UNAA, which brings together Uganda’s diaspora in North America has stamped an indelible mark on Uganda’s social-economic and political landscape
OPINION | UNAA CONVENTION
By Henry Mayega, ambassador
The 2017 UNAA convention was held in Miami USA. It was a rare moment of optimism, one where the Speaker, Rebecca Kadaga, Chief Whip, Ruth Nankabirwa, Ministers Muruli Mukasa, Esther Mbayo and a host of others earnestly presented the achievements of the National Resistance Movement Government.
The convention, themed “Economic Empowerment and Health Care Transformation”, aimed to unleash the full potential of Uganda’s economy by literary embracing this administration’s economic and commercial diplomacy (ECD); calibrated to promote trade, investment, tourism and in all senses involve the diaspora in the development of our country. The ECD, drawn from the rare wisdom of Yoweri Museveni’s administration is being rolled out in a number countries including China. There was nothing under the sun that was not passionately discussed; economics, politics, social cultural promotion were all in the public domain amid the oppressive and sweltering heat of Miami beaches threatened by the upcoming Irma hurricane then. Despite all these, the mood of conferees was never dampened. The matter of most consuming interest to the conferees was economics; the usual sanctimonious political agitation and its architects were both absent.
The single biggest achievement the NRM has registered with Uganda’s diaspora is the inclusion of that constituency in the economic and commercial diplomacy; where Uganda’s missions abroad have been tasked to mobilise our nationals outside the country’s borders to play a leading role in attracting trade, tourism and investment. To some without compact thought, that mobilisation is “… they (NRM) send delegations to diaspora conferences not to listen, but to control proceedings,” a statement attributed to Ibrahim Semujju in one of the recent dailies. He is like many of his ilk in the illiberal opposition, stuck for years in the same rut, who without patriotic hearts have failed to lay aside party biases and prejudices to move in heart and hand for the sole purpose of development.
For our readers, UNAA, which brings together Uganda’s diaspora in North America has stamped an indelible mark on Uganda’s social-economic and political landscape. That diaspora has been, like those from other continents, instrumental in repatriating, annually, hundreds of millions of dollars to our country; all of them put together, over a billion dollars. Countries like China, the Philippines, India and Pakistan earn colossal sums of diaspora cash that spurs development. It can only be hair-brained dregs in our society who would downplay that contribution. As a good source of cash, the diaspora were implored to channel such funds to investment projects either individually or as a group; a method partly used by Ethiopia to build Africa’s biggest hydro-electricity dam. This should explain the interest the NRM has in the diaspora and plans are under-way to not only replicate these groupings worldwide but increase their girth as well.
The office of the President, Parliament and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs have diaspora desks which mobilise the diaspora’s involvement in ECD. Attending the Miami Convention, I could see the great love the diaspora have for their country, for domesticity purposes, almost to fever point and so the dangerous gambit that they are controlled by the state is not only obtuse but stolid an argument as well because this administration has a responsibility to all Ugandans irrespective of where they inhabit and their political stripes.
Away from diaspora-repatriated cash, a regional fistula treatment medical facility is to be built in Soroti with their support. The facility is an addition to the Government efforts to combat the ailment among females. And because the NRM has liberally lubricated diaspora activities in the right political direction, there are other similarly funded projects in Mayuge and another in Kasangati.
The saddest news to the ship-wreckers before docking is that this year’s convention was celebrated with a difference. The Ministry of Internal Affairs and NIIRA were in Miami to offer registration services for national identity cards and dual citizenship; a stab-wound to elements within the recessing opposition whose job it has been to taut the Government over delays in realising these two key milestones. Another debilitating stroke was the loss by Dan Kawuma, an opposition sponsored UNAA presidential candidate to Monday Aligo. Sensing these losses, the opposition scampered elsewhere including New York’s Tabamiruka where a self-styled promontory and regional jingoistic group usually meets annually to berate the NRM and they won’t allow anyone at their convention connected to the Government to speak, they do not hoist the national flag either, etc. That is where the likes of Ibrahim Semujju find opportunistic space to spew out their characteristic hate and opposition impotence against President Yoweri Museveni.
Back to the Miami Convention, the opposition are the single biggest enemy to themselves; smartness in politics requires that you go where a sane group is gathered and you make your point rather than cobbling a rancorous conclave. In the trade and investment forum, it was revealed that a Florida-based company is arranging to transfer cheap technology for building affordable accommodation for Ugandans. That sounds bad to detractors of this administration. The stranglehold on remnants of the opposition by inexpedient oligarchs has obliterated their capacity to reasonably see in good light the fortunes resident in gatherings like UNAA. Diasporas worldwide are fantastic sources of investible funds for their respective economies and anyone who downplays their contribution to national development is an enemy of social progress and an extraction from the lowest pedigree.
The writer is Uganda’s Deputy Head of Mission in Beijing, China