A flyer welcoming a particular presidential candidate to Kigyezi was posted on some social media platforms last week.
This flyer, complete with the image and party colours of that candidate, was created by a person or persons in Uganda purportedly writing in the name of the International Community of Banyakigyezi (ICOB).
This was false and it came as a complete surprise to the board and officers of ICOB.
Whereas the author of the false flyer was one of the leaders of the Uganda Chapter of ICOB, she did not have the authority to write on behalf of the international organisation.
Fortunately, she promptly removed it from her Facebook wall as soon as she was called out on the misrepresentation.
At the moment, the ICOB leaders do not know to what extent the false flyer was disseminated. What is clear is that, notwithstanding ICOB’s very clear position on the matter, efforts to drag the Organisation into Uganda’s partisan politics continues.
I write to re-state ICOB’s position on partisan politics and to clarify an apparent confusion between the activities of the Uganda Chapter of ICOB and those of the parent international apex organisation.
ICOB has active chapters in four countries, namely, Canada, Uganda, United Kingdom and the United States of America. Each of these chapters is subordinate to the international organisation.
Whereas the chapters choose their own leaders and engage in their local programmes, they are subject to the bylaws and traditions of the international apex organisation.
One of ICOB’s non-negotiable traditions is a resolute, uncompromising fidelity to non-partisanship. At the inception of the organisation in 2003, ICOB’s leaders and members agreed that the organisation would be a very comfortable home for all Banyakigyezi and friends of Kigyezi regardless of political, religious, ethnic, racial, gender or any other differences.
That is how things have been for more than 17 years. That is how things are today. That is how they must remain. It is precisely because of this policy and culture that ICOB enjoys the membership of very many individuals who are active supporters of different political parties in the respective countries where the organisation has chapters.
In the case of Ugandan politics, the international apex organisation has not only resisted all efforts to pull it towards one or other major political party, it has received and listened to politicians across the spectrum.
This has not been an easy journey, but the organisation’s successful resistance to partisan politics is rooted in the actions and reactions of its founding members during and immediately after its formation in July 2003.
Back in 2003, President Yoweri Museveni was understandably uncertain about our intentions. So, he dispatched a five-person delegation to Toronto to attend our founding convention. They came armed with various documents that they intended to use to refute what they thought would be a partisan assault against the government of Uganda.
Within hours of their arrival, the delegation, comprised of ministers George Mondo Kagonyera and Hope Ruhindi Mwesigye, Maj Gen Jim Muhwezi, Brig Kale Kayihura, and Robert Kyamureesire Rutaagi, were pleasantly surprised to discover that ours was an agenda about building a healthy community of Banyakigyezi around the world.
It was quite fascinating to watch the delegation relax and change their demeanour as the conference proceeded. Very soon, they were in the thick of merrymaking, with Prof Kagonyera, who was the head of the delegation, supplying a torrent of humour that remains one of the most memorable parts of that gathering.
Having discovered that his political fighting skills were not needed after all, Kayihura left before the Convention ended. He headed off to Montreal to see a relative before returning to Uganda.
Happily, the leaders and members of ICOB have continued to work hard to fulfil the dreams of those who travelled to Toronto in 2003 to start the organisation. We have remained focused on our goal, insisting on truthful, transparent and inclusive growth of our community.
That strategy has paid off very well. Very many Banyakigezi and friends of Kigyezi outside Uganda have come to understand ICOB to be what it really is, namely, a home that welcomes everyone, regardless of political, religious, ethnic or other label.
We have especially enjoyed the camaraderie and support of people whose ethnic origin is outside Kigyezi. To us, a friend of Kigyezi is a Munyakigyezi.
That is why we hope that all who are seeking the presidency of Uganda, regardless of their political parties, will choose to become friends of Banyakigyezi. We certainly look forward to opportunities to engage with all of them at future virtual and in-person conventions of the International Community of Banyakigezi.
Likewise, we hope that the people in Kigyezi will extend a warm welcome and show great hospitality to every candidate for president of Uganda. It is in the interests of Kigyezi to listen to each and every candidate’s message, ask them serious questions about the social-economic state and needs of Kigyezi, and to seek firm commitments on their promises.
This approach will enable Banyakigyezi to judge the candidates on their merits and will, hopefully, contribute to a peaceful way of doing things. There is absolutely no harm in listening to a politician even when you have no intention of voting for him or her.
It is actually empowering and helps to build a culture of informed choice and peaceful competition.
The problem of partisan politics has undermined the progress and expansion of the Uganda Chapter of ICOB. Many of its leaders have struggled with a conflict of interests. They have seemingly been unable to separate their personal politics from the interests and activities of their Chapter.
There have been occasions when this partisanship has threatened the very survival of the Uganda Chapter of ICOB. This latest attempt to drag ICOB into the ongoing presidential contest is one of those divisive moments.
Fortunately, the ever-steadfast leadership of ICOB (International) has refused to allow the Organisation to be drawn into the partisan struggles in Uganda. We intend to keep it that way.