Tuesday June 17 2014

UNAA leader calls for unity

UNAA president Brian M.Kwesiga.

UNAA president Brian M.Kwesiga. Monitor photo 

By STEPHEN KAFEERO

KAMPALA- Disagreements at the Uganda North American Association (UNAA) will not affect the operations of the organisation, Mr Brian M. Kwesiga, the president of the association has said.

In a statement on the current state of the association, Mr Kwesiga said while some members of the UNAA Council decided to abandon their legislative duty by not meeting with any of the other UNAA Council members they disagreed with, his executive team has continued to function as an effective unit and will remain doing so.

“For several months now, a section of UNAA’s leadership has expressed their continued opposition to the election of a single youth representative to the UNAA Council and a commitment by the National Executive to carry out a comprehensive audit of UNAA’s Finances for the last five to seven years as demanded by UNAA’s membership,” Mr Kwesiga said.

He said differences in opinion should not divert members from the mission of a more united and vibrant association.

“We on the Executive Committee believe that any disagreements we may have should never cloud or be allowed to become an obstacle to our commitment to meet and exceed the needs of UNAA’s membership and the friends of UNAA.”
UNAA will organise its 26th Annual Convention at the Hyatt Regency La Jolla Hotel in the US on August 31.

Mr Kwesiga noted that the UNAA leadership had taken a decisive, swift and transparent action to protect UNAA’s finances after the treasurer allegedly breached his duty of diligently exercising his obligations to UNAA.

“We understand our actions will come across as contentious but we also know we are expected to deliver exceptional results and not explanations and mediocre excuses,” he said.

In a statement released by UNAA executive, they proclaimed that the future of the association is brighter and better, despite reports that its headed for collapse.

Read the full statement below:

THE FUTURE OF UNAA- BIGGER, BETTER AND STRONGER
Anyone following recent activities and discussions within the UNAA community would have cause to think that the organization is in eminent danger of demise. However this could not be any further from the truth. The fact is that UNAA is undergoing yet another metamorphosis of a sort it has undergone many times before and will, as always, emerge bigger, better and stronger.

UNAA’s membership remains solidly behind its elected and completely functional Executive Committee, as evidenced by the record registrations for the 26th Annual UNAA Convention at the Hyatt Regency La Jolla Hotel, August 29th – August 31st 2014.

The recent posting purported to be from a section of UNAA’s Board of Trustees is but pure political posturing in response to the significant gains and advances UNAA’s new executive team have registered and its continued commitment for a full audit of UNAA’s finances over the last several 5 – 7 years as a start. This is a typical growth symptom a diverse and large Ugandan association like UNAA will experience from time to time. In this case however it’s unfortunate because the content and spirit of the letter were devoid of the slightest ingredients of truth and appeared to be attempts to conceal potentially fraudulent activity.

Over the past 14 years, several individuals and groups have attempted to emulate the success of UNAA. Rival organizations have been started and conventions hosted. But in each and every instance UNAA emerged bigger, stronger and better. Please allow us to explain.
UNAA has experienced and survived 4 major potentially cataclysmic events in its 26-year existence.

1. In 2000, the then UNAA leadership took the annual UNAA convention to Uganda. In so doing, the organization left a vacuum back in North America which resulted in the formation of two new competing organizations. All three organizations hosted conventions the following year in different cities and the organizers of all three conventions suffered significant financial losses. The future of UNAA lay in the balance. A flurry of negotiations in the ensuing months saw a very chaste, but once again united organization and there was only one convention in 2002 – the UNAA Convention. However, there was a very noticeable departure of some prominent members who never returned to the organization

2. The process of organizing the 2006 UNAA convention in New York was so contentious that the organizing committee literally split in two and both groups proceeded to host separate competing functions in the same city over the same weekend. Here also both groups suffered significant financial losses and UNAA suffered the permanent departure of yet another segment of its membership

3. A third disruption occurred following the 2009 convention when yet another segment of members parted ways with UNAA and formed a competing organization. However, as opposed to the first two splits, a vastly overwhelming majority of UNAA members remained with the organization and this support was reflected in a record-setting attendance at the 2010 convention in Washington, DC. But here also, some members left and never returned.

4. The fourth event was more insidious. Following the Denver convention in 2011, a small but very determined group made a very bold attempt to actually take over UNAA by exploiting some minor weaknesses in the organization’s constitution and, for a while, publically represented themselves as the UNAA leadership. While the effectiveness of this plot failed, a few remnant members of this group still persist to this day. The number of members who left in this instance was negligible.

In all instances, UNAA overcame the challenges of the moment and emerged bruised, but ultimately stronger.So, as has happened many times before, this challenge too shall pass and UNAA will emerge bigger, better and stronger - albeit with the now almost inevitable departure of some of its “Old Guard.”

So what is the cause of this upheaval in UNAA? It is our opinion that the principal cause is a significant change in the generational demographics of the organization. From this one cause can be traced various other factors such as an inability to accept the results of last year’s elections by some members of UNAA’s “Old Guard.”This group has since mounted a fanatical “at all costs” campaign to drive out UNAA’s new leaders and retain their grip on power over the organization.

We will highlight, as an example, the events that took place during UNAA’s Annual General Meeting at the 2013 UNAA Convention in Dallas, Texas. After significant debate and drama, the final measure to be voted on was who would be allowed to participate in the general elections the next day. The final outcome saw one side almost exclusively peopled by members of the “Old Guard” who supported one of their own and an opposing side that was easily twice as large and peopled almost exclusively by members of the “New Generation” who supported opposition candidates. No one in that room could have been left in any doubt that a quantum change in leadership was about to take place.

Sure enough, the next day UNAA members overwhelmingly voted in a new Executive Committee comprised almost exclusively of members of the “New Generation.”

So do we think this generational change is bad for UNAA? Absolutely Not! Do we concur with the doomsayers who are predicting that UNAA is in eminent danger of total destruction? Emphatically No!

What we do believe is that with the ever increasing number of young professional Ugandans joining the organization, this change in leadership was bound to happen at some point. We are, however, greatly disappointed that in their quest to retain control over the organization, some members of the “Old Guard” have gone so far as to break away from UNAA and establish a completely new organization that will host a competing function less than a mile from the planned official UNAA convention venue. We are particularly disappointed by the fact that many of the leaders of this “rebel” faction are now engaged in the exact same unethical attacks against which they defended UNAA in the past.

The leadership of UNAA is in very capable hands and its future is bright. It is a testament to the maturity and competence of UNAA’s new leaders that they have reached out to many past UNAA leaders and supporters across all generations. In so doing, they have gathered around them advisors and a support structure comprised of individuals who have successfully defended the organization against similar attacks in the past and helped grow the organization over the years.

The question that is yet to be answered is whether or not the generation that gave birth to UNAA and has shepherded it over the past 25 years, is prepared to reverse course, let go of the reigns of leadership and both help usher in, and embrace a new generation of leaders into the organization.

sdkafeero@ug.nationmedia.com

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