I have been in London since Saturday, enjoying the cool but comfortable summer while looking forward to the fourteenth annual convention of the International Community of Banyakigezi (ICOB).

The London Team has done an outstanding job of preparing to receive delegates to the convention that takes place at Kingston University, London this coming weekend. Well over 120 pre-registered delegates from Canada, Uganda, United Kingdom, Continental Europe and the United States will arrive on Thursday.

More will join them on the weekend, in what will be a unique convention because the major focus will be on ICOB itself.

An entire day has been set aside to review ICOB’s journey to date and the opportunities and challenges it faces as it enters teenage. Elections for a new president, secretary general, treasurer and a board member will be held on Saturday July 23.

As expected, the nomination process for president has generated some excitement and controversy. The New Vision newspaper carried a story about it last week. The social media have been awash with commentary, rumors and the usual outright fiction and slander that are favored by those who write without the benefit of facts. This, of course, is a normal occurrence in any active and vibrant organization.

Such interest in the elections of a relatively small community organization is very encouraging and humbling. Clearly ICOB has become a significant player in our country’s development and in the esteemed consideration of Banyakigezi and friends of Kigezi.

The challenge for ICOB’s leaders and members is to build on this goodwill and high expectations to deliver on its mission of promoting the cultural and socio-economic development of Banyakigezi.

Our hope is that the delegates will engage in very frank discussions and ask some hard questions that will take advantage of the legendary candor of Banyakigezi.

The goal is to make the “ICOB Day” an opportunity for the leaders to listen to the members as we embark on the next phase of our organization’s growth. The post-convention ICOB should embark on its teen years feeling re-energized, challenged, more focused and enabled to fulfill its potential as a unifying force for development of Kigezi.

There will be plenty of entertainment along with fundraising activities for the Kigezi Education Fund (KEF) on Saturday July 23. KEF is the organ through which ICOB supports technical and other vocational education in Kigezi.

Through this Fund, ICOB has already supported the establishment of fully equipped ICT centers at Rukungiri Technical Institute and Nyarushanje Technical Institute, both in Rukungiri District; and Kisoro Technical Institute in Kisoro District.

ICOB has also funded the Nyakatare Technical Institute in Kanungu District, with specific focus on Electrical Installation and Plumbing.

As I write, the Board of ICOB has already approved funding for an ICT Center at the Kizinga Technical Institute in Kabale District.

These very modest contributions to Kigezi have affirmed our belief that, working together, communities can supplement the efforts of the government to develop the country.

One area for improvement is ICOB’s reliance on once-a-year fundraising efforts to support the Kigezi Education Fund. We shall explore avenues for year-round fundraising activities both at home and abroad. Fortunately, we do not need to re-invent the wheel, for there are numerous similar organizations whose blueprints we can freely adopt with a few modifications.

Whereas the Banyakigezi Diaspora founded ICOB in 2003, the idea was enthusiastically embraced by a group of Banyakigezi in Uganda.

The Uganda Chapter (ICOB-UC), launched in 2009, has become one of the most active among the organization’s branches.

ICOB-UC has broadened the scope of endeavors that recognize the multifaceted developmental needs of our region. These include leadership, culture, health, education and economic empowerment.

 

This integrated approach to development offers the Banyakigezi Diaspora the opportunity to lend their skills and expertise in partnership with their counterparts back home in a joint effort to fulfill ICOB’s mission.

Poverty kids
ICOB seeks to give them an opportunity in life

To succeed, of course, ICOB will need to enhance its own organizational and management processes in order to attract significant funding, expand its committed membership base and deepen its role in the development of Kigezi. How to do this will be a major point of discussion at the convention.

As we usher ICOB into its teenage and elect a new president, we look back with esteem at the leadership that has been provided by the organizations’ first three presidents.

Dr. Frank Byamugisha, the first president, used his vast organizational and leadership experience from the World Bank to set ICOB on a course that made it a respected role model for other community organizations.

Mr. Johnson Mujungu, the second president, brought a vitality that recruited many youth into the ICOB family. An IT expert who worked at the Commonwealth Secretariat in London, Mujungu gave ICOB a strong cyber-presence through his early recognition of the power of the social media.

Ms. Ruth K. Ndyabahika, the current president, has given high profile visibility to ICOB in Uganda. A child psychologist, she has elevated the urgent need for a holistic focus on the education and support for disadvantaged girls.

Theirs has been a labour of love, their reward being the sight of Banyakigezi benefitting from the education projects that have been supported during their tenure in office. We salute them.

 

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