As the dust settles on UNAA and UNAA Causes’ competing events (see yours truly’s overview of these Ugandan organizations’ ugly clash here), it has emerged that UNAA has elected a new president. He is called Monday Atigo and he replaces Brian Kwesiga whom he has been deputy to for the last two years.
From the luxury of distance, it seems right to presume to write Mr. Atigo an open letter.
Dear Mr. Atigo:
Congratulations on your ascendancy to the top leadership of UNAA, an organization that we all must admit has done immensely well in the past 27 years to bring together Diasporan Ugandans of all tribes and hues in one place for three days.
The disagreements notwithstanding, it is a good thing that UNAA has a new leader if only because it helps bring a new face and, hopefully, perspective to the proceedings.
With that in mind, it is close to the bone to say it but unless it is addressed, UNAA’s future risks being engulfed by the past at a time when it has a chance to wipe the slate clean and move forward as a united organization.
First off, your predecessor’s stewardship of UNAA has been an unmitigated disaster. Brian Kwesiga presided over the most caustic and ruinous atmosphere around the organization that anyone has seen in 27 years. The eventual splitting of the organization into two was the final nail in the coffin of what can only be reasonably viewed as an abject failure of leadership.
While the renting asunder of the organization can be placed at all sorts of doors, the fish rots from the head and so Mr. Kwesiga must take full responsibility for the management fiasco that he has handed you to clean up. If his term of office were a fish, Mr. Kwesiga should wish to throw it back if he were honest enough with himself.
Your first and most critical job is to reunite the organization. The issues dividing UNAA and UNAA Causes are not that great if personal egos are set aside and a constructive eye is cast over what makes UNAA great which is Ugandans coming together as one. You don’t have a lot of time to fashion a reconciliation because, of course, you also have to start looking at organizing UNAA 2016 before you send out your acceptance message. The bottom line, however, is that you cannot ever claim to have been successful as president of UNAA if September 2016 comes around and the two organizations are not one again, singing from the same hymn sheet. Reunifying UNAA must therefore be your be-all-end-all initial assignment.
UNAA Causes has happened, charging less for more, in very expensive New York City. How they have managed to do it is worth looking at as the perennial complaints from attendees have been about lack of fiscal transparency. One has no evidence one way or the other, but if UNAA Causes hosted San Diego at the drop of a hat in 2014, with about 400 attendees and came away with no reported debt, it stands to reason that this convention can be hosted successfully and money left over for developmental and/or charitable causes when it is a unified movement of 1000+ people, doesn’t it?
While politics is part and parcel of any organization, UNAA seems to have veered to the extreme of soliciting funding from the Government of Uganda and turning a part of the proceedings into a hustings for Ugandan politicians. With Diaspora Ugandans supporting the Ugandan economy to the tune of more than $500m annually, it’s rather clear who needs who more. It thus beggars the question why UNAA should ask for or accept a single cent from a government that cannot put medicines in hospitals or pay teachers a decent salary.
Ugandan politicians must thus not be invited to an event they need more than it needs them. If they wish, they should pay their way, and attend like anyone else without being given top billing or preferential treatment.
Finally Mr. Monday Atigo:
We accept that you have inherited a mess. You, however, have accepted the poisoned chalice and must now show that you are capable of drinking from it and staying alive. Humbling yourself, listening more than you talk, going the extra mile to compromise, refusing to accept failure, and smiling along the entire way may not come amiss.
Oh, and get yourself a Twitter account. It seems utterly remiss for any leader not to have one in 2015.