Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Vision Group journalist, Mathias Rukundo has sailed through unopposed as the president, Uganda Journalists Association.
The Returning Officer, Ben Chaggason Musoke declared Rukundo unopposed at the election that took place at the UJA offices in Kawempe on Saturday afternoon.
Musoke told URN that he was surprised to be declared unopposed.
“When I was nominated on November 30, I was sure that Lubowa, Moses Kasasa and Kasule were in the race. I am also surprised they picked forms but did not return them. A week ago however I was approached by Kasasa who said he has been on the ground, and found I was the reliable leader UJA needs,” said Rukundo.
Rukundo was contesting against other Vision Group journalists including Moses Kasasa and Kasule Farouq. Daily Monitor photojournalist Abubakar Lubowa, who had also shown interest in the seat, was no show.
Katasa dropped out of the race while Kasule opted for the position of secretary for media safety and human rights.
Musoke also declared the candidates for the remaining position unopposed, saying they did not have rivals.
They include Rebecca Kyobutungi as secretary for women in media, Ronald Kasirye and Daniel Mumbere, the Secretary Information while Doreen Mwesigye is the vice president and Emmanuel Kirunda, Secretary General.
The remaining four positions are for the regional representatives for central, Northern, Eastern and Western Uganda and will be filled when UJA holds elections in the respective regions.
Musoke noted that the decision was reached by the outgoing committee in a bid to ensure that regional positions are not filled up Kampala-based journalists who may not be in touch with the people they are supposed to represent.
He asked the UJA members to promote a culture of healthy competition, saying Lubowa should have participated in the polls.
Last month, Lubowa together with 34 journalists including Culton Scovia Nakamya and Becky Cynthia Nakimera petitioned the outgoing executive committee. The group urged the executive to postpone the elections until the 2020/2021 general elections have been conducted, saying several UJA members are covering the campaign trail.
They also protested against the hiked membership and nomination fees. The group says the UJA executive increased membership fees for new entrants to Shillings 50,000 up from Shillings 30,000 and Shillings 20,000 to Shillings 30,000 for renewing membership.
Although there are over 1,000 journalists across Uganda, only paid-up UJA members can participate in the elections. The petitioners explained that several members will be locked out due to financial constraints resulting from the impact of coronavirus disease-COVID-19.
However, the UJA executive led by the outgoing president, Bashir Kazibwe, dismissed the petition but reversed the increment of the membership fees. Moses Bayola Muwonge, the outgoing Secretary-General and incoming Treasurer says the committee couldn’t postpone the elections to next year because their tenure expired in September 2020 and that even only one petitioner, Hakim Mubiru, was a fully registered member.
He says 200 of the 450 eligible voters turned up for the polling exercise and the annual General Meeting. Before declaring the new executive committee members, UJA held its annual general meeting but most members were concerned about brutality against colleagues by security personnel and the tainted image of the association.
Rukundo says his team will ensure the protection of journalists and strategize on cleaning up the image of UJA.
Photojournalist, Abubaker Lubowa told URN that the timing of the elections was unfavourable for the majority of UJA members because of ongoing electioneering activities.
“For any serious association with members away for elections, they should have postponed the election. They ignored us and decided to organize the elections,” he said.
Lubowa noted that the outgoing leadership has been unfair to the journalists who are on the campaign trail yet the new leaders will have to serve them for the next two years.