In August, about two thousand people are
expected to attend the annual convention of Ugandans living in the USA, Canada
and Mexico. They're part of the UNAA – Uganda North America Association. The
group meets every year to discuss culture and other topics. This year's
conference will be held in Orlando, Florida. From Kampala, Voice of America
English to Africa Service's Peterson Ssendi reports that Bulayimu Muwanga
Kibirige is the chairman of the BMK business group, which has its headquarters
in Kampala. BMK employs over 720 people and is a co-owner in many business
ventures in East Africa, including health clubs, heavy machinery and real
estate. It also sponsored a UNAA convention eight years ago in Kampala.
Kibirige says [At these meetings] "Ugandans
from home and other parts of the world discuss politics [and] business, and
every evening there is good entertainment. It has become very traditional and
if you miss it, I think you will regret it. I always participate in business
discussions… some people have stayed in America for more than 20 years and they
don't know that [Uganda] has changed."
Mukula is National Vice Chairman of Uganda's ruling National Resistance
Movement, or NRM-O, in charge of Uganda's Eastern Region. He's also the chairman of Uganda
Airways, "I have attended a number of
these UNAA Conventions…my wife and children do enjoy these conventions and I am
looking forward to attending this (year's) convention."
Delegates also talk politics.
Uganda's opposition is there to seek financial and political support.
Meanwhile, Presidential press aid Tamale Mirundi says that the government sends
representatives to the conventions to help counter what he says is "a
negative political picture" of Uganda in the West spread by the opposition
the scheduled topics are land reform, and the war in northern Uganda.
Mukula praises the UNAA Convention participants and organizers for infusing the
organization with a spirit of unity, patriotism, and Pan-Africanism. He says
the group has also proven its commitment to democracy, "The democratic process
that this organization goes through [by changing ] leadership [yearly] … also
shows the political maturity which has developed within the UNAA."
The annual meetings are also about business. The government wants
expatriates to invest in the country. And many are already involved. Among them
is Mulumba Stanley, a Ugandan based in Boston who opened an exporting business
in Kampala – "Uga Rose Flowers, Ltd". Ugandans in the Diaspora also created the
well-known firm Jakana Foods, as well as Akright Projects, a company that
builds and sells affordable houses and property to Ugandans.
Mulindwa, a construction and civil engineer in Florida, is the co-owner of
Radio Simba in Kampala and a popular Kampala venue, Club Silk. Expatriate
Ugandans are also involved in running Gulu Independent Hospital in Gulu in
Northern Uganda, Mbarara Community Hospital in Western Uganda, and Paragon and
Victoria Hospitals in Kampala.
on the conference agenda will be the progress of a proposed commercial bank
that would offer easier lending terms for those promoting small-scale
industries and farming.
Maggie Kigozi is the executive director of the Ugandan Investment Authority, a
frequent participant and presenter at UNAA Conventions, "A number of the
Diasporas have already invested in schools here. We are looking for further
private investment in education, and in [creating micro-finance institutions].
We also need workers for our companies. Many multi-nationals are now investing
in Uganda. Ugandans are very well-educated but we do not have the experience
whereas the people who have been working in America or in Canada have the
experience that our investors need."
is a non-profit organization that accepts financial support from businesses,
which supporters say do not influence the group's activities.
president, Lt. Frank Musisi, says in addition to discussions on education, immigration
and family issues, the conference will host a job fair with many US businesses
in attendance. In addition, he says the
United States Agency for International Development has agreed to send a
representative to discuss how Ugandan-run NGOs can help Uganda develop.