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UNAA: Atigo scoffs at Kawuma's new presidency

By Cecilia Okoth

Added 18th February 2018 04:02 PM

Kawuma’s election was conducted exclusively online, while Atigo was voted by both members who were present at the convention and online.

UNAA: Atigo scoffs at Kawuma's new presidency

Kawuma’s election was conducted exclusively online, while Atigo was voted by both members who were present at the convention and online.

PIC: UNAA now has two presidents


Following the swearing in Dr Daniel Kawuma as the new ‘president' of the troubled Uganda North American Association (UNAA) Sunday, Monday Atigo, who was elected the president at the UNAA Convention in Miami last September, has scoffed at the development, calling it "wishful thinking". 

Kawuma, a pharmacist based in Maryland in the US, was sworn in by Dr Joseph Buwembo, the chairperson of the UNAA board of trustees, as the new UNAA president at the Hilton Hotel in Woburn, Massachusetts, effectively giving the organisation two ‘presidents'.  

Kawuma, who contested for the presidency of UNNA and lost to Atigo, contested the result citing foul play. Kawuma's election was conducted exclusively online, while Atigo was voted by both members who were present at the convention and online.

UNAA is the largest association of Ugandans in the Diaspora started 29 years ago to unite the now estimated 150,000 Ugandans in both Canada and the US, who, it is estimated, contribute about half of the $1b (sh3.65 trillion) remitted to Uganda by Ugandans living in the Diaspora annually.

In recognition of their contribution and activities, the Government of Uganda contributes $100,000 (sh365m) towards the activities of UNAA annually.

Atigo appearing on a television programme recently

Atigo speaks out

However, speaking to New Vision in an interview in Kampala recently, Atigo, who owns a logistics company in Texas and who is presently in Uganda on a business trip, rubbished Kawuma's presidency, asserting that he (Atigo) was democratically and constitutionally elected by UNAA members at the convention in Miami.

"There is no such a thing as two presidents in UNAA today because our constitution does not provide for it. So, if anyone is going to come and claim to be president, the constitution specifically lays out the procedures of how one is elected into the office," Atigo stated.

Stressing that UNAA is a member-based organisation, Atigo said the power to elect a new leader lies in the people who gather at a convention site to elect a president every two years, which has not been the case for Kawuma.

Origin of the fracas

UNAA woes erupted in November last year when Kawuma filed a petition challenging the Miami elections, where Atigo emerged winner.

Consequently, according to a communiqué by Franco Wantsala, the chairperson of UNAA electoral commission, a special election was sanctioned and endorsed by UNAA board of trustees (UNAABOT) in their November 12, 2017 directive to UNAA electoral commission.

An earlier communiqué written by Kawuma states that the UNAABOT conducted an investigation and found that 357 members on the voters register had not paid their membership dues as required by the UNAA constitution.

Kawuma claimed that when Atigo and his executive were tasked with providing proof of missing membership funds for the 357 members who were added to the voters register, they failed to explain, causing a loss of $17,650 (about sh65m) to the association.

It is against that background that the UNAA electoral commission conducted fresh elections albeit only online, this month and declared Kawuma the ‘rightful' president.

Dr Daniel Kawuma being sworn in as UNAA's president by the chairperson of the UNAA board of trustees, Dr Joseph Buwembo (not in picture)

Firing the board

In the ensuing fracas, Atigo fired the entire UNAABOT. He says the constitution allows a sitting president to disband the board and his decision was based on the fact that the board was causing more harm than good to the association.

"The board wanted to steer the organisation differently, claiming they did not get the desired outcome of the elections held last year. So, they illegally made amendments to tamper with the constitution to their benefit and blind-sided members by voting online," he added.

Explaining the procedure for any amendments, Atigo insists the constitution can only be amended when members vote and approve the amendments, then the association, through the secretary, files amendments with the secretary of state of Massachusetts in the US, within 30 days, since UNAA was incorporated in the state of Massachusetts.

However, he said none of the above was done.

"When I took oath of office, I pledged to protect and defend the constitution to ensure that nothing illegal is done. And I will stand for this, until my term of office ends," he said.

Atigo also dismissed claims that illegal members voted for him, saying every member who took part in the election presented membership payment receipts.

Way forward

Despite the conflicts, Atigo said UNAA is working towards exploring the potential in the diaspora, which, he said, is a key player in remitting foreign direct investments to Uganda.

"This year's convention is scheduled to take place in August in Seattle, the home to Amazon,
Microsoft, Starbucks and Boeing. These are all fortune 500 companies and our aim is to use this opportunity to interact and see how Uganda can benefit," he said.

UNAA brings together Ugandans living in North America, creates a platform for networking and developing strategic partnerships with philanthropic, cultural, educational and economic empowerment, among others.

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