In the early evening of Saturday 13th December when it was already dark in Kampala a new dawn broke in Kaazi. The Scout Council of Uganda was meeting and made important changes to the constitution of the Association and in what is believed to be an overwhelming decision replaced Victoria Nalongo Namessi with Dr. Maggie Kikozi as its Chief Commissioner. Proposed by Mayuge District and seconded by Tororo, Dr Maggie, in her address to the meeting was restrained in criticism of the outgoing Chief Commissioner but indicated that she would be delegating work to her team and would not try to be individualistic. Victoria was proposed by Entebbe and seconded by Lira but attracted only a few other votes including two from Jinja District.
Officers of the Africa Region of WOSM supervised the ballot and contrary to information on the Uganda Scouts Web Site no representative of the UK Uganda Network was present at the Council Meeting or ballot.
Dr Maggie Kikozi is the former treasurer of the Association and is Executive Director of the Uganda Investment Authority.
Dr Maggie will welcome back into the Scouting family the former national team members of Paul Bogere (former Programme and Training Chairman), Peter Ikopit (former National Executive Commissioner) and Tom Maxwell Ngobi (former programme and Training Commissioner).
Paul works for the Uganda Government, Peter is a Senior Revenue Officer working on the Kenya border and Tom works as an HIV AIDS worker as well as being Director of the Outspan School.
Peter spoke for the three when he said "We never stopped being Scouts despite the way in which we were forced to leave our jobs but for the first time in almost four years I feel able to show my face in BP House".
The UK Uganda Network wishes Dr Maggie Kikozi and her team well in the New Year to rebuild Scouting in Uganda. Chris Wilkinson, working in Uganda during the last two months, urged supporters of Dr Maggie to look forward and work hard for Scouts in the country and not to spend the months and years ahead casting blame by looking back.
HIV AIDS Celebration
Our man in Uganda just before Christmas attended a day of celebration by HIV AIDS visitims in Kayunga District.
Tom Ngobi is Director of RYDA a youth project working in several districts of Uganda. As part of the Scout programme Scouts are trying to build bridges between those infected and the rest of the population. Also to urge young and old alike to go for HIV testing to ascertain if they are infected. Those infected are educated in the benefits of "coming out" and announcing their "positive status". Men are particularly reluctant to announce their status and Tom Ngobi is now launching a "Men's Club" aimed at increasing the number of men who are prepared to stand up.
RYDA then educates those infected in safe living and the need to prevent the further spread of the disease.
Unfortunately drugs are not widely available in the country and at Kayunga those infected rely on herbal remedies to reduce the affects of AIDS.
Our Christmas prayers should surely be with all in Uganda and the rest of the world who are infected, many of whom will be Scouts.
AVON Container arrives
The last container of Uganda 2000 has at last arrived in Uganda. Dogged with difficulties the container was routed by mistake to Mombassa leaving it hundreds of miles short of its final destination in Jinja.
Berkshire Scout Enterprises despatched one of its employees Chris Wilkinson to Uganda to sort it all out. This involved two visits of over 5 weeks and he returned just before Christmas to thick snow at Humberside International Airport.
Chris says "there are some lessons to be learnt by the problems I experienced. It is important before appealing for gifts to know which will be tax exempt and which will attract high rates of tax. Also the value of goods donated in the UK can be given much higher values in Uganda".
However, real problems were caused in obtaining clearance by boxes containging mixed goods. He said "It would have been easy if there had been 6 boxes of pencils, 10 boxes of pens 3 boxes of exercise books etc. but the mixtures and particularly Pringle Tubes added days to the work to be done".
However the greatest problem was the lack of skill by the Congolese driver brought in specailly by SDV TransAmi to deliver the container. He got stuck in a garden and then a break-down of lifiting equipment added more days to the delivery process.
However, Chris completed the job only 36 hours before leaving the country with the help of local Jinja Scout Leaders and particularly Michael Mutuguya who was entrusted with several of the negotiations and payments.
A major problem in Uganda is defilement or child rape. Uganda Scouts in several Districts are now wrestling with this problem and searching for a way to help young people.
The LRC of Mbarara told Scout Leaders recently that over 90% of the prisoners in his District were being held for defilement of young people. Unfortunately many of those held were also teachers.
Local Scout Leaders are trying to work out a scheme for identifying "safe people" who children can turn to. But, it was recognized that much work needed to be done at Police and Court level to ensure those guilty are convicted. For too long bribes have been a way to obtain innocence. There is a big campaign in the country to try to stop this practice.
Recent personal exprience of one Network member in Uganda was that it is all too easy to come into contact with child prostitution when a small girl came knocking on his hotel bedroom door.
There is a great deal to be done and just another way in which Scouting is very different in Uganda to the Scouting offered to young people in the UK.
Camping on top of the World
One day out of many in Uganda saw camping in Lwakhakha a border town just north of the main border crossing with Kenya at Malaba but the post where former NEC Peter Ikopit is Senior Revenue Officer.
This is a post which sees few vehicles but has a steady stream of people crossing the border to purchase cheaper items in Kenya. This includes petrol, diesel, parafin, beds, tobacco and alcohol.
Unfortunately many of the children we met were also employed as smugglers taking these goods on pack-horse trails across the border. As one District Official said "how can we persuade parents to send their children to school when they can earn money smuggling with the chances of being caught remote?".
Peter Ikopit organised a camp for his son Emmi and Scout friends from Nalia SS in Kampala, local Scouts from Lwakhakha and children from Kenya. All camped in the Customs compound.
Chris Wilkinson presented them with neckers donated by Scouts in the UK and in France where Chris works for part of each year.
In response Peter asked for help in this remote area of Uganda saying that the town was in need of Leader Training to get Scouting moving. He offered the use of the Customs compound as a base for any activities. So anyone looking for a Uganda expedition in the coming years - here on the border a great welcome awaits you.
A Happy Christmas
At these times of plenty in the UK where credit card bills rise it is hard to believe that Christmas is anything other than excess in all areas but for many Scouts in the developing world there will be little difference from any other day of that struggle to keep alive.
Together in Scouting we can make a difference. So, whilst we celebrate the birth of Jesus may we also hope that in 2004 that the new dawn in Uganda will give us that spirit to work together. To show our young people here in the UK that very different way of life in Uganda and to the Scouts in Uganda that a Scout is a Friend to All.
God bless you and best wishes at this festive time and beyond.