By Brian Kwesiga
We believe that any contentious issues should be presented fairly and accurately to UNAA’s membership during the next Annual General Meeting so that a consensus can be reached.
Anyone following recent media reports, 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 further from the truth.
The fact is that UNAA is undergoing yet another metamorphosis; the kind that 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. We are outperforming the previous three UNAA conventions in registrations, UNAA Memberships, hotel bookings, etc.
Recent media reports purported to be from a section of UNAA’s Board of Trustees are 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 is unfortunate because the content and spirit of the media reports 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.
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 my opinion that the principal cause is a significant change in the generational demographics of the organization. From this 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 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 attempt to break away from UNAA and establish a completely new organization with the grapevine awash that they will attempt to 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.
A cursory review of UNAA’s immediate history proves that such experimentally endeavors will always suffer misfortune since they are not inspired by principle or planned with the experienced and dedicated professionals that align with UNAA.
The consequences are disastrous financial losses and I have the duty to warn the general public against signing up for such experiments. Meanwhile, UNAA is available, vibrant and open for business.
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.
Brian M. Kwesiga is the President and CEO of UNAA (2013-2015)
Contributors: Eng. Nicholas K. Wakou, PE, Austin, Texas is the current Speaker of the UNAA Council
Eng. Moses R. Wilson, PE, Los Angeles, California is a member of the UNAA Board of Trustees and a past president of UNAA (2009-2011)
Ms. Rosette Serwanga, Boston, Massachusetts is also a member of the UNAA Board of Trustees and also a past president of UNAA (2003-2005)
Eng. David K. Mureeba, PE, Dallas, Texas was a member of the 2010 UNAA Constitution Review Committee and UNAA’s very first president (1990-1995)
Mr. Moses Ocen Nekyon, Boston, Massachusetts is a two-term past Vice President of UNAA705 087715 773 590 721