Making sense of UNAA Court Victory and Musoke’s Defeat

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In Summary: It was sweet victory for UNAA and a humbling and crushing defeat for Joseph Musoke.  Court not only dismissed Musoke’s suit against UNAA but also ordered the Auckland-based lawyer to pay all costs incurred by UNAA during the 5-year saga. It was a historical case that will continue causing ripples and reverberations across the UNAA fraternity. UNAA and its lawyer are laughing all the way to the bank. Now that the chickens have come home to roost, how do we make sense of the protracted court case; lessons we learned from the process. First, there is no room for abuse of the judicial process. Sue at your own peril if you lose. Beyond paying costs, Joseph   Musoke’s membership to UNAA was revoked in May this year.  Was this a fishing expedition by Mr. Joseph Musoke or a genuine case of public interest? Only sue when you are prepared and ready. Now that his appeal has also been denied, will Joseph Musoke afford to pay the costs? Time will tell. Second, although going by this case the 2010 UNAA constitution passed a litmus test, fundamental questions still remain: What constitutional mechanisms has UNAA put in place to resolve internal conflict? How can members with legitimate grievances seek and find justice in UNAA?  To what extent is the conflict resolution mechanism in the constitution functional, clear, and fair? How can UNAA members hold their leaders accountable when the leaders abuse their offices?  Is running to court to hold leaders accountable and revoking one’s membership for purported errant behavior the most strategic and effective mechanisms for uniting the association? How should the increasingly complex and dynamic UNAA establish a culture of constitutionalism?  To what extent is the disciplinary committee of the UNAA benefitting members? Has the committee ever been put to use or not? UNAA needs to search its soul to find solutions to these and the evolving and multi-faceted 21st Century problems.  The upcoming 2019 convention and election in Chicago offer a fresh start to an organization struggling to find and redefine its role and relevance to its increasingly assertive members. On a positive note, the UNAA and its former executive of Brian Kwesiga emerged from the case as the unsung heroes. Evidently, the UNAA versus Musoke court case brought out the bad, the good, and the ugly we have to contend with as UNAA. But as Samuel Muwanguzi writes, now that UNAA has won the court case, it is time it wins the hearts of its quiet but disaffected members.

 

 
Petitioner and attorney Joseph Sennoga Musoke

Woburn, Massachusetts—The Massachusetts Superior Court last month handed the Ugandan North American Association (UNAA) a huge victory in a civil suit brought against it by a fellow Ugandan, the California-based attorney Joseph Sennoga Musoke when it dismissed the case and ordered the petitioners to Pay Costs of the suit. Mr. Joseph Ssenoga Musoke, together with Andrew Abe of Houston, Texas and others filed a civil case against UNAA in March 2015 for refusing to call a special meeting of the association.

The 31-year old UNAA, the oldest and largest Ugandan Diaspora association was accused along seven other defendants including Brian Kwesiga (president and CEO); Monday Atigo (vice president and now the outgoing chief executive); Jude Ssempungu (treasurer); Aisha Musoke Ogwang (executive secretary now member of the Board of Trustees); and the three directors; Rebecca Namwase for finance, Timothy Gaburungyi for communication, and Irene Kasujja for development.              

Brian Kwesiga

 

Monday Atigo,


Aisha Musoke Ogwangu

In the suit, Mr. Joseph Musoke of Oakland, California and Mr. Andrew Abe of Houston, Texas dragged UNAA and its then Executive Committee members to the Massachusetts Superior Court claiming that they were in violation of the  UNAA Constitution for refusing to grant them a request to call a Special Meeting of UNAA Members.   Mr. Musoke argued that the purpose of the Special Meeting was to compel the UNAA Executive to declare that the 2010 UNAA Constitution was invalid because it allegedly did not meet the minimum requirements of the Massachusetts State law. Mr. Musoke further argued that the UNAA Executive Committee refused to allow him to inspect UNAA’s books as provided for in the UNAA Constitution. 

Left to right: Edriss S. Kironde, Becky Wamala-Brown, Andrew L. Abe, Jude Ssempungu, Brian M. Kwesiga, Nicholas K. Wakou, Aisha M. Ogwang

But in her 30 minute verdict, Judge Janice W. Howe of the Massachusetts Superior Court stated that since the plaintiffs had failed to appear and prosecute the case, and after further review and consideration, “it is ORDERED that the above-entitled action be and hereby dismissed with prejudice,” Judge Janice W. Howe of the Massachusetts Superior Court declared at the end of her 30 minute oral landmark ruling on July 30, 2019. UNAA was represented by Counsel Mr. Galen Hair of Scott, Vicknair, hair, Checki, LLC of New Orleans, Louisiana at the July 30th judgment that brought a dramatic and climactic end to the five-year judicial saga. This was a historical case and ruling that will continue causing ripples and reverberations across the UNAA fraternity.

The court advised UNAA’s Counsel Mr. Galen Hair to file a motion for recovery of costs incurred from the plaintiffs; Mr. Joseph Sennoga Musoke, Mr. Andrew Lakoich Abe of Houston, Texas; and others.  Undoubtedly, UNAA and its lawyer are laughing all the way to the bank.

 This is, however, not the first time Mr. Musoke has had to pay court costs. On August 3rd, 2017, the Judge ruled that Mr. Musoke refund UNAA’s lawyer $2,429.77 for the amount spent traveling to Massachusetts for a court appearance which neither Mr. Musoke nor his local lawyer Mr. Zziwa attended. Mr. Joseph Musoke, listed in court documents as one of the petitioners who also doubled as a witness, and an attorney for the case, failed to attend the July 30th judgment that brought a dramatic and climactic end to the five-year judicial saga. Even Mr. Godfrey Kazibwe Zziwa, Esq.; petitioners’ attorney based in Waltham, Massachusetts was not in court on this day when the case was finally disposed of.  

Going by this case, on every measure, the 2010 UNAA constitution passed a litmus test.   It was under the 2010 UNAA constitution that the 2013 elections were organized and held in Dallas, Texas. During the 2013 UNAA elections, Mr. Musoke, who had stood as a presidential candidate, came in a distant third place behind the eventual winner Brian Kwesiga and the then incumbent UNAA president Francis Sennoga who came second. During the same election, Mr.  Andrew Abe of Houston, Texas, the main petitioner (plaintiff), lost his bid for a seat on the UNAA Council. Obviously, the court ruling was a sweet victory for UNAA and a humbling and crushing defeat for Joseph Musoke.  His suit was not only dismissed but the Auckland-based lawyer was ordered to pay all costs incurred by UNAA during the 5-year saga.

Before the ruling, however, while responding to the claims in Joseph Musoke’s suit, the UNAA executive, through their lawyer Mr. Galen Hair presented evidence before the court showing that the then UNAA Executive Secretary, Mrs. Aisha Ogwang had on November 4th, 2015 informed Mr. Musoke that he did not have the required minimum number of signatories of UNAA members as per articles 3.3.1 and 4.2 of the UNAA Constitution to petition the UNAA Executive Committee to call a Special Meeting.

Additionally, UNAA presented video evidence showing that the issues Mr. Musoke raised could have been resolved at the Annual General Meeting (AGM) in New Orleans in September 2015 which Mr. Joseph Musoke attended as a UNAA member in good standing.  The video of the AGM meeting showed Mr. Musoke sitting silently at the back; even after the then outgoing President Brian Kwesiga called upon him to inspect the books. Instead,   Mr. Joseph Musoke declined the invitation.

In her ruling, the judge castigated Mr. Musoke for his failure to show up in court on several occasions and for filing countless motions to unnecessarily prolong the case - including refiling motions that the court had previously denied. She indicated that Mr. Musoke’s tactics were an egregious abuse of the court system because he came across as deliberately stonewalling the case and not ready or prepared to go to trial.

Now that the chickens have come home to roost, how do we make sense of the protracted court case; lessons we learned from the process. First, there is no room for abuse of the judicial process. Sue at your own peril if you lose. Beyond paying costs, Joseph   Musoke’s membership to UNAA was revoked in May this year.  Was this a fishing expedition by Mr. Joseph Musoke or a genuine case of public interest? Only sue when you are prepared and ready. Now that his appeal has also been denied, will Joseph Musoke afford to pay the costs? Time will tell. 

Second, although going by this case the 2010 UNAA constitution passed a litmus test, fundamental questions still remain: What constitutional mechanisms has UNAA put in place to resolve internal conflict? How can members with legitimate grievances seek and find justice in UNAA?  To what extent is the conflict resolution mechanism in the constitution clear and fair? How can UNAA members hold their leaders accountable when the leaders abuse their offices?  Is running to court to hold leaders accountable and revoking one’s membership for purported errant behavior the most strategic and effective mechanisms for uniting the association?

How should the increasingly complex and dynamic UNAA establish a culture of constitutionalism?  To what extent is the disciplinary committee of the UNAA benefitting members? Has the committee ever been put to use or not? UNAA needs to search its soul to find solutions to evolving and multi-faceted 21st Century problems.  The upcoming 2019 convention and election in Chicago offer a fresh start to an organization struggling to find and redefine its role and relevance to its increasingly assertive members.

Meanwhile, the EADM has learned that after the new UNAA administration took charge in September 2015, a Special Purpose Committee of seven people was formed to ensure that UNAA emerged victorious in the litigation Mr. Musoke brought against UNAA. Among others, the committee was tasked to ensure that the UNAA lawyer would always be paid – even if it meant using privately raised funds in case future UNAA administration was either unable or unwilling to honor this commitment.  “While the UNAA court victory belongs to the UNAA membership, there is a group of seven selfless and progressive volunteers who kept the faith, and never took their eyes off the ball until victory was realized,” Mr. Brian Kwesiga, the controversial former UNAA supremo said in a statement.

Despite several attempts made by the EADM to get a comment from Mr. Joseph Ssenoga Musoke about the ruling, no response was received. Neither calls nor text messages were responded to. However, while reacting to the ruling, former UNAA president Brian Kwesiga expressed gratification that the court vindicated his administration on its strict observance of the 2010 UNAA constitution which rattled feathers in several quarters of the association.   “Once again, I thank all UNAA members for your patience throughout this entire five-year ordeal and for the faith you entrusted in us to make the right decisions, as affirmed by the court decision,” Brian Kwesiga wrote in a press statement issued after the ruling last month.

Indeed, the former UNAA executive led by Brian Kwesiga emerged from the case as the unsung heroes. Evidently, the case brought out the bad, the good, and the ugly we have to contend with as UNAA. But now that   UNAA has won the court case, it is time it wins the hearts of its quiet but disaffected members.

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