To the unaware, a headline in the Daily Monitor of April 27 was alarming. “Banyakigezi global chapter splits,” the headline reported. The reader was then treated to a report about the resignation by Dr. Francis Runumi from the chairmanship of ICOB-Uganda Chapter.
The false headline triggered many phone calls and electronic messages to me from alarmed friends and well-wishers. ICOB had set an example in orderly management of its organizational affairs and focused community service. Understandably, the Monitor headline was a deflating and discouraging read to those who were not privy to the facts.
My response to all who inquired was that either the Monitor was doing what newspapers excelled at – sensationalism that sold copies – or the editor had had insufficient sleep. How else to explain the obvious misrepresentation of what they were reporting in the body of the story? How could they not have known that the global International Community of Banyakigezi (ICOB) itself was vibrant, intact and undergoing a process of consolidation.
The Monitor story, of course, was about the post-election difficulties and the subsequent resignation of the newly elected leaders of the Uganda Chapter of ICOB. It had nothing to do with the global organization.
Happily, within days of the Monitor story, the difficulties in ICOB-Uganda were resolved very amicably. Dr. Runumi was sworn in as Chairperson, along with his team, at a ceremony presided over by the Right Honourable Ruhakana Rugunda, the Prime Minister of Uganda, and Prof. Tumusiime Mutebile, Governor of the Bank of Uganda. Interestingly, the Monitor did not report the good news of the reconciliation and transfer of leadership to Dr. Runumi. More than a month later, I have not seen a Monitor report about it. Good news does not sell.
Yet there is very good news about ICOB. The global organization, which has remained intact and focused on its goal since its inception 14 years ago today, has just celebrated another accomplishment. The fourth ICOB-funded state-of-the-art information and communication technology (ICT) centre has just been completed at Kizinga Technical School in Kabale District.
With 40 computer stations in a local area network, this centre will be a big boost to information technology education for the school and for the surrounding community. Like the other ICOB-funded IT centres in Rukungiri, Nyarushanje and Kisoro, the new one at Kizinga is in line with the organization’s focus on technical education that enhances employability. ICOB has also funded an electrical and plumbing training program in Kanungu District.
So, when ICOB members meet in Orlando, Florida, USA next month, they will have another good reason to celebrate their journey and to open their wallets with confidence and donate to the Kigezi Education Fund (KEF).
The Orlando Convention, which takes place from August 3 -7, under the theme of “Empowering Youth and Communities,” will be exclusively focused on ICOB’s organizational review; strategies for improved coordination and closer linkages between the various chapters; a review of ICOB’s bylaws; the role of the youth in ICOB’s activities and development agenda; and strategies for enhancing fundraising for the Kigezi Education Fund.
ICOB has just completed an extensive organizational assessment process, led by highly experienced professionals with long careers in the World Bank Group. Their report will be presented for debate and, if adopted, will serve as the framework for ICOB’s continued growth.
Dr. Adonia Ayebare, Uganda’s Permanent Representative to the UN, will deliver a keynote speech on ICOB’s opportunities for leveraging the international community. Ambassador Ayebare is one of those bright and eloquent speakers that is guaranteed to force us to rethink our long-held notions.
Dr. Runumi, who will lead a delegation from the Uganda Chapter, will brief the convention about the developments back home. Other senior Kigezi leaders from Uganda, including government ministers, are expected to attend. However, in keeping with ICOB’s non-partisan nature, party politics will be kept outside the conference hall.
A key direction of ICOB in the next few years is to launch and entrench a “Kigezi Day.” This will entail simultaneous gatherings for awareness-raising and networking activities in multiple communities of Banyakigezi around the world. ICOB’s goal is to become a living, active part of the lives of communities, regardless of location. One does not have to attend an ICOB convention to be active in the organization’s work. The report of a subcommittee that has developed a strategy for realising Kigezi Day will be presented for discussion and adoption in Orlando.
This is an election year for nearly all executive committee and board member positions. The list of nominees reassures us that the organization remains dear to many and its future is secure.
The Orlando gathering will not all be serious business, of course. As always, an ICOB convention is an opportunity for networking, for celebration of Kigezi culture through music and dance, for chilling among brothers and sisters, and for renewing old friendships and making new ones. Even the most serious folks among us are known to let their hair down and “get down.”
Men and women with various titles before their names will dance ekizino, ekitaaguriro and intoore with great skill and joy. I will be there but I will probably just man the cameras and capture the agile exploits of those with more confident bones than mine.