from GoU because it is not just politically but also morally right.




  8.  
    Swaibu Tamale

    Well spoken a divided house will yield nothing but just ashame




  9.  
    Senkungu

    It’s a fact that this organisation is going to die if allowed to continue in it’s current form. It will have to reform and refocus.
    There are so many issues at hand some have developed over time and others have their origins in who and what we are.
    The Issue of poor leadership has evolved over time. As stated in the article above there has been a lack of or a disrespect of those systems in which divisive issues are resolved.

    The UNAA constitution it seems to me allows a concentration of power in the hands of the Executive resulting into abuse of power and or lack of transparency.
    UNAA is there to represent interest of Ugandans in North America, my question is. can one organisation represent interests of all Ugandans? The honest the answer is no. Ugandans are different in what we are and who we are. Its a fact that though we are diverse we may have many common interests but its the little differences we have that define us.

    When UNAA was first founded the overwhelming number of it’s members were Baganda and still is, over time people of different Ugandan ancestry have increased in North America and these people have found the argue to form similar organisations that relate to them more closely. BanyaKigezi, Gwanga Mujje etc this has put them in direct competition with UNAA. Like it or not these organisations will more likely succeed and make UNAA irrelevant because of there nature. But does it mean UNAA has no relevance I think it does but not in its current form
    So if UNAA has relevance what should it become? My answer to this is we should look at becoming more the umbrella organisation for the different Ugandan Ancestry groups where we everyone’s concerns are addressed and represented and lobbied for.
    Let us accept what has happened correct it , redefine, refocus and embark on more relevant path





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