Ugandans in North America under their umbrella group UNAA are currently stuck with $100,000 (Shs370m), an annual gift from President Museveni towards organizing their festivities in the USA.
The money that comes from the pocket of the finance treasury as an annual contribution for the annual UNAA Convention was forwarded to the group despite possibilities of the convention not happening due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nile Post understands that the UNAA President Henrietta Wamala persuaded the Ministry of Foreign Affairs who are the custodians of the fund to forward it to the Association’s accounts allegedly to help Ugandans in different states go through ‘hard times’ during COVID-19.
Wamala on receiving the money started a distribution spree to different communities, but several members raised questions over taking the money, claiming it would be unjust to pocket Ugandan taxpayers’ money while a number of Ugandans run hungry during the COVID pandemic.
According to documents seen by the Nile Post from Wamala (dated April 15), at least each Ugandan community in the USA is to be given $1000USD (Shs3.7m) to facilitate its members, while the balance of the money will be used to facilitate a video conference.
Nile Post contacted some of the Ugandans in the USA who claimed it was selfish for the group to partake of the money at a time like this, especially when they expect not to hold a physical convention.
Nile Post understands that in May this year, the UNAA Council of representatives voted to cancel the Convention. Insiders in UNAA confirm that the vote was split 9 for and 9 against the Vice President (Ms. Lydia Natolo) breaking the tie by siding with those against holding the Convention.
Wamala decided to take the issue further to UNAA Board of Trustees, which convened a meeting in the middle of the week, the meeting between the Executive and the Board trustees agreed to postpone the Convention to next year, Henrieta and her camp argued that UNAA’s contractual obligations with Hilton Union Square Hotel in San Francisco make it difficult to cancel the Convention.
The Board of Trustees argues that the Organization should hire a law firm to renegotiate the Contract to 2021.
Alas, to everyone’s surprise, following the meeting that ended late Wednesday night, they woke up to a message from Wamala saying the convention would continue, albeit online.
“Now, there have been some amongst us who have suggested that this year’s convention be canceled because of the Covid-19 pandemic and those that suggest that we should have the convention as scheduled. Please allow me to confirm to you that the 2020 Annual UNAA Convention will go on, albeit with significant differences from past conventions,” Wamala said.
“This does not mean that we are deaf to the realities of the C-19 pandemic. Indeed, the Executive Committee and I have been working tirelessly to plan the convention within the structures posed by the pandemic. Our first preference is to host a physical convention at the Hilton Hotel in San Francisco. We have worked with the hotel to make sure that if indeed there is a physical option, we have all safe measures in place to protect our members with Social distancing up to ONLY 300 maximum,” Wamala adds.
While members of the Association have called for the cancellation of the convention all together, Wamala, who is in her first year of office has remained adamant at hosting the convention by hook or crook.
A section of members believes that Wamala is looking for all avenues of accounting for the Shs370million token, first by forcibly distributing Shs3.7milion to communities and holding a convention, making it easier for her executive to account in both financial and administrative terms.
According to Wamala, at the very last option, the convention will at least happen through zoom conference calls.
“We are fully aware of and monitoring the changing health environment in the City of San Francisco and the State of California as a whole especially today. As such, we are also working on an alternative that would take the convention Virtual this year. To this end, we are talking to the organizers of other conventions that have also been forced to also go virtual to gain a better understanding of the associated technical challenges,” she said.
“UNAA will host its annual convention this year 2020 as scheduled and after exhaustively weighing all options, the Executive will be communicating to you the mode of which we will proceed,” she added.
The three-day convention costs the country between Shs380million to Shs 570 million in direct grants for organizing, plus Shs 1.7m in per diem payments per member of parliament who travels, or Shs2.1m, should the speaker or his deputy travel as well, which has been the case always.