Reformist Dr. Daniel Kawuma to Return UNAA to rightful owners

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By Samuel Muwanguzi

In Summary: In the run-up to the UNAA elections, the EADM reached out to the two presidential candidates, the incumbent Monday Atigo and Dr. Daniel Kawuma and posed 10 questions to them.   Only Dr. Daniel Kawuma submitted his responses. Unfortunately, despite several reminders through e-mails, text messages, and phone calls, Mr. Monday Atigo failed to submit his written responses as he had promised on several occasions. In the absence of Mr. Atigo’s responses, the EADM have no choice but to bring you the responses by one of the candidates, Dr. Daniel Busulwa Kawuma. We present the unedited version of his responses to our questions below:

Dr. Daniel Kawuma

Maryland, USA--1. Why do you think you should be elected or elected UNAA President?

Dr. Kawuma: My vision for UNAA is transformative and will impact the lives of Ugandans in North America. Ugandans immigrate seeking economic opportunities and by transforming UNAA from a non-profit into a for-profit investment entity, our members shall have an opportunity to become shareholders in UNAA as we make major investments in Uganda and the Diaspora. We have the ability to build wealth, create jobs and rely on the talents and resources at our disposal to own franchises. I have the experience and business acumen in corporate America as a manager for Wal-Mart pharmacy with responsibility over a large staff and budget. I delivered over $20 million in profit the last 2 years in my managerial position and I plan to achieve the same for UNAA. We have over 50,000 Ugandans in North America and we can't continue to operate on a $300,000 per year UNAA budget. I want to transform UNAA into a multi-million-dollar organization with the financial muscle to change lives and impact policy.

2. What do you plan to achieve in the two years as a President of UNAA?

Dr. Kawuma: After my two years I want every Ugandan in North America to have an answer to the question - what has UNAA done for you and your community?  UNAA under my leadership will offer investment opportunities, an emergency fund to assist our members going through financial difficulties, a community program for our youth, increased access to resources through a new UNAA mobile app, a marketplace for Ugandan owned businesses in the Diaspora, group life insurance as part of the UNAA membership benefits, immigration legal assistance and a voice to advocate for policies that affect our members in Uganda and North American communities. The churches and places of worship are currently doing the heavy lifting when community members are in need, UNAA will take the lead under my leadership to serve and mobilize Ugandans in North America.

3. What plans do you have to restore the unity of UNAA and bring back members who broke away to form UNAA Causes?

Dr. Kawuma: The bigger challenge UNAA is facing is the failure to fully mobilize the 50,000 Ugandans in North America. The reason many Ugandans show ambivalence towards coming to UNAA is the lack of tangible benefits attached to a UNAA membership. UNAA conventions only attract about 4% of Ugandans in North America and the plans I have put in place focus on expanding UNAA’s mandate and adding value to the UNAA membership. If my proposals are implemented, many Ugandans in UNAA Causes and other Ugandan groups in North America will find UNAA more attractive and we shall grow as an organization. I was also one of the architects of the UNAA harmonization committee which laid the foundation for resolving some of the structural problems that led to the exodus of UNAA members. If elected I plan to implement the reforms outlined in that report.

4. What is your position on the annual $100, 0000 hand-outs from the government of Uganda to UNAA and Diaspora communities in the USA yet the delivery of social services in the country are in shambles?

Dr. Kawuma: The $100,000 Uganda government donation to UNAA has divided our community significantly. However, this issue is not unique to UNAA since other governments such as Rwanda donate money to their Diaspora organizations but the main challenge we face in UNAA is the lack of accountability for these funds. It’s hard for me as a son originating from Gomba to look in the eyes of a coffee farmer struggling to feed their families, schools without latrines, a patient at Mpenja hospital without medicine and explain to them that UNAA is spending their taxes to pay the Intercontinental hotel in Miami, make a down payment on a boat cruise or organize community parties. If we are to continue accepting these funds, we need to use them on projects that positively impact the lives of Ugandans with full accountability. I do not support receiving tax payer’s money and using it to organize parties. The UNAA brand I aspire to build is one that empowers our communities economically by utilizing resources we have in the Diaspora.

5. Should the government of Uganda continue to send big delegations to UNAA at the expense of taxpayer’s money or members of those delegations should pay for themselves?

Dr. Kawuma: As UNAA President I will work with the Ugandan government as a partner in investment and areas of common interest in negotiating policies that affect Ugandans in the Diaspora. However, my approach will not be as a beggar. We are powerful as a Diaspora and contribute greatly to the Ugandan economy with over 4 trillion shillings in remittance. Ugandan officials like anyone else are free and welcome to attend UNAA events. However, if an official isn't bringing anything of value to our members, there is no justification for using taxpayer’s money to fund their trip.

Dr. Daniel Kawuma

6. How should UNAA be more relevant to the Diaspora communities in the USA beyond organizing annual conventions?

Dr. Kawuma: The mission of my campaign has been moving UNAA beyond the 3 day convention. All the plans I have put forward are community based initiatives that will increase the presence of UNAA in Uganda North American communities. UNAA will embark on major investment projects, a new office to centralize our operations, we shall mobilize every member to purchase a life insurance policy, offer access to legal help particularly on immigration matters, education, jobs, scholarships and career advancement courses for our members, modernize our information delivery through the UNAA mobile app, an emergency fund to look out for members during dire circumstances among other proposals on my manifesto. UNAA will not only be known for conventions under my leadership.

7. What strategies do you plan to apply to ensure that Ugandans in the Diaspora vote in the forthcoming general elections in 2021?

Dr. Kawuma: If elected UNAA president, I will unveil the Diaspora voting rights act at the 2018 UNAA Convention in Seattle drafted by the UNAA Diaspora Affairs Committee to demand voting rights for Ugandans in the Diaspora.  115 countries in the world and 28 in Africa including our neighbor Rwanda offer their citizens in the Diaspora the right to vote. There is no reason why Ugandans in the Diaspora who love and contribute 4 trillion shillings annually to their motherland should be denied the right to vote for their leaders. I have drafted a proposal and timeline for delivering on this promise by 2018.

8. To what extent is your election campaign inspired by the FDC?  Is the FDC funding your election campaign?

Dr. Kawuma: I have no political party registration or affiliation in Uganda at the moment and my independence allows me to speak freely about the issues that affect Ugandans across the board. Majority of my campaign has been self-funded with some small contributions from my supporters and unlike my opponent; I have not received any endorsements from Uganda government officials.  If elected I will be representing the views of all Ugandans in North America irrespective of their political party affiliations. It’s also in the best interest of UNAA that we keep Uganda political party money out of our elections because it always comes with strings attached.

9. Why should the Ugandan Diaspora (UNAA members) trust you with their votes when you previously broke away from UNAA to form a rival faction and later made a U-turn?

Dr. Kawuma: I was elected on the UNAA Council and with the support of 7 other council representatives, we made a stand to defend the integrity of UNAA’s elections and constitution which were under assault. Our position was supported by the UNAA Board of Trustees and Electoral Commission. The UNAA Executive chose not to follow the guidance and recommendations of the UNAA Board of Trustees (BoT) which eventually led to their resignation and that of several members of the Electoral commission. As a leader I was faced with a choice to either compromise my values or stand firm on principle. I stood on principle, served my community and continued paying my UNAA membership which was a requirement to run for UNAA President. If I had left UNAA, I wouldn’t have been able to meet the requirements to run for President. It’s also on record during the 4 town halls I hosted that my intentions were to reform UNAA and not form a splinter group. My commitment to reforming and uniting UNAA was also evident from the time and effort spent on 3 separate reconciliation committees. The most recent “The UNAA Harmonization Committee” drafted a comprehensive reform package that we handed to the UNAA executive to implement. UNAA members know my record; trust my judgement and commitment towards reform.

10. What are the chances that you will win this hotly-contested UNAA election?

Dr. Kawuma: My opponent has been on the UNAA executive for 4 years and his focus has been on traveling to Uganda instead of the communities he was elected to serve in the Diaspora. I have a stronger message in this campaign because it’s the message from Ugandans in North America who UNAA was meant to serve. Every community I have visited the questions everyone keeps asking are - What has UNAA done for my community? What’s the value of a UNAA membership?  UNAA’s presence and impact hasn’t been felt which calls for change in leadership. This victory will not be mine but rather a victory for Ugandans in North America. UNAA is going to be returned to the rightful owners, the Ugandans in the Diaspora.

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