Fury as UNAA BoT members endorse onsite voting, EC agrees

UNAA official logo. Courtesy.

“We saw Uganda send money (Covid-19) relief to a select group in America. It is now those in America to run in to rescue Uganda.”

Kampala – 18, June 2021: The Uganda North America Association (UNAA) has so far registered more Ugandans from Kampala than those in America ahead of September elections. Those to fly from Uganda are, as always, government contingent of ministers and MPs.

Some Ugandans in the US have in recent years protested against the Kampala administration, especially for political reasons, and this is “something we are going to request the US Embassy in Kampala to help us with”, James Mugeni, UNAA Councilor for Central Plains, says.

He added: “VISA restrictions start with these. Nobody should be on that plane from Uganda to come here to burn taxpayers’ money. We saw Uganda send money (Covid-19) relief to a select group in America. It is now those in America to run in to rescue Uganda.”

“Every year, Members of Parliament, ministers, journalists, opposition politicians and other Ugandans fly to USA to attend the group’s annual general meeting. However, amidst pomp and merrymaking, each group seeks to control a piece of the association with government wanting to have those that identify with it in leadership while the opposition also wants those sympathetic with its struggle to control the association,” a URN story dated 28 April 2019 reveals.

With a lot of debates, controversies and power fights at UNAA in recent months, the status of September elections in Cincinnati was hanging. There arose a disagreement between UNAA EC and UNAA BOT .

“The UNAA Board of Trustees would like to inform the UNAA Membership that a final judgement has been made to permit onsite voting as the only voting method used during the upcoming 2021 UNAA elections in Cincinnati, Ohio,” Agaba’s letter to UNAA members.

“The UNAA BOT came to this consideration based on the following rationales:

  • The UNAA BOT’s interpretation of Article 6.13 of the current UNAA Constitution that states the election of the UNAA Executive positions will take place at the location of the UNAA Annual General Meeting.
  • The UNAA BOT’s consideration of the judicial opinion of Honorable Edward P. Leibensperger in the legal case of Ugandan North America Association, Inc. vs Monday Silas Atigo, et al. in their determination of the constitutionality of permitting offsite voting in UNAA elections.
  • The UNAA BOT’s determination that bypassing the UNAA membership to sanction offsite voting in defiance of UNAA’s current Constitution can have legal consequences for the organization as well as contribute to electoral disputes.

He further told members that: “UNAA Constitutional Review Committee is currently reviewing the topic of offsite voting during UNAA elections. This effort would have to be passed by the UNAA Council then presented to the UNAA membership for debate and adoption during the UNAA Annual General Meeting. If agreed upon by the UNAA membership, the earliest offsite voting can be constitutionally implemented would be the 2023 UNAA Elections.”

“The UNAA BOT would like to recognize the UNAA Electoral Commission for driving the effort of incorporating offsite voting as a voting method to be used during the current election cycle.”

Unfortunately, Agaba says, a final decision was made solely by the UNAA BOT due to reasons mentioned earlier that detail the need to exclude offsite voting from the 2021 UNAA Election Cycle.

According to UNAA Constitution, Agaba’s term of office as BOT Chairperson expired in 2020, but he continues to serve a divided UNAA.

UNAA BOT who decided for the EC are: John Agaba (UNAA BOT Chairperson), Aisha Musoke (UNAA BOT Secretary), Dr. Ben Abe (UNAA BOT Member), Caroline Olok (UNAA BOT Member) and Dr. Peter Simbi (UNAA BOT Member)

In her letter dated 16, June 2021, to UNAA members and candidates, UNAA EC, Florence Bazanye had this to say:

“On behalf of the Electoral Commission (EC), I would like to inform you about some important updates for the upcoming 2021 general elections in Cincinnati, Ohio. After careful examination and discussions with all parties, the UNAA EC has decided to move forward with the 2021 UNAA general elections to include only on-site voting.”

“Voting will be conducted electronically onsite (at the UNAA Convention in Cincinnati, Ohio). Please refer to the BOT letter for further details. The Electoral Commission will continue to uphold a high ethical code of conduct and adhere to its values,” she added.

Herbert Twase, the UNAA EC Secretary, promised “a high, ethical code of conduct, and adhere to its values of transparency, fairness, integrity and independence,” in the coming elections.

It is Covid-19 time with a lot of restrictions across the world including Uganda currently with a new wave, but this, perhaps might not stop Ugandan delegation from boarding the plane to America.

“The convention budget is for just 450 – 500 people. So, who will make it or not make it on that list of max 500?” Mugeni asks.

On voting, he says online remains the only method and should have been given a priority. “But all indicators are that onsite voting favors those in power and not forgetting the Executive Secretary who has systematically been jamming the registration.”

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