My fellow Banyakigezi,
It is an honour to report to you that as we celebrate the fourteenth anniversary of the birth of the International Community of Banyakigezi (ICOB), our organization is more determined than ever to accomplish our core objectives.
These objectives, established at our founding convention in Toronto in July 2003, are to:
- Protect and promote our Culture;
- Support the Socio-economic development of Kigezi;
- Facilitate networking (Okumanyana), and…
- Promote Partnership with Bafuruki Organization in Uganda;
I am happy to report that as we gather in Orlando on August 3-7, 2017 to network and deliberate on the direction that ICOB must take to strengthen our ability to accomplish these objectives, we have very good reason to celebrate significant achievements in the fourteen years since we started our journey.
First, we have survived challenges that have been thrown at us along the way. We have shown that we have the capacity to resolve such challenges, including disagreements that have threatened to tear us apart.
Second, we have inspired a few Ugandan communities to form or to revive similar organizations, with the happy result of encouraging sons and daughters of our country to give back to their respective places of birth or ancestry.
Third, through the Kigezi Education Fund (KEF), we have made modest contributions to the improvement of education opportunities for Banyakigyezi. We have fully funded four Information and Communication Technology (ICT) centres (Rukungiri, Kisoro, Nyarushanje and Kizinga) and an electrical and plumbing technology program (Kanungu.)
Fourth, while we have been resolute in maintaining a non-partisan stance and operation, we have remained politically engaged through lobbying the Government of Uganda to increase investment in the social and economic development needs of Kigyezi. We have particularly lobbied hard for all weather roads in Kigyezi, these being the lifeblood of hoped-for economic development. We intend to intensify and persist with this activity until Kigyezi becomes connected with the national and international all-weather road network.
However, we also recognize that our organization needs revitalization and renewal in order to take advantage of new opportunities, expand its active membership and fulfill the great potential that our founders envisaged. We recognize that we can do much more for Kigyezi than we have in the last 14 years.
In my remarks before you elected me president of ICOB last year, I made six specific recommendations that I believed would form a foundation for our next part of the journey. I recommended that:
- ICOB must immediately adopt corporate governance, a mandatory requirement for any organization that wants to survive, prosper, serve its purpose and outlive its founders.
- ICOB’s members must insist on transparency and accountability by their leaders, and ICOB’s leaders must demand the same of themselves and of each other.
- ICOB must go back to its original vision and develop and adopt a comprehensive Strategic Plan to match its focus with its defined purpose.
- ICOB must ensure that its chapters and members are actively engaged in its activities throughout the year, including ongoing fundraising that enables members and supporters to give whatever they can afford on a monthly basis.
- ICOB must be a home for all Banyakigezi, not just those with money and high status, and must aggressively engage the youth as members and leaders.
- ICOB must remain politically active but must remain completely free from partisan politics and other divisive engagements.
You made resolutions at that meeting in London in July 2016 and tasked the leaders of ICOB to prepare to move the organization forward. The Executive Committee and the Board of ICOB have worked very hard to address each resolution.
The following is a summary of those Resolutions and the actions we have taken to move your agenda forward:
ICOB should adopt and implement corporate governance to increase efficiency and productivity and ensure transparency, accountability and compliance with the organization’s Bylaws and the laws of the United States of America where we are registered under the 501(c)(3) section of the Internal Revenue Code. The ICOB Executive and Board of Directors, in collaboration with chapter leaders, should work out modalities to implement this resolution.
- The Board appointed an Organization Assessment Team to review ICOB, its operational processes and make recommendations.
Team Members: Henry Bagazonzya (chair), Eustacius Betubiza (member), Leo Nkurunziza (member).
The Team has completed its work and their report will be presented at the ICOB AGM 2017 in Orlando, Florida, USA.
- The Board has contracted with Climus Financial Management Professional Services LLC based in Silver Spring, Maryland, USA, to audit the Organization’s books and finances. We expect a report before the end of this calendar year.
- The Board appointed a Bylaws Review Committee (CRC) to review our governing laws and propose (a) amendments, if any; (b) a Governance Code and (c) any other governance documents.
Committee Members: Andrew Katarikawe (chair), Nkunda Kabateraine (Member), Juliet Reed (Member).
The CRC has completed its work and their report will be presented at the ICOB AGM 2017 in Orlando, Florida, USA.
Charitable organization status of ICOB Chapters:
All ICOB Chapters should seek registration as charitable, tax-exempt organizations in their respective jurisdictions if they do not have that status already. The purpose is to access resources from national and international funding bodies, and to encourage individual donors who will only give to organizations with such status.
ICOB President wrote to Chapter Chairs urging them to proceed with this process. It is only ICOB-USA that is already registered as such.
Promote unity and broad based approach:
ICOB should cultivate a grassroots strategy that engages all Banyakigyezi and pursues a bottom-up approach, from the chapters up to ICOB Apex.
Activities such as Kigyezi Awards, Kigyezi Day and Kigyezi Walk should be developed and implemented as a means of cementing the unity of Banyakigyezi and increasing the relevance of ICOB to a person living in Kigyezi and other communities where our people live.
The Organization should encourage chapter-based conventions to increase the level of participation of Banyakigyezi who cannot afford to travel to ICOB Apex conventions held in UK, Canada or USA.
The Board appointed a Kigyezi Day Subcommittee to develop an action plan for realizing this objective.
Members: Denis Aguma (UK, Chair), Beatrice Hamujuni (UK), Barnabas Nkore (USA), Scollah Kamusiime (Canada) and Scovia Kyarisiima (Uganda).
The Sub-Committee completed and submitted its report to the Executive Committee on June 30, 2017. The report is under review by the Executive Committee and the Board. It shall be acted on within the next 4 months.
We are encouraged by the commitment by our brother Justus Magezi Buterere in Kawasaki-shi, Kanagawa, Japan. He is working to bring together the Banyakigyezi community in his part of Japan, with a view to forming a Community of Banyakigezi-Japan. We continue to support his efforts, with both encouragement and information. It is a model that we will continue to encourage in other parts of the world.
Maintain and strengthen the Kigezi Education Fund (KEF):
- This fund should continue to be the flagship program of ICOB, with continued focus on supporting technical and other vocational education in Kigyezi. ICOB should scale up efforts to increase year-round donations to the Kigezi Education Fund. ICOB should also be more aggressive with projects by setting short term and long-term goals for project implementation, with at least one new project every 2 years.
An ICT Centre with a 30-station Local Area Network, fully funded by ICOB, was completed at Kizinga Technical School, Kabale District, in early 2017. The process was an excellent example of cooperation between the ICOB leaders, community leaders, the school’s leaders, a professional consultant and the vendor.
- The feasibility of instituting a Global Kigyezi Fund should be explored, the purpose of which would be to enable wider participation of all Banyakigyezi and allow ICOB to respond to other needs such as health service support, educational scholarships and entrepreneurship. In addition to supporting and fundraising for the Kigezi Education Fund, ICOB Chapters may support additional causes and projects of their choice.
The ICOB Organization Assessment Team included this in its survey and will be making recommendations in its report that will be presented at the 2017 AGM.
The Executive Committee to develop and implement a strategy for (a) collecting all pledges, (b) ongoing crowd fundraising via the ICOB Website, the Chapters and other avenues, and (c) corporate fundraising. Enhanced fundraising strategies to be discussed and decided at the 2017 AGM in Orlando, Florida.
- Invest in Kigezi:
ICOB to motivate and empower Banyakigyezi at home and the Diaspora to accelerate the economic development of Kigyezi by investing in areas like tourism, mining, education and health.
- Economic empowerment:
ICOB to lobby the Government of Uganda and investors to increase economic investment in Kigyezi, including creation of social enterprises that empower households and prevent ills such as lack of sanitary pads for girls that fan school dropout.
- Entrepreneurship and enterprise:
ICOB to lobby the government of Uganda to create an entrepreneurial and enterprise enabling environment through eliminating corruption to allow a level ground for business, putting in place systems including favorable financial products and formulating policies/entrepreneurship blue prints that enable business to thrive, and exercising good will to promote public- private partnerships.
The Board has appointed Dr. Francis Mwesigye Runumi (Uganda, Chair), Dr. Peter Ngategize (Uganda, Member) and Mr. Emmanuel Turyamuhaki (UK, Member) to develop a proposal for creation of a Kigezi Investment Forum to define the purpose, strategies and action plan for achieving the above objectives.
ICOB to lobby the Government of Uganda to develop an education curriculum that is integrated with the social and economic needs and realities of Kigezi, in particular, and Uganda in general.
The Board appointed Dr. Wilberforce Sabiiti of the University of St. Andrews, Scotland, to develop a position paper on this, with strategies for achieving this objective.
Dr. Sabiiti, who is currently in Uganda, is working with Ms. Joyce Wanican of the Makerere AfriChild Centre and has discussed the possibility of co-authoring the paper with her. Ms. Wanican is leading a Uganda University curriculum review engaging academics, the ministry of Education and parliamentary committee on Education.
“My approach will be a holistic overview of gaps and opportunities of Uganda’s education from Kindergarten to University,” Dr. Sabiiti wrote on July 22, 2017. “I might entitle it: An Education system that works for Uganda and excels globally.”
ICOB should lobby the Government of Uganda to make use of homegrown and Diaspora talent to fill skills gaps in education and health services.
- Institute a flexible retirement age for highly skilled professionals. For example, it does not make sense to retire medical doctors at 60 years of age, leaving public hospitals with no specialist or doctor at all. That these “retirees” go into private practice is an oddity that invites reconsideration.
- A system should be put in place where experts in the Kigyezi and other Ugandan diaspora can be brought on board to help with education and health services during their holidays in Uganda. Many Banyakigyezi and other Ugandan experts in the diaspora are willing to give free lectures and hands-on training in schools, universities, and colleges, hospitals and health centers.
ACTION: The Board appointed a team to champion this resolution, and work with the leaders in Uganda/Kigyezi to achieve the objective.
TEAM MEMBERS: Elvis Muhaabwa (USA, Chair), Judie Nkusi (USA, Member), Margaret Tumusiime (USA, Member).
Lobby the Uganda Government and the district governments in Kigezi to adopt and promote a holistic approach to health problems, including:
- Dangers of addiction such as alcohol and drug abuse
- Mental health
- Coping mechanisms with post-traumatic disorders
- The reasons for school dropout such as early marriage and lack of sanitary pads for girls.
- Sexual and reproductive health.
Funding of Health Services in Uganda:
ICOB will lobby and encourage the Government of Uganda and the opposition political parties, especially the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), to “de-politicize” healthcare and take a bipartisan approach to finding the solution to the healthcare funding gap including “cost sharing.”
ACTION on Resolutions 8 & 9:
The Board appointed an ICOB Health Sub-Committee to champion these resolutions and work with stakeholders to develop opportunities for ICOB/Government partnerships in health care.
MEMBERS: Dr. Sheck K. Matsiko (UK, Chair) and Dr. Judi Orikiiriza (Ireland/Rwanda, Member).
Proactively advocate for the preservation of the cultural heritage of Kigyezi through building of a Kigyezi Museum, documentation and publication of our history and cultural heritage for posterity. (The work of Omugurusi Festo Karwemera was recognized as an outstanding contribution to this important program of ICOB.)
ACTION: ICOB-Uganda Chapter has initiated the process of building a cultural museum in Kabaare (Kabale). Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda Commissioned the Foundation Station on Thursday December 29, 2016.
The Board has not yet appointed an ICOB Cultural Heritage Committee to champion this resolution. This shall be one of the tasks to be accomplished in the next 12 months.
One goal of the founders of ICOB that we have neglected is the promotion of partnership with the Bafuruki Organization in Uganda. There are very many Banyakigyezi settlers and their descendants in Nkore, Tooro, Bunyoro and Buganda. ICOB is as much about them as it is about their kin who live in Kigyezi.
It is imperative that we begin to reach out to our people wherever they are, but always conscious of the sensibilities of their hosts and respectful of the cultures and traditions of the communities that received them as immigrants.
As Banyakigyezi, we shall forever be indebted to the people and Kings of Nkore, Tooro, Bunyoro and Buganda whose generosity of spirit offered free virgin land that enabled our people to find new homes and new opportunities.
The theme of this year’s Annual Convention is “Empowering the Youth and Communities.” Our people in Kigyezi are threatened by extreme poverty. This is an urgent matter with serious security implications for all of us.
A revitalized ICOB, with clarity of purpose and roadmap, devoid of division and other distractions, will be a strong and indefatigable partner with all who seek to change the conditions in which our people live. This is not a favour that we do for our people. It is an obligation of citizenship, and of giving back to a community that enabled us to enjoy the opportunities and privileges that come with good education.
I salute the men and women who have served ICOB with passion and commitment since 2003. I thank each and every one of my colleagues for their support and collaboration in serving our organization over the last 12 months.
This is an election year for ICOB and, with the exception of the office of president, all positions will be up for election. Whereas some of of our current leaders are stepping down from their positions, I know that their work for ICOB is not yet done. I look forward to their counsel and service in different capacities.
May the spirit of unity and the memory of the great men and women who gave freely to Kigyezi, be the glue that binds us together.
Omugoye gw’enyabushatu tigurahuka kushumuuruka, kandi gatagata munonga gateebirwe owa beene mbeho.
Muniini K. Mulera