By Samuel Muwanguzi
PREPARATIONS for a grand fundraising banquet to support ongoing projects of establishing and equipping centers of excellence at four technical institutes to provide vocational skills to the youths in the greater Kigezi region have been finalized, organizers of the 12th convention of the International Community of the Banyekigezi (ICOB) have announced.
“Since the main purpose of the ICOB convention is to mobilize its members and friends towards the socio-economic development of Kigezi , Banyakigezi delegates in the Diaspora and those living in Uganda and their well-wishers are upbeat about the education-inspired fundraising banquet.
It offers them an invaluable opportunity to interact, network, and raise funds to support tertiary institutes in the region,” Andrew Hakiza, the chairman of the organizing committee told New Vision in an interview in Dallas.
“Since the Kigezi region is home to several prominent individuals belonging to high and middle classes both in the Diaspora and in Uganda, we expect this year’s fundraising banquet to be a roaring success to boost Kigezi Education Fund (KEF) to continue supporting vocational, business and technical training of the youth in the greater Kigezi region,” Hakiza said with unreserved optimism.
The annual ICOB convention, whose theme is “Towards a Better Tomorrow; Unlocking Kigezi’s Human and Economic Potential,” begins at the Crown Plaza Hotel in Addison near Dallas, Texas, USA from Thursday July 30 to Monday August 3.
The ICOB is an umbrella association of people from the greater Kigezi region comprising of four districts of Kabale, Kisoro, Kanungu, and Rukungiri.
The Prime Minister Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda who will deliver a keynote address to the ICOB convention on behalf of President Museveni arrived in Dallas from New York.
During the last few years, ICOB has raised over $80,000 (sh300m) towards the construction and establishment of four ICT-based centers of excellence in each of the four districts in the greater Kigezi region.
“These centers are offering a social, economic, and political intervention to the widespread unemployment among the youths who do not proceed to academic institutions either after their ordinary or advanced levels of education,” Hakiza observed.
Three of these centers of excellence, located at Rukungiri Technical Institute, Uganda Martyrs Technical Institute Nyarushanje, Kabale district, and Kisoro Technical Institute respectively, are providing vocational training using state-of-the-art ICT facilities to students and residents in the districts.
At Nyakatare Technical Institute, Kanungu District, ICOB established and launched a Center of Excellence for Electrical and Plumbing Programs in 2010. These centers of excellence are not only training young Banyakigezi but are also serving residents in the four districts but other Ugandans, and people from neighboring countries.
Hakiza said that ICOB has worked jointly with multiple stakeholders including the Ministry of Education, civic and religious leaders, the African Development Bank, and the Governor of Bank of Uganda, Prof. Emmanuel Tumusiime Mutebile to establish these centers to provide youths with vocational skills to engage in productive economic activities.
The Executive secretary of the Texas ICOB Chapter, also responsible for organizing the ICOB convention, Rev. Joseph Kamugisha confirmed that the ambassador of Uganda to the USA Olivia Wonekha and the Mayor of Addison City Mr. Todd Meier will grace the 3-day event and address the opening ceremony.
“The Dallas city chief protocol officer Beth Huddleston, who will represent the Mayor of Dallas City will issue a proclamation for the Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda and officially welcome him to the city of Dallas,” Rev. Kamugisha revealed.
He said that Huddleston has also arranged VIP procedures for both the Prime Minister and the ambassador during their arrival and departure at Dallas Fort Worth (DFW) airport.
Hakiza told New Vision that invitations have been extended to all people hailing from the four districts of the greater Kigezi region in the Diaspora and cabinet ministers, members of Parliament, business people, and well-wishers from Uganda.
Those who regularly attend the ICOB conventions from Uganda include the former Prime Minister, now aspiring presidential candidate Patrick John Amama Mbabazi, Minister of State for Economic Monitoring Henry Banyenzaki, and the Vision Group CEO Robert Kabushenga.
“Given the unfolding exciting political season in Uganda, many aspiring politicians from the Kigezi region are expected to come and interact with fellow Banyakigezi since the ICOB Convention also provides a forum to sustain and promote Kigezi culture, develop networks, create opportunities for members to meet old and new friends, and to celebrate the rich Kigezi heritage,” Hakiza stated.
Some of the local sponsors of the event include Brown Mackie College in Bedford with branches across the United States, the East Africa Chamber of Commerce (EACC) of Dallas, the premier organization for investment and information by East Africans in the area; James Garuga, CEO of Kinkizi Development Corporation; Charles Rugamba, CEO of New Models of Farming and Effective Land Utilization Strategies; Andrew Rugasira of Good African Coffee Business Model; and Patrick Mweheirwe, MD Stanbic Bank-Uganda.
Other major highlights of the 12th ICOB convention will include an economic forum to be addressed by the executive director, National Agriculture Advisory Services (NAADS), Dr. Sam Mugasi, and investment consultant and CEO of Concero Global, Dr. Frank Roby, the Senior Director for Fragility, Conflict and Violence at The World Bank, Betty Bigombe, the Director Technology Development Center, Uganda Industrial Research Center, Dr. Dick Kamugasha, and the Chief Executive Officer and Fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, Dr. Morrison Rwakakamba.
Presenters at the education forum will include the Director, Texas State Technical College, Leroy White, Dr. Denis Akankunda Bwesigye of Columbia University, and Dr. Lillian Katono Butungi, a founder member of the Texas-based Foundation for Educational Transformation and Community Engagement, while the health forum will be addressed by the Minister of State for Health Dr. Chris Baryomunsi and the former Director of Clinical Services at Bwindi Community Hospital, Dr. Tutaryebwa.
These events will be crowned with a dinner dance and a fundraising banquet on Saturday.
On Sunday, following an inter-denomination church service, the VIPs will visit George W. Bush Presidential Library Museum and the Fort Worth Stockyards National Historic District before all the delegates are treated to a Texas-style outdoor picnic and barbeque.
Juliet Byandagara, a member of the program committee described the events at the convention as packed with “educative, health, economic insights and plain old FUN!”
The entertainment will mainly feature US-based Ugandan artistes including the contemporary gospel Saxophonist “Yinka Sax,” the Houston-based Isaac Kyobe, the Dallas-Fort worth-based ICOB Kids Club, James Mushonda, a renowned Kigezi indigenous poetry rapper (Omwevugyi), the North Richland-based comedian and karate specialist, Mugabi Shuri, and the reigning Miss Kigezi Tourism, Phoebe Mulungi of Nkumba University.