The Uganda Chapter of the International Community of Banyakigyezi (ICOB-UC) was recently in the news, and not for a good reason.
ICOB-UC has been embroiled in a crisis that was triggered by a group that challenged the legitimacy of the chapter’s new leaders that were elected on December 30, 2016.
The crisis led to a decision by Dr. Francis Mwesigye Runumi, the newly elected Chairperson of ICOB-UC, together with the majority of members of the executive committee, to form a new organization called Kigyezi Development Forum.
As expected, various news reports announced the “split of ICOB.” Commentators in various cyber chat rooms declared the imminent death of ICOB, with some unable to resist sharing their glee at the distress that they imagined was afflicting the organization.
Attempts to clarify that ICOB (the mother organization) was enjoying great health, revitalization and focused harmony, were ignored by people whose knowledge of the 14-year old organization was clearly wanting.
ICOB is composed of four active chapters – Canada, United Kingdom, United States and Uganda. It is a federation of chapters, each with a significant degree of autonomy and a requirement to abide by the laws of their respective countries.
Led by a President, Board of Directors and an Executive Committee, ICOB has Bylaws that are very distinct from those that govern the local chapters.
The current ICOB president was elected during last year’s convention of the apex organization held in London, UK. A new ICOB Board and Executive Committee will be elected during the annual convention that will be held in Orlando, Florida during the first weekend of August this year. Election of chapter leaders is a local matter. The US, UK and Uganda chapters elected their leaders last year. The Canada Chapter will elect its leaders this coming weekend.
Petitions and other challenges against election results and leaders’ conduct are internal affairs of each chapter. The President and Board of ICOB do not have any binding say in the actions and decisions of local chapters.
However, as custodians of the Bylaws of ICOB itself, the President and Board of ICOB work with the chapters to assist in resolving any internal difficulties that arise within the chapters.
It was in this context that the ICOB Board of Directors and Executive Committee offered support to the leaders of ICOB-Uganda Chapter to resolve the post-election crisis that threatened to derail them.
We were not surprised that a crisis arose following the December election. Where two or three humans gather in the name of social intercourse, disagreements are bound to occur. Where there is democratic competition for leadership positions, tensions and tempers are almost inevitable.
It is not the disagreement, and even split among the members of an organization that matters. What matters is whether or not the competing forces have the capacity and determination to resolve the conflict.
It is with great pleasure that I report the resolution of the post-election conflict in the Uganda Chapter of ICOB.
On Friday May 19, there will be an official transfer of ICOB-Uganda Chapter leadership to Dr. Runumi and his team.
Many people, including Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda, have played positive roles in facilitating resolution of the crisis.
However, most credit for this happy outcome goes to the old and new leaders of ICOB-Uganda who exercised the necessary humility and foresight to put the interests of the organization and of Banyakigyezi above all other considerations.
Dr. Runumi’s challenge will be to lead a healing process that elevates ICOB-Uganda to a united organization whose purpose is to galvanize all Banyakigyezi in Uganda to give back to their homeland, even as they double their efforts to enhance their individual economic health.
The Banyakigyezi’s challenge will be to decant their tradition of rugged individualism and don the spirit of active collaboration for the common good. The Bakiga say that omugoye gw’enyabushatu tigurahuka kushumuuruka, meaning that there is strength in unity. Societies that recognize and embrace this principle thrive and prosper. Those that ignore it, or even allow themselves to be divided, invariably collapse.
There is great poverty and despair in Kigyezi today. A region that was once proud and hopeful, now struggles for breath as its energy fades into a gloomy existence at the periphery of the Ugandan dream.
The land of bright boys and girls that laid claim to academic excellence and gainful employment in various professions has become a wasteland of despair, alcoholism and beggary.
However, this is not Kigyezi’s ordained fate. It is a self-inflicted wound, born of division, untamed personal egos, and satisfaction with personal circumstances even as numerous brothers and sisters struggle to survive.
To paraphrase the Apostle Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 1:10, I beseech Banyakigezi, in the name of our blessed ancestors and future generations, that we all agree with one another in what we do for Kigyezi, and that there be no divisions among us, but that we be perfectly united in mind and thought.
We look forward to the Orlando Convention from August 3 to 7 this year. We shall explore and agree a strategy for advancing the interests of all Banyakigezi, regardless of political, religious or other affiliations. It is our only hope.