Ugandan Diaspora News | Letter from the Editor | October 2014 | The Big Story – Inside Uganda’s Political Posturing Ahead of 2016

Posted October 1, 2014 by Ugandan Diaspora News Team in Editorial ~ 6,684 views


Dear Folks,

Welcome to fall which essentially means we are now 3 months to the end of 2014. This year for me has been perhaps the toughest and last month the most challenging. My beloved Mom lost her battle with cancer on 9th September and we buried her on September 11th 2014. It was the same month in which my father passed away – September 14th 1987, then I was still a child and it was tough coming to terms with my loss. However the passing of my mother who was my best friend and also the Matriarch of our family has left a deep scar in my life partly because we used to talk almost daily. But I thank God for the opportunity to be by her side as she breathed her last from this earthly life – below is my tribute and obituary.
As we enter the last quarter of this calendar year the big story in Ugandan politics is the sacking of the former premier of Uganda, John Patrick Amama Mbabazi or JPAM, as he is commonly called on social media. Mbabazi’s departure and treatment in Kyankwanzi will always be the proof of how local and dirty our politics has now become. It is quite clear that what we have today is a presidency that functions more like a monarchy — anyone vying for the position is criminalized and the position ring fenced.  It was also bizarre to see the heroic welcome the President received from the US after firing his Prime Minister, who was still the Secretary General of his party. Amama Mbabazi was a close confidante of Museveni for close to 40 years and one of his longest serving cabinet ministers, however his fall from grace and the presumed purging of all his supporters from government will be a game changer come 2016. This big question is will Mbabazi sit back and watch as party faithfuls, for whom the party is a financial lifeline, humiliate him or will he boldly declare himself a candidate for 2016.
The next two years will determine a lot of things in the future of Uganda’s politics and rest assured there will be a round two in this ongoing saga between Museveni and Mbabazi even though the latter surprised many by the way he reacted to his sacking. In my view just like the Retired Col. Kiiza Besigye did in 1999 when he left NRM and declared his candidacy – Amama Mbabazi might need to buy himself an insurance policy by declaring his intention to run for the Presidency or else suffer deeper isolation and political persecution. Reading the local dailies and how quick his former colleagues have been in distancing themselves from the man who in some cases made their political careers is the new political posturing we shall be witnessing in the run up to the 2016 General election. What many of these politicians forget is that like Kategaya, Kiiza Besigye, Mugisha Muntu, Bidandi Ssali and the many other Museveni confidantes gone before – they too will end up the Mbabazi way if they oppose the Life Presidency project. In my view this whole situation gave us a window into our President’s mind especially his political thought process. And of-course at issue is the failure of our President to groom or name a successor a decision that might come back to haunt us one day! Only time will tell if we shall see another 52 years of Banana’s the way Uganda’s leading playwright – Alex Mukulu coined the phrase 20 years ago — in his famous play ’30 years of Banana’s! – Here is a flashback of my Q&A with the former premier at the Four Seasons hotel in Boston in May.
Possibly the oldest community organisation in the Diaspora — the Uganda North American Association, better known as UNAA, may be no more as we knew it next year or might be split for good. Bitter divisions and intrigue has led to two competing groups announcing conventions in two different cities for next year. In a departure with tradition, the UNAA President has decided to take the convention to New Orleans, a city with no known local chapter and which is in geographical proximity to Dallas where the last elections took place–a strategy aimed at winning the next election and maintaining a strong grip on UNAA affairs. At the same time a different group of UNAA diehards have opted to take the next convention to New York in the northeast, to tap the Boston and New York community that should have rightly been the next convention venue. It needs to be noted that unless some elders let go, the organisation as we know it may soon cease to exist or be a shadow of its former-self. UNAA is now controlled by a few interest groups that set the agenda by proxy outside the main UNAA executive. It is these individuals that award contracts to friends and appoint cronies in the UNAA electoral commission in order to influence the outcome of UNAA elections.
Here are a few recommendations I feel would end the current impasse and help put UNAA back on the right path.  The creation of the UNAA Council was a mistake that opportunists were quick to exploit. We are at this point because of one man, Rahim Kabagambe, who was voted to represent Canada when he has never even attended a UNAA convention. What was equally disturbing is that this individual was not even able to attend San Diego yet there have been UNAA members that have been willing to kill this organisation by using him as a pawn to influence votes during UNAA’s virtual call-in meetings. The whole point of allowing regional representation was to allow traction withing the regional communities but apart from approving UNAA budgets I cannot see the usefulness of the Council or what the representatives have done for their respective communities. I recommend reverting to the 2010 constitutional model with a few modifications– a bigger Council was bound to create conflict and is subject to manipulation.
We shall also need a new Electoral Commission with representatives from the various communities where Ugandans reside in North America. The problem is that people have not always shown interest in this area and that is where UNAA elections are first rigged, using questionable guidelines. Below is a link of my take when the faultlines in UNAA first developed during the aftermath of the Dallas Convention.
The UNAA Executive should be expanded or the old UNAA board system brought back, where voting was on individual merit not group tickets. Voting should be open to all attendees and not organised by region, for that is how Kabagambe found his way onto the ballot even though he had never attended a UNAA event.
The UNAA Board of Trustees (BoT) was born out of the desire to prevent future abuse of UNAA power by the future UNAA Presidents — abuses which came to the fore following the Chicago convention. This oversight body the BoT is prone to partisan politics and in this particular case acts like the defacto President (based on what was seen/witnessed in San Diego). Instead, I suggest creating an oversight committee composed of past UNAA Presidents in good standing, as a way to preserve this institution and help in conflict resolution and interpretation of our UNAA Constitution. Finally, our UNAA voting register should be kept open to all and closed on day 1 of the convention, to avoid disenfranchising members, which is what happened in Dallas and Denver.
Away from UNAA politics — President Museveni was recently in Dallas at the invitation of some members of the Ugandan community there. He was, however, denied a stay at the two hotels that had been booked, resulting in what I am told was a $70,000 dollar alternative booking at a ranch in Allen, Texas. He also pledged $100,000 annually to Ugandan Associations in North America. As a diaspora community we await a full report from the UNAA President who was part of the preparations in Dallas, to update us on what was resolved at the meeting with the President and his efforts to end the current UNAA divisions. If not properly explained, this move could end up alienating more UNAA constituents, who are often wary of government interference from Kampala in this diaspora organisation.and feel that such money can be better utilized back home where our healthcare and education systems leave alot to be desired.
On a positive note however the Buganda Katikiiro visited some of the Buganda Kingdom Constituencies in North America over the course of last month. The Etoofaali campaign did particular well yielding about $80,000 dollars after all the pledges and donations were counted. This move by the Katikiiro and his message of unity among the Baganda in the Diaspora was a welcome gesture.
Finally, for all those with friends and family that desire to live and work in the US the Green Card Diversity Lottery for 2016, which provides the opportunity to live and work in the US legally, will begin in October. .

Our quote of the month – Politics n A strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. The conduct of public affairs for private advantage –AMBROSE BIERCE, The Devil’s Dictionary

God speed and a happy Independence Day Uganda!

Managing Editor — Ronnie Mayanja

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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.

One Comment


    Well said, thank u diaspora news for this commentary on Unaa its balanced and vital. there is need for more of same informed feedback. It will be a sad day for Unaa if it’s members and original leaders allow this to continue unchallenged

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