Banyakigezi gather once again to lend a hand to government in its fight to raise maternal and child health
By John W Bahana
The belief that Ugandans can make a difference in reducing maternal mortality and substantially improve on child health in our communities must be upheld.
This is what Banyakigezi are going to cement when they meet in Kisoro for their annual convention. They are believers in hard work and are achievers too.
The international community of Banyakigezi, once in a year, meets in various cities in North America and Europe to network, share ideas on culture and fundraise for their pet project: Kigezi Education Fund.
This fund has seen millions of shillings raised by the Diaspora Ugandans hailing from Kigezi and donated to support technical education in the region, most recently for Muhabura Technical Institute in Kisoro district.
Other centres such as Nyakatare in Kanungu and Rukungiri Technical Institute at Kyamakanda have benefited from this fund and have began to make an impact in the lives of youngsters.
At Nyarushanje, ICOB is gearing up for funding a major technical centre that will serve both Kabale and Rukungiri.
All these centres are supported through fundraising efforts to supplement government programmes in technical education.
Spurred by their cousins, ICOB started a Uganda chapter and since 2009, Ugandans at home and hailing from Kigezi have been meeting every year to chat schemes of supporting their rural folks.
While the flagship for the Diaspora ICOB is Technical Education, ICOB Uganda adopted maternal health as its own.
Thus, assistance has since been extended to Kabale School of Nursing as well as Nyakibare in Rukungiri.
Recognising that this is a drop in the Ocean, ICOB Uganda has shifted strategy of fund raising from members and friends.
Accordingly, ICOB has decided to utilise available natural resources in the Kigezi to support its efforts in maternal and child health care.
As a beginning, last year, ICOB adopted the theme “Harnessing Kigezi Tourism Potential in support of maternal and child health”.
Passionate presentations were made showing strong evidence of how tourism could be utilised to support communities so that maternal health issues are appropriately addressed.
Since then, a series of meetings of stakeholders have been organised by Dr Peter Ngategize who heads the secretariat for Competitiveness and Investment Climate Strategy (CICS) at the Ministry of Finance.
The meetings have brought together stakeholders to chat a common goal. Arising from this effort, tourism cluster concept has been adopted and results will soon be realised.
The Kisoro convention will be an appropriate platform to disseminate what has been achieved and the immediate plans for implementation.
Picturesque Kisoro; Ideal for the Convention
Lying at about 10 km from the Bunagana border post on the DRC frontier and 7km from Cyanika at the Rwanda boundary, Kisoro is not like any other town in Uganda. It is probably the only one of its kind in the World.
It is set right under the peak of the Muhabura Mountains which are part of the Virunga (Birunga) Mountains and home to the rare Mountain Gorilla.
Kisoro has become a magnet to tourists because of the captivating mountainous scenery, crater lakes including Mutanda, Mulehe, Chahafi and Kayumbu to the south and just across the border in Rwanda, Lake Bulera.
For the visitor to Uganda, Kisoro town sits on the proverbial “end of the road” as far as Uganda is concerned.
But it is also the gateway to Eastern DRC and Northern Rwanda. It is the headquarters of Kisoro District.
Kigezi originates from Kisoro
Very few Banyakigezi will know the origin of the name “Kigezi” a once famed district in school performance and sheer hard work of its citizens. Now you will know.
According to elder statesman, the late Paul Ngorogoza in his epic book “ Kigezi and its People” on June 19, 1890, Capt Coote, and two others and guided by a certain Sebalijja set up camp at a small lake named Kigezi that lies 55 km from Kabale.
At this time, the territory was claimed by the British, Germans and Belgians. It is until 1910 that Kigezi District was formed and came under the control of the British colonialists in Uganda Protectorate.
ICOB could not have chosen a better venue for its convention for none Kisoro in its beauty and uniqueness.
Convention participants will be treated to visits to unique features and sceneries.
The organizers are putting on an exhibition of traditional foods and drinks and will have wine brewers from across the country, especially from neighbouring Bushenyi that has seen an impressive number of innovations in the wine industry.
Coincidentally, Bushenyi has a large number of local Diaspora Banyakigezi. So, many of the exhibitors will be coming home.
This year’s Convention theme is “Primary Health; Key to Maternal and Child Health Care.
There will be medical camps at every sub county, where information on primary healthcare will be disseminated. It is also planned to screen for cancer in pregnant mothers as well as donating blood by convention participants.
While this is an ambitious layout, ICOB, with its friends, is determined to interact with the Kisoro folks and make a small difference in their lives.
So far, the response by Banyakigezi to attend is overwhelming.
Ugandans who would like to participate, should not miss the opportunity of a life time. Rwanda Brewery will be exhibiting and of course the hospitality of Bafumbira, the industrious Banyakigezi in this corner of Uganda.
There are direct buses from Kampala and Eagle Air may also put on special flights. We all look forward to meeting you from December 27- 30.
Please also see our website for detailed information regarding the Convention: www.Abanyakigezi.net
(Dr John W Bahana is ICOB Convention Chair of the Organising Committee)