“Since you sought legal counsel, can you provide us with that written legal opinion so that we can move forward with removing the off-site voting from our 2021 EC guidelines and processes. Please provide us with this information in 24 hours as we are time limited,” EC’s Florence Bazanye to BOT’s Chairperson John Agaba.
Kampala – May 14, 2021: The Uganda North America Association (UNAA) Board of Trustees (BOT) and organization’s electoral body are yet to agree on holding elections scheduled for September 2021.
Both BOT and the EC are trading accusations – especially the recent pulling down of the electoral guidelines from the UNAA website; whether off-site voting should take place, legal consequences, among others.
In a letter dated 11, May 2021 to UNAA EC by Mr Agaba John, the UNAA BOT Chairperson, he wrote: “UNAA Board of Trustees reviewed the response sent by the UNAA Electoral Commission on April 26, 2021 in which it was stated that the current UNAA EC will disregard the UNAA BOT’s decision to only conduct onsite elections during the 33rd Annual Convention in Cincinnati, Ohio. We would again like the UNAA EC to refer to the UNAA BOT’s statement sent on April 21, 2021 that thoroughly details how the UNAA BOT came to its decision to permit only onsite voting.”
“This decision will be in place until it is changed constitutionally via the proper channels,” he adds.
“Please be assured that the UNAA BOT took into consideration all opportunities and obstacles that offsite voting would permit. Legal counsel was sought and it was determined that offsite voting is not legally mandated for 501(c) (3) organizations in spite of the current health climate.”
“The UNAA BOT found offsite voting to be problematic policy change considering the previous lawsuit the organization faced as well as the need for UNAA elections to take place in the same location as the UNAA Annual General Meeting as stated in the UNAA Constitution.”
The UNAA BOT determined that bypassing the UNAA membership to sanction offsite voting in defiance of UNAA’s current Constitution can have legal consequences for the organization.”
Therefore, he urges in his letter that, “it was concluded that the allowance of offsite voting is a decision to be made by UNAA’s membership and not by the Electoral Commission. The UNAA BOT appreciates how passionate the UNAA Electoral Commissioners are on the issue of offsite voting. The BOT also appreciates that the window to effectively conduct a free and fair elections is closing”.
“The UNAA BOT is requesting that the UNAA Electoral Commission Process and Guidelines be sent to the membership within the next 72 hours that exclusively allows ONSITE voting. If this deadline is not met, the UNAA BOT will take the necessary steps needed to ensure that the upcoming UNAA elections are conducted within the limitations of the UNAA Constitution.”
The UNAA BOT would again like to thank the UNAA Electoral Commission for their efforts thus far, he concludes
In her reply, in a letter dated 12, May 2021 to BOT, Ms Florence Bazanye, the EC chairperson reminded BOT that he EC convened and discussed your letter dated May 11, 2021. The EC would like to inform you that at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, commissioners met numerous times to prepare for the 2021 elections. The countless hours of deliberations resulted in the drafting of 2021 EC guidelines and processes that were posted to the UNAA website on March 24, 2021, then later taken down by the UNAA Secretary Lambert Etibot under the direction of the BOT.
The EC chairperson further reminded BOT that “during our preparations the EC carefully considered the unprecedented challenges UNAA members are facing as a result of Covid-19 pandemic hence we found it logical not to deny UNAA members the right to vote but rather, give them an enabling environment to exercise their democratic right”.
Importantly, she adds that the EC looked at “Covid-19 State health restrictions both in Massachusetts and Ohio which the BOT have deliberately ignored”.
“The EC would like to remind the BOT that UNAA elections need to be inclusive and participatory. Disfranchisement of UNAA voters undermines the legitimacy of elections results and the integrity of the electoral processes.”
“Since you sought legal counsel, can you provide us with that written legal opinion so that we can move forward with removing the off-site voting from our 2021 EC guidelines and processes. Please provide us with this information in 24 hours as we are time limited. The EC has started receiving applications from candidates hence your timely response in this matter is appreciated.
Reactions from some executives
Albert Bakasara, UNAA Deputy Speaker
“This ping pong is getting old. Madam BoT Secretary, with all due respect to you, to Chairman Agaba, and other Trustees, you are all dead wrong on this; and, if you continue on this path, you will cause unnecessary turmoil in our organization.
“The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has set in place clear legal provisions for non-profit organizations (registered in the State) to operate under – during the ongoing Covid 19 pandemic emergency.
“The ‘on-site’ voting that you are recommending is unworkable. I am sure, you are all aware that because the Covid 19 pandemic restrictions in the city of Cincinnati (and the State of Ohio), the convention hotel cannot accommodate every willing UNAA voter – intending to show up to vote on location.
“This is evidenced by the limited numbers in convention budget that was submitted to the UNAA Council; and, the deliberate online voter registration ‘jamming antics’ the Executive Secretary has been using to limit those numbers – even as the BoT looks the other way!
“How many times have we complained about potential UNAA members failing to register on the UNAA site, how much potential revenue has UNAA lost? And, what have you all done, or said about those complaints?
“As the overseers of the Executive, have you bothered to investigate those complaints? Perhaps, even asked/proposed for the EC or another impartial entity to take over the registration process (since the ES has showed a clear bias? Nope – you have done nothing. Zero. Zilch! And, that alone says a lot!
“Again, your role as the BoT, is to interpret the UNAA constitution – not to make/rewrite the constitution. You cannot interpret a ‘Constitutional article’ that doesn’t exist.
“Additionally, your powers cannot supersede those of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts – where our organization is registered. If you disregard the guidance and the laws of MA, you risk UNAA being shut down!
“I pray that the EC stands its ground, and not yield to this clear intimidation and interference in its constitutional mandate – to organize free and fair UNAA elections. If for no other reason, at least, to expose that very truth!
“Again, you are dead wrong on this, and you know it! It’s really a shame – that you guys would behave in such a manner!
James Mugeni, UNAA rep. Central Plains
“The Executive Secretary has been deliberately jamming the online registration as the BoT looks on! Now they are yapping.
“The crooks are back. There is a deliberate way to keep Ugandans in America in a state of confusion. I don’t see how people who run a funeral service keep going to court; is it over burial site or property inheritance?
“I insist this thing (UNAA) should be de-registered. When you read the so called letter from the BOT you see that someone from state house Kampala is giving instructions moreover coming on the eve of elections.