Letter from the Editor | Ronnie Mayanja | October 2011

Posted October 1, 2011 by Ugandan Diaspora News Team in Editorial ~ 6,875 views


By Ronnie Mayanja | Editor, UNAA Times Online | I have been thinking lately about what it means to celebrate 49 years of independence. While some of our neighbours, like Tanzania, are already half a century old, come October 9 we will be looking back on what has been achieved in Uganda. Perhaps stability is one area worth celebrating, though some might find a contradiction in this, since Foreign Policy magazine included Uganda in its Failed State Index for 2011, just one number away from countries ranked as “critical”.  Further chiding for pervasive corruption has come from Transparency International and the donor community. And so, with Uganda celebrating 49 years of independence, 26 of which have seen President Museveni at the helm, here is some food for thought: are we better off than we were under previous leaders?

Here in the northern hemisphere, it’s another change of season as people take in the fall foliage to catch a glimpse of natures splendor while for the kids it’s back to school. But in the Ugandan community there is much that is unusual in the way of local politics. Two UNAA(s) have now emerged, each claiming the right to the UNAA trademark, with one group registered in Massachusetts and the other in Texas. The battle lines have now been drawn with the outcome soon to be decided in a court of law, hardly what is needed for the healthy functioning of any organisation.

Some will ask what prompts me to take on such a thorny issue, but as a UNAA member these developments concern me greatly. I have also recently received emails from some of the Ugandan community leaders and elders in Boston-one such elder was the Chair of the Boston Catholic community who asked why I had failed to address some of the issues raised following the Denver convention, after all, am I not a professional journalist?,  to use his words.

So here is my 50 cents worth on the issue. UNAA is now apparently split into two camps–the original UNAA now UNAA Inc. and the UNAA transformers call them dissenters, the latter newly registered in Texas by a group calling itself the UNAA transformers. As I look on from the sidelines and listen to online radio show discussions on the subject, I am increasingly bemused by the different viewpoints. We all know that UNAA needs to continue, but dividing it is not the answer. The impasse needs to be taken up at the Annual General Meeting of members where the people can bring their case to the entire membership through dialogue. But this can only happen at the next UNAA Convention which is almost a year away, so where does that leave the organisation which now faces impending court actions?

Tabamiruka deciding to bring their convention to Boston on the same weekend that UNAA will be hosting a convention in Philadelphia leads me to wonder how the community is supposed to decide where to go, since many convention attendees will be torn by cultural loyalties and will have to grapple with choosing between the two. Some might say UNAA does not hold the monopoly over this labor day weekend but how about the interests of those community members who love their culture and also the unity of their country! The politics of divide and rule is partly what is killing off our communities. As we celebrate our independence we ought to be celebrating our maturity in politics and tolerance of divergent views.

As a student of American history, I am reminded of how in the late 19th century blacks just a generation away from the end of slavery (and some poor whites) were disenfranchised when the Southern states enacted a poll tax as a pre-condition to voting.  Does UNAA really need to have a $50 separate fee for members to vote and if so should it be that high? In the past a membership fee of $20 was always included in the convention registration fees. Voter apathy is the strongest indication yet that people are losing interest in UNAA affairs. I therefore hope that this fee will be rescinded or reduced by the new executive and UNAA council. In this tough economy, some people are beginning to feel that participation in the UNAA convention is no longer affordable. Above all, let’s work for our people. Life insurance is badly needed and many of our local chapters need reviving. How do we go back to the UNAA of yesterday, when people always booked in advance and looked forward to attending the convention?

In my view, one way to start is by instituting a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to bring us together and address some of the issues raised by dissenting members about our current structure of governance. But all of this starts with recognizing the new leadership. They, in turn, need to take some members’ concerns to the council, as a way of seeking redress and possibly repeal of some of the regulations. Some issues raised appear genuine but can quickly be shrouded in suspicion, depending on how they are presented. Democracy is about the people power so all stake holders must and should always feel represented. So the approach should be “ask not what UNAA can do for you, but what you can do for UNAA”.

Finally, this year a gallant son of Uganda made the cut to the top 10 CNN Heroes of 2011. Mr. Derreck Kayongo, a Senior Advocacy Officer at CARE, will be recognised for his innovation in recycling soap to help less privileged communities, especially in Africa. The award comes with $250,000, money that could trickle back into our Ugandan economy. The nominations have now closed and the award ceremony will take place on December 11, 2011, hosted by CNN’s Anderson Cooper in the US.  For me this is not just about Derreck–it is also about Uganda and the Pearl of Africa from which he hails. So let’s celebrate a fellow Ugandan who has made us proud and given us world prominence by voting for him and his cause in large numbers!

Long Live UNAA and Happy Independence Day Fellow Ugandans!

Ronnie Mayanja | UNAA Times Online | |
Ugandan Diaspora Inc | |
Soreel Mayas Grafx Ltd | | 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.


    Roland Atukunda

    Editor, your wrote,Quote, “will ask what prompts me to take on such a thorny issue, but as a UNAA member these developments concern me greatly. I have also recently received emails from some of the Ugandan community leaders and elders in Boston-one such elder was the Chair of the Boston Catholic community who asked why I had failed to address some of the issues raised following the Denver convention, after all, am I not a professional journalist?, to use his words.” Unquote

    Are you refering to Henry Ndaula or Ndawula, an ardent supporter of former UNAA President Frank Musisi, and this Ndaula, same fellow who signed the Fake Chicago injunction against the UNAA elections in Chicago? This was before he remembered that he wasn’t a resident of Chicago, crossed out his name and had one Wasswa replace his name. Please don’t fool us that he is not an architect to the same circus in Texas. Ndaula is strongly behind Angela Semukutu and the transgressors. Standby for more bwiino.

    David Mutebi

    Can you check the meaning of the word faction before you use it where it doesn’t belong?

    Rev. Joseph W. Kamugisha

    Mr. Mayanja:

    I highly commend you for posting a fairly balanced approach on the issues especially pertaining to the current upheavals in our UNAA community, with particular regard to the “two UNAA’s”.

    However, i just wanted to point main observations;

    1] Much as I’m a strong advocate and lover of culture and our cultural institutions in Uganda, some of which are represented under such organization as “Ttabamiruka” it should be understood that the organizors chose to pick the Labour day weekend partly for reasons meant to disorganize and disrupt UNAA as an organization. The UNAA leadership at that time decided to accept the fact that competition is a healthy thing to do as long as it is done in good faith and the same has been going on for about two or three years with Ttabamiruka.I don’t know how many delegates Ttabamiruka had in New Jersey, but last year in Washington, DC, UNAA had a gathering of about fifteen hundred delegates. This year, i understand, Ttabamiruka, had about four hundred delegates, while in Dnver, Colorado, UNAA had about seven hundred registerd delegates. So for you to suggest or wonder how next year’s Ttabamiruka in Boston, will affect UNAA in Philadephia, is kind of under estimating the power of choice, loyalty, love and respect Ugandans in the diaspora hold in terms of deciding what they want and value the most.

    2] The other issue is the one where you wrote and i quote; “…separate fee for members to vote and if so should it be that high…?” I would have thought that you being a former UNAA Board Member, one who tirelessly worked so hard to promote the interests of UNAA and particularly so by informing the world via your esteemed UNAATIMES media group and one which i remember circulating the questionnaire which was passed out by the UNAA appointed Constitutional Review Committee, for members and all interested individuals to submit their proposals, which would in return be reviewed and VOTED on in 2010 at during the UNAA Washington, DC convention. In other words, regardless of how many people voted on the draft proposals of the constitution, everybody was given an opportunity to participate in the submission of the proposals. It was not the UNAA executive or the UNAA Council which proposed or passed the “Fifty dollar” membership fee. But the members in Washington, DC. Therefore, it will take the same member’s who if interested and concerned in attending the Annual General Assembly [AGA] in the next UNAA convention, to address the issue and propose an amendment on the membership clause to be review. Let us not make it look like the UNAA executive or the UNAA council proposed and passed the “Fifty Dollar membership” amendment.

    Thank you for your continued service to UNAA and the UNAA communities at large.

    Jude Mugerwa

    Ronnie, nice editorial. Very progressive message

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