Opinion | UNAA Causes and the freedom to choose | Uganda Festival San Diego 2014

Posted September 4, 2014 by Ugandan Diaspora News Team in UNAA Politics ~ 5,200 views


The UNAA Causes Grand Finale Gala Dinner at the San Diego Marriott.

The UNAA Causes Grand Finale Gala Dinner at the San Diego Marriott.

Letter to a Kampala Friend
By Muniini K. Mulera
In Toronto

Dear Tingasiga:

I have just arrived from SanDiego, California, where Flo and I joined hundreds of Ugandans at the UNAACauses Festival that celebrated another year of living, working and thriving in our adopted continent of North America.

The festival, held at the elegant Marriott La Jolla, was capped by a grand dinner and final concert on Sunday evening that offered Ugandan food in quantities that would have pleased Chinua Achebe’s Okonkwo.

The entertainment program, hosted by Doreen Komuhangyi, TV anchorwoman at NBS, Kampala, was very satisfying indeed. Pulsating live performances by Ugandan singers Irene Namubiru and Eddy Kenzo, had the guests on the floor and drew well-deserved applause from the full house.

From the opening ceremonies to the UNAA Causes family barbecue; from the Pacific Ocean boat ride aboard the aptly named “Inspiration” to the traditional Ugandan fashion show, the organizers clearly had given thought to what was meaningful to Ugandans in North America.

These and other entertainment events throughout the weekend were a rich package at relatively low cost compared with the usual fees that UNAA conventions normally cost attendees.

With literally a shoestring budget, financed up front from the pockets of a small group of organizers, they accomplished their goals with a fraction of the amount of money that is usually spent on these things. The quality of the audio-visual system, with excellent sound, raised the question why UNAA conventions supposedly cost over $30,000 in renting sound systems alone.

That they were able to live within their means was rightly saluted and encouraged by many UNAA members who, for a change, enjoyed a great weekend at a low registration fee. The organizational skills of this handful of men and women resulted in a hustle-free program that was positively commented on by attendees. One other unique part of the program was the palpable absence of Ugandan partisan politics. It was a formula that should be adhered to.

I therefore salute the UNAA Causes Team of, among others, Benoni Kyeyune Mukasa, Daniel Kawuma, Becky Wamala-Brown, Awichu Akwanya, Victor Lukandwa, David Muwanga, Edriss Kironde and Francis Ssennoga. As Flo and I were reflecting on the weekend, we agreed that the UNAA Causes team had succeeded partly because they respected each other, with nobody acting as though he or she was the only one capable of organizing or leading the process. One got the sense that they acknowledged each member’s unique talents and responsibilities. If I were to coin a phrase for them, it would be “The Cool Team.”

To be sure, as one of the delegates, I felt respected, wanted and considered a worthy presence. I heard similar comments from many folks. So the smiles I saw on the faces of the organizers were justifiable.

However, behind the smiles were hints of sadness among the organizers and the majority of the attendees. This was a gathering that need not have been necessary had there not been a major violation of the constitution of the Ugandan North American Association (UNAA.)

UNAA Causes was triggered by a coup d’état that was launched by the current president of UNAA together with a small clique of supporters. The year long coup had seen the president dispense with the UNAA Council and Board of Trustees before seizing control of the Association’s bank accounts from the elected treasurer.

These actions were in violation of both the Constitution of UNAA and of the laws of the United States that govern tax-exempt organizations under Section 501 (c) (3) of the Internal Revenue Service Code. Where this will lead is anybody’s guess.

UNAA Causes was the response by the majority of the members of the UNAA Council who were committed to constitutional rule, transparency, accountability, fiscal responsibility and compliance with the laws of the United States.

These leaders were joined by hundreds of delegates to the UNAA Causes meeting who, to a person, expressed regret that our Association had been forced towards a split that might well become permanent.

Whereas the UNAA Causes leaders were united in their desire for healing of the rift and returning to a united UNAA, they emphasized that it would all have to be done without violating the constitution.

Unfortunately, the rift between the two camps is such that it will take Herculean efforts to bridge the gap and heal UNAA. On Sunday August 31,2014, some Uganda and US-based elders attempted to initiate dialogue between the two sides in the hope of finding a satisfactory resolution to the problem.

The leaders of UNAA Causes expressed a willingness to sit and talk with the UNAA president and his colleagues. By the time we left San Diego, I had not received the official response by the UNAA president. We shall hopefully get the official word in the next few days.

Recognizing that the current executive leaders of UNAA had fundamentally violated the Association’s constitution, a well attended general meeting of the members/supporters of UNAA Causes empowered the interim leaders to forge ahead with planning next year’s UNAA convention, to be held in a North American city to be chosen by the leaders. They were instructed to spare no efforts in ensuring compliance with the Constitution. It is almost certain that there will be two large separate gatherings of Ugandans during the Labour Day weekend of 2015.

Meanwhile, the crisis in UNAA has continued to worsen, with the resignation of Mr. Ken Ddamba, Council Member for New England. Highly reliable sources in the UNAA Electoral Commission have also advised us that some members of that body may be considering their options.
So the problems are deep and will not be solved by well meaning appeals for unity and reconciliation. They will certainly not be solved by the name-calling, vicious and baseless personal attacks or references to serious people leading UNAA Causes as “disgruntled losers,” and such. I recall that over 30 years ago, a group of people were called “bandits”. The “bandits” have governed Uganda for nearly 29 years now.

Positive change in UNAA leadership demands an overhaul of attitudes and traditions, especially regarding the rule of law and fiscal responsibility. A large dose of humility will be an indispensable requirement, including good old respect for those you disagree with. Failure to do that will lead to a permanent rift.

I thoroughly enjoyed the UNAA Causes festival. Frankly I was amazed by the turnout considering the short time the organizers had and the multiple challenges they faced – very limited funds, no sponsorship, sabotage and another convention up the street. I left the UNAA Causes gathering fully convinced that the leaders and the majority of those who attended were moving ahead with a determined plan to rebuild the organization. In my assessment, a renewed UNAA is in the offing. The struggle for the soul of UNAA is underway. The leaders of UNAA Causes remain diehard committed members of UNAA, insisting on constitutionalism.

So it may well be that Ugandans in North America will have yet another option from which to make a choice during the Labour Day Weekends ahead. To some, this is an unthinkable development. To others this is reason to hurl insults at those who choose anything but that which they have organized. To me, it is a free continent in which we live, where “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” are not just words, but rights that are taken for granted.

Source — Daily Monitor

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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.

One Comment

    Geoffrey Kiyaga

    How come I was kept on the dark about this great cause ?

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