The crisis in the Ugandan North American Association (UNAA) has deepened with resignation of five of the seven members of the association’s Board of Trustees (UNAABOT).
The UNAABOT members who resigned yesterday are Dr Sarah Matovu (Georgia), Dr Opiyo Oloya (Ontario), Mr James Serumaga (Boston, Massachusetts), Mr Alexander Zabasajja (New Jersey) and Dr Muniini K. Mulera (Ontario.)
The decision to resign was a very well considered one. Our letter of resignation, widely distributed to media houses, gives details of some of the circumstances that led to our decision. Those who know us will not be surprised by our unity of purpose and unhesitant determination.
Dr Matovu said: “My resignation from the Board of Trustees was the best and only thing to do for UNAA. The mission and vision of the UNAA that I helped found with a group of Ugandans living in Atlanta, Georgia in 1988, is far different from what is practiced in the UNAA of today.”
“The UNAA executive made a concerted effort to make the Board of Trustees irrelevant by ignoring most of our rulings, directives and recommendations. There is a lot of intrigue and cliques within UNAA, which I find very difficult to be part of.”
Mr Serumaga said: “Resigning had never crossed my mind until the last couple of months when I felt the UNAA president and his advisers were committed to the practice of ‘you do things my way or no way’. I cannot serve and oversee an executive that doesn’t respect the law as written in the UNAA constitution.”
Mr Zabasajja of New Jersey said: “Starting from the 1980s, I have been involved with many Ugandan community groups, including serving as president of UNAA 15 years ago. In all these positions, I always worked hard and made many sacrifices for the good of the association. Had the current executive committee followed the constitution and allowed the leadership organs to function fully, UNAA would have leaped forward to new heights.”
Dr Oloya said: “It was an honour to serve in promoting UNAA’s vision to bring Diaspora Ugandans together. Unfortunately, the conduct of the current Executive Committee made it clear to me that I could no longer serve. To continue to serve would have been to abet and condone the executive committee’s bad behaviour.”
Considering that every year the Uganda government gives UNAA a $20,000 subsidy to enable Ugandans in the Diaspora to have a good party in North America, Ugandan citizens ought to take an interest in this unfolding crisis.
The abuse and misuse of funds in UNAA is no different from that which many UNAA leaders condemn when it occurs in Uganda. The only difference is that the $20,000 subsidy, like all UNAA finances, is neither accounted for nor subjected to an independent audit.
Perhaps that is about to change, for we are hopeful that those seeking to save UNAA will ensure that, this time, with the assistance of the relevant authorities in the United States, our tax-exempt association will be subjected to a thorough audit and public report.
I repeat my comments last week. UNAA is worth saving. However, it will require a change of culture, attitude and practice. As Mr Zabasajja said: “I am hopeful that future leaders will follow the constitution and change UNAA from an association that spends 11 months planning for a three-day party.”
It is an achievable hope. In the words of Dr Matovu: “UNAA will come out of this crisis stronger and more united if we learn our lessons well. UNAA is for all of us.”
Whereas we have resigned from the Board of Trustees, we remain strongly committed members of UNAA, ready to work with and support any and every effort that seeks to restore honesty, integrity, transparency and the rule of law to our association.
Dr Mulera is based in Toronto, Canada. email@example.com