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.
We 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 this website 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.
We 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.
“What does $ 1000 do for a Community in North America. I’m appealing to all Ugandans in North America to reject this money, call your Community leaders and ask them to return the money. UNAA should return the money to Uganda quickly, Ugandans are pleading for food and we are here in North America taking the little from them,” a source who spoke to us on condition of anonymity said.
“This makes all of us look bad, we should be sending money back to Uganda not the opposite” the source added.
However, a non deterred Wamala following the money debacle said 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 safety 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 altogether, 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.
Munini Mulera, a former executive of UNAA at one time castigated the convention for having no business contribution but rather only an event for socialization.