WHEN he joined Makerere University four years ago, he barely had a thing to boast about: No phone or fancy items that campusers flaunt. A modest arrival, he was a typical son of a peasant at the Hill.
But he had loads of intrinsic worth, verve, aptitude, brains, and a relentless search for a fulfilling life with which to climb the steps to posterity.
Aaron Kirunda, then studying Mass Communication, was always on the move. He never missed on any gatherings like seminars and debates at the university as long as it was not too secular for his religious stance.
This earned him the moniker global leaderâ€™ from his former coursemates.
The moniker that started sarcastically is taking Kirunda places. He already has a plateful of global conferences on his CV and these are besides the many he is slated to attend later this year.
At 23, Kirunda is, among others, the secretary general of the United Nations Youth Association of Uganda (UNYU), the regional coordinator, Global Demos, Uganda, development officer of Enpower, and the director of Enjuba Group, a social company that teaches life and entrepreneurial skills.
The lad, with large round eyes, receding hairline and deep voice, was the only Ugandan among over 1,000 students worldwide who attended the Education Without Boarders Conference in February last year.
In the same year, he was also selected to represent Uganda to attend the first 101 Young African Leadersâ€™ summit at the 5th African Business Leadersâ€™ Forum in Accra, Ghana. Prior to that, he had been to Switzerland to attend the first Global Demos workshop.
In December 2007, Kirunda won the Global Young Social Entrepreneursâ€™ competition with five other Ugandans and attended the Young Social Entrepreneurs Forum in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
He was also invited to attend the Global Engagement Summit in April in Chicago, in the US, and he is set to attend the World Youth Congress in Quebec, Canada, as well as the International Young Professional summit in Manchester, England.
Kirunda says the few travels and conferences he has attended have taught him a lot about life and people elsewhere.
â€œI was in the company of over 1,000 students from the world and they were all so humble-at least from outlook-and so passionate about making the world a better place. This changed the way I look at things and I have since found satisfaction in making the world better place.â€
Kirunda is not amused by employers who include the requisite â€˜experienceâ€™ in their job adverts. He once published a letter in The New Vision questioning such resolves and decided not to be a job seeker, but rather an entrepreneur.
As a result, he joined the Enjuba Group to help empower artisans using savings and investment mechanisms to empower youths through social entrepreneurship programmes with the tools to become social innovators in all industries.
â€œI am a development activist; my activism cuts across all areas.
Currently, I am involved with an African Youth e-governance sustainability summit in Accra, Ghana,â€ he says.
â€œI believe one of the best avenues for development is through information communication technologies (ICTs), so we are working on ICT4D projects and given the fact that governance plays a key role in development, e-governance will help give the youth a platform to engage in governance using ICTs,â€ he says.
Kirunda, together with a friend, are also running an ICT social enterprise, Empower, with a vision to empower young people, especially the poor with no opportunities and money to access basic ICT training.
â€œWe are currently offering basic ICT training for one month at a fee of 2 dollars or sh3,000 only.â€ He says they have a desire, a vision and passion, but no sufficient provision yet.
â€œWe have chosen not to sit back and wait for the perfect time. We have started, we have been using one computer, and we have 14 graduates who can teach others and that is how good they are.
We plan on getting more resources and expand upcountry.â€ Kirunda believes that world leaders do not have to be generals or presidents but can devote their lives to serving and improving their world.
â€œI love people and working with them because they inspire me and help me aim higher, sharing their challenges and achievements and how they are able to manoeuvre at each level challenges me and sets me to face more challenges.â€
His relentless search for being at the top saw him stand for Makerere Guild presidency in 2006 which he lost to Gerald Karuhanga. He was the most eloquent aspirant in that race. The loss, however, did not end his political ambition.
He says he is currently out of active politics, but has plans to return with a bang in the future. Kirunda plans on mentoring and starting platforms to train young leaders in politics and business that will shape the world.
Kirunda says the â€˜global leaderâ€™ moniker started in Church. â€œWhen I joined Makerere Community Church in 2004, we were proclaimed global leaders. In August 2006, I met Meredith Bates, who was working with Terp Consults, a local public relations firm.
I talked to her and got an internship at Terp. We developed friendship and she introduced me to the concept of social entrepreneurship.â€
He says during his final year, course mates started calling him global leader, and on his 22nd birthday, friends from the US who did not know him that much, also used the same moniker. He adopted it and used it to create his e-mail account on G-mail.
Kirunda, who is still a virgin, says Bates introduced him to his first conference in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) that opened the avenue for his other conferences.
Born on June l6, 1985, in Jinja, to peasant parents, Gaster and Gertrude Kirunda, the â€˜global leaderâ€™ says he is grateful to his parents for the struggle they put up to have their children go to school.
â€œThey gave me the best investment, I believe, like the former president of UAE, Sheikh Zayed bin Nahayan Al Nahayan, said, â€˜Educating a person is this countryâ€™s most valuable investment.â€
He says his life has been shaped by several experiences.
â€œMy early childhood was spent in the countryside. â€œI was exposed to abject poverty, where I witnessed people eating posho and cold cassava with fried soya as the sauce or even with salt, and such a meal was taken once in a day.
When I moved to the city, my parents words always advised â€˜live within your means and never forget where you come from.â€
But he says although where he comes from does not direct his life, it gives him a sense of understanding and reflection.
Kirunda went to Kasokoso Trading Centre Primary School before joining Kakira High School, the school he had vowed not to go to because it had been nicknamed Bafumbo College.
He later joined MM College Wairaka for his Aâ€™ level where he emerged the best Arts student in Jinja district.
He joined Makerere University in 2004 for a Bachelorâ€™s degree in Mass Communication.
February 2007: attended the Education Without Borders Conference in the United Arab Emirates
lSeptember 2007: Attended the 1st Global Demos Workshop in Switzerland
lOctober 2007: Selected to attend the 1st 101 Young African Leaders Summit at the 5th African Business Leaders Forum in Accra Ghana
lDecember 2007: Won the Global Young Social Entrepreneurs Competition and attended the Young Social Entrepreneurs Forum in Kuala Lumpar, Malaysia
lMarch 2008: Chosen as one of the eight African youth to attend the 2nd African E-Governance Summit in Kampala, Uganda
The young â€˜global leaderâ€™ who is going places