UNAA Elections 2019: Who will win the 4-horse tight race for President?

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In Summary: They are dug in. The contest is fierce. No election has attracted such competitiveness, excitement, and enthusiasm in UNAA recent history. The race is too close to call. Anything can happen. The rhetoric from the four presidential candidates is semantically divergent but civil and, in esthetic terms, unquestionably similar. None of the four candidates is a new kid on the block. All the four candidates; Major Frank Musisi, Mrs. Henrietta Nairuba Wamala Sinabulya, Mr. Patrick Ogwang, and Engineer John Julius Muwulya Lwebuga have served UNAA in various capacities at one time or another. Pedigree may not count for much. Instead, messaging, personality, integrity, perceived decency and honesty, and other soft skills are likely to become the yardsticks on which candidates will be judged and separate the winners from losers. The EC, thus far, has been unexpectedly transparent and is radiating rays of hope. Perhaps they learned a lesson or two from the Miami mess. That Miami debacle should never be repeated. An air of cautious optimism lingers. It’s the noisy cheer leaders who are throwing spanners in the works. Sometimes the noise sounds like a cacophony of rancorous natives at a village wedding of the chief’s son. But as Samuel Muwanguzi writes, going by their campaign rhetoric, it is obvious that each candidate is taking just one step, one punch, and one round at a time as they await the voters’ verdict on the night of Sunday September 1, 2019. Let the best candidate win! But even an hour in politics is a very long time for change to happen. It’s a short but circuitous and tortuous journey. Definitely, the wait is so agonizing. We empathize! Don’t you?

The four presidential candidates (L-R): Patrick Ogwang, John Julius Muwulya, Henrietta Nairuba, and Frank Musisi

Chicago, Illinois—The Ugandan North American Association (UNAA) annual convention is underway here in the windy city of Chicago, Illinois this Labor Day weekend; Friday August 30 to Sunday September 1, 2019. With more than 1000 delegates attending the 31st convention of the oldest and largest Ugandan Diaspora organization, the ultra-modern Hyatt Regency Chicago has already become a bee-hive of political activities for UNAA members and their kith and kin from their motherland Uganda and elsewhere in the Diaspora for the Biennial elections of the leaders of the association. The soon-to-be members of the executive will replace the outgoing and troubled administration of Mr. Monday Atigo, Eng. John Julius Muwulya, Mr. Peter Mukunya, and Mr. Arthur Nantamu.

The members of the outgoing administration: Monday Atigo, John Julius Muwulya, Peter Mukunya, and Arthur Nantamu

At stake is the election of the four-man executive committee of the president, vice president, executive secretary, treasurer, and the over 20 council members. The tightly contested presidential race has attracted four candidates; Mr. Patrick Ogwang, Major Frank Musisi, Mrs. Henrietta Nairuba Wamala Sinabulya, and Engineer John Julius Muwulya Lwebuga.

The four presidential candidates are deeply dug in. The contest is fierce. No election has attracted such competitiveness, excitement, and enthusiasm in UNAA recent history. The race is too close to call. Anything can happen. The rhetoric from the four presidential candidates is semantically divergent but civil and, in esthetic terms, unquestionably similar. None of the four candidates is a new kid on the UNAA block.

Over 1200 members have registered to take part in the election this Sunday September 1, 2019.  To many observers, the high degree of enthusiasm from the members of the Diaspora organization is both a rarity and unparalleled.

Already, the political temperature at the Hyatt Regency Chicago is now more than just fever-pitch. As the unfolding 3-day Labor Day weekend witness candidates, their surrogates, and members politicking, making merry, heightening their rhetoric, and electing their leaders of the organization, the political temperature will only get fiercely hotter.

Although all the four candidates vying for the position of President and chief executive officer (CEO), the top and most powerful position on the UNAA executive committee. Have served UNAA in various capacities at one time or another, pedigree may not count for much. Instead, messaging, personality, integrity, perceived decency and honesty, and other soft skills are likely to become the yardsticks on which candidates will be judged and separate the winners from losers.

All but one candidate entered the race with a team on their tickets for the other three executive positions; the vice president, the executive secretary, and treasurer. The three candidates; Major Frank Musisi, Henrietta Nairuba, and John Julius Muwulya have also fielded candidates for the various UNAA Council positions. Mr. Patrick Ogwang, who entered the race quite late, is the only independent candidate without a formal team of candidates but positioning himself as a unique leader ready to work with whoever is elected on the executive and council.

Five candidates are tussling it out for the position of vice president while the rat race for the positions of executive secretary and treasurer has attracted three candidates apiece. Equally, the contest for seats on the UNAA Council to represent geographical regions in the United States and Canada has attracted an unusually large pool of candidates and will go down as the most competitive in UNAA history.

Engineer John Julius Muwulya Lwebuga

Engineer John Julius Muwulya, a youthful and prolific fundraiser, the environmental engineer charming his way to Canaan. But he has to first cross the Jordan before he can take possession of the Promised Land where honey and milk flow down the village paths. For him, it will have to be hard work to the coveted prize. Having tasted the sweetness of the presidency in an interim capacity last year, he is leaving nothing to chance. Unlike the biblical Jews, there will be no miracles to part the waters of the Jordan to claim the UNAA throne. Engineer John Julius Muwulya Lwebuga is the current Vice President of UNAA, chair of the local organizing committee (LOC) of the 2018 UNAA convention in Seattle, and a leader in multiple capacities IN his local community in the Seattle area and in his native Rakai district in Uganda.

Eng. Julius Muwulya told the EADM in an interview that since he joined UNAA 5 years ago, he has been committed to the mission of reforming and transforming the association even when his actions meant he had to go on a head-to-head collision with colleagues on the executive. His recent dossier in which he accused Monday Atigo’s administration of corruption and financial mismanagement was perhaps designed to demonstrate his zero tolerance to corruption. “I hate corruption and I will spare no effort to root it out of UNAA. As an engineer, I am a pragmatist who seeks solutions to all sorts of problems and my life has been shaped and dedicated to transparent community service,” he said in earnest.

A graduate of civil/environmental engineering, Julius Muwulya is currently managing an engineering project in the State of Washington where he resides. Interviewed by the EADM, the youthful engineer said that he plans to create a mentorship platform for the young people, establish a scholarship fund with $5,000 of his own money as a start-up, and provide immigration support to all Ugandans seeking to settle in the United States. “My plan is to achieve all these goals during the first 100 days of my administration from September 1, 2019,” the outgoing UNAA Vice President (2017-2019) and former UNAA Council Deputy Speaker (2015-2017) told the EADM with a sense of mission in his voice.

But as for the UNAA presidential position, he has to earn it and, with potentially UNAA youths in tow, he is doing exactly that. The youthful engineer could spring a surprise come Sunday September 1. Be on the lookout!

Mrs. Henrietta Nairuba Wamala Sinabulya

Henrietta Nairuba Wamala Sinabulya, a former executive secretary of UNAA, is an old hand with pedigree to harness and ride to a positive outcome. The final battle in the protracted war is on her home turf. The only woman candidate in the presidential race, she is running the home stretch cushioned by accoutrements that come with a home ground advantage. With the well-oiled UNAA status quo and campaign machinery behind her bid, it is her election to lose. As the establishment candidate, her victory could as well mean a no change in the way UNAA affairs are handled. Mrs. Henrietta Nairuba Wamala Sinabulya, a tested leader in her own right, is a two-time executive secretary of UNAA and a local community leader and fervent advocate for women rights in her home state of Illinois.

Mrs. Henrietta Nairuba declined an interview with the EADM despite several requests to her to clarify on the strategies she would use to fulfill her campaign promises if elected the next UNAA president. However, gleaning through her Web site, Henrietta Nairuba promises, among other pledges, to resolve the onslaught on UNAA with honest, credible, transparent, and experienced leadership that will unite, grow and sustain the organization’s quality and integrity. With her experienced leadership, Mrs. Henrietta Nairuba Wamala Sinabulya, a wife and mother, states on her campaign Website that there is now need in UNAA, “a need for transparency and fiscal discipline in UNAA with enforceable checks and balances within the Executive.” An active member of UNAA since 2005 and served as the organization’s Executive Secretary from 2009-2013, she has been a great asset to the outgoing administration led by president Monday Atigo. Indeed, on the campaign trail, the three most active members of the Atigo executive; Monday Atigo, Peter Mukunya, and Julius Kabugu have vigorously campaigned for the aspiring president they fondly refer to as ‘Madam’ as if their lives depended entirely on her victory.

If Henrietta Nairuba can plunder the majority of votes in her home state, take a large portion of the women vote, and pickings from elsewhere, she will be a hard nut to crack. Male candidates, you are on notice!

Major Frank Musisi

Major Frank Musisi, a former UNAA president is riding a wave of discontent against the UNAA administration and is fusing his bid with a strong and proven community service record in his native Sese Island (Kalangala district). Fondly referred to as Afande, the serving US-Army Major returns with a message of transparence, transformation and reconciliation of UNAA. Positioning himself as the candidate of the golden years, he is promising to return UNAA to its glorious past.

Focusing on rebuilding, rebranding and unifying UNAA beyond conventions, Major Frank Musisi is touching the much-needed hot-button issues that continue to elude the 31-year-old Ugandan Diaspora organization in the United States. His immediate plans once elected as president are, among others, to Reestablish UNAAA office with 24/7 hotline 1-800-UNA-HELP; organize immigration seminars & centers; ensure financial independence; establish an emergency fund for UNAA and a Diaspora center & hospital in Uganda; and restore transparency, integrity, and accountability in how UNAA handles its affairs.

A husband and father of six children, Major Musisi holds a master’s degree in Project Management, a Bachelor of Science in Information and Computer Science, and a proven and honored record as a community organizer and leader, volunteer and mentor. “Even as an active duty officer with the US Army, I continue to coach, mentor, teach, and inspire youths and African immigrants in the U.S. to volunteer for public work and community service,” the active military service officer said. He added: “We have so many young people who are smart, educated, ambitious; we need to integrate them into the community to help us move forward and thrive in the 21 Century through innovation, technology, and investments,” he said.

With a block of a committed protest vote and new pickings from his cross-country tours, the military officer is not taking any prisoners. Apparently, as a foot soldier, it appears; once again, this is a do or die mission. An energetic campaigner and organizer, Major Frank Musisi, the only former UNAA president (2007-2009 in the hotly contested election, is also a prominent opinion leader in his Los Angeles City of residence. He is definitely the candidate to beat!

Mr. Patrick Ogwang

Mr. Patrick Ogwang, now a new creation, he is taking his bid as an anointed calling and mission from above. Nothing is about to stop him. Late in coming, he is drawing attention from a sizeable electorate from born-again churches and from those seeking a fresh start championed by a man on a godly mission. With an unshortened hand of God in charge, anything is possible. The calling from above is inspiring his irresistible rhetoric and if nothing else, it has buoyed his passion and genuine demeanor. Mr. Patrick Ogwang is not without pedigree either. He is the current UNAA director of development, a former president of the Ugandan community living within the Dallas Fort Worth (DFW) area and husband to Mrs. Aisha Musoke Ogwang, a former executive secretary of UNAA and current secretary of the Board of Trustees (BOT), his message of transformation is winning hearts from some of the most indifferent and hard to reach members.

Referring to his presidential bid as a purpose driven mission, Patrick Ogwang, a husband and father espouses a philosophy of servant leadership which he plans to apply to unite the various factions of UNAA just as he did in bringing together the communities of Dallas and Houston through sports when he served as the president of the Ugandan community living within the DFW area.

Now that he has gone through a radical spiritual make-over, Mr. Patrick Ogwang told the EADM that just as he did in 2011 with some colleagues in the Dallas area, he plans to create a Diaspora Investment Group for the several Diaspora Ugandan communities across the United States to invest in the lucrative land and real estate ventures in Uganda

“My vision for UNAA is to restore hope, integrity, honesty, and to unite Ugandan Diaspora communities to solve the common problems we encounter here, the now born-again community leader said. “We must awaken that seed of greatness which is embedded in every man and woman to achieve the optimum we can for individuals and the communities we live in,” he declared with the voice of a man on a mission. It’s hard to disagree with him. Ignore him at your own peril.

A cross-section of UNAA members at one of the previous conventions

Overall, going by the campaign rhetoric from the four presidential candidates, it is obvious that each of them is taking just one step, one punch, and one round at a time and waiting for the voters’ verdict on the night of Sunday September 1, 2019. Let the best candidate win!  But in politics, even an hour is a very long time for change to happen. It’s a short but circuitous and unpredictable journey. Definitely, the wait is so agonizing. We empathize! Don’t you?

The EC, thus far, has been unexpectedly transparent and is radiating rays of hope. Perhaps they learned a lesson or two from the Miami mess. That Miami debacle should never be repeated. If only the EC can stand its ground and resist the pressures from ‘above’ and neither tamper with the process and outcomes, then a credible election with legitimate results is on the cards. An air of cautious optimism lingers.

It’s the noisy cheer leaders who are throwing spanners in the works. Sometimes the noise sounds like a cacophony of rancorous natives at a village wedding of the chief’s daughter. Ignore them.

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