Alex Ruhunda is the former President of the International Association for Community Development (IACD) a global network over 1200 members in 54 countries worldwide. Alex is also the founding Director of the Kabarole Research and Resource Centre(KRC) which works with thousands of grass roots families and organisations in Uganda, founding chair of the Uganda Governance Monitoring Programme(UGMP)- a forum that brings together advocacy organisations in Uganda. He is currently the Member of Parliament for Fort Portal Municipalty, the Chairperson Rwenzori MPs Forum, Vice Chairperson of the Parliamentary Commitee on Trade, Tourism and Industry and a patron of over 40 NGOS, CBOS and SACCOS. Ruhunda is also one of Uganda’s Leading business men, owning a chain of businesses, that inlcude a biog Communications company, DAJ Communications. As KRC clocks 20 years of doing Research Advocacy and Community Developement, The KRC News Edtior, John Murungi had a chat with the NGO guru and Businessman-now turned Politician. Below, the exercpts
Hon thank you for accepting to talk to us amidist your tight schedule.The journey you begun 20 years ago seems to be getting to fruition. How has it the long journey been?
When I look back 20 Years ago(1996), I feel humbled that the casual meeting that begun in a tiny room at Livingstone Hall, Makerere, has now epitomized into a fully-fledged NGO operating in tens of districts in Uganda-and supporting thousands of community interventions in the Rwenzori Region and some other districts of Western Uganda. In fact it’s a dream I just harbored after seeing how marginalized our region was. When I called my other Colleagues with whom I was serving, in the Leadership of Kabarole Students Association, we agreed to start a vocational center, but when we approached our patron, Fr Albert Byaruhanga(RIP), he advised us to start a research center since it was a missing gap in our Region. These colleagues included John Rwibasira, Judith Bamuturaki, Tracy Kajumba and Sarah Murungi
So you started just like that?
Not at all. The journey was not simple. As young students just about to complete our studies, we didn’t even have a cent to our name. But with determination and modest facilitation from Fr Albert(RIP), we managed to come back home(Kabarole) after upon completion of our courses and start-from scratch. Our patron(Fr Albert) guaranteed us at Fort Portal Diocese Social Services Department for us to be given rent on credit in one of the Diocesan Houses. We entered the office without furniture! It was until after sometime that we got some few chairs and a desk.
But with this kind of back ground how did you manage getting entrusted with bigger assignments?
As I told you, without Fr Albert, we wouldn’t have made any headway. It is through his vast connections that we got our first major research on girl child education from SNV. This was later followed by the MTN market research. As you know the rest is history. We went on to attract funding from donors like Hivos, DED, DFID,GTZ,GAA, Bread for the World, Obumu, Kwataniza, MC Knight Foundation, Broederlijk Delen, Rabobank. Later on we got DFID, European Union and many others. On this note I would like to give mention to one Mr. Maurice Barnes whose European connections got us partner with most of the donors.
What would you count as KRC’s biggest achievements during your leadership
As KRC we pioneered the adaptation of Participatory Action Learning systems and the Poverty Resource Monitoring Tool(PRMT) as sustainable and empowering systems for action learning. We also put emphasis on capacity building and training of grassroots communities for economic, social and environmental sustainability-as well as leadership mobilisation through oru engagements with leaders at various leavesl.I can aslo talk of the empowerment of staff as one of my biggest achievement when i was at KRC. Thats why when i decided to join politics, I was not worried on whom to leave as the director. I had already mentored my then Deputy ED Mr. Mwanga Julius to steer KRC to greater heights. Am very happy he has not dispointed me –as he has kpet the candle burning and taken KRC a notch higher.
At what stage did you develop interest in business?
AR:After successfully growing KRC into a formidable institution, I felt it was time I ventured into the field of business. I had been the leade researcher for MTN Market Research as they explored prospects of expanding their services to the Rwenzori Region. So when the opportunity came for bidding for the MTN Dealership for the Fort Portal Region, I mobilised my friends Joseph Rwabuhinga and Denis Mugarra. We incorporated DAJ Communications Ltd. The company has since grown to expand operations to over 12 Districts and employ hundreds of youth, both directly and indirectly through sell of airtime and Mobile Money services. As you can see, we have even made a contribution to the building of the Fort Portal City, by putting up this Modern building where were are now seated
Your last word
I am very happy that KRC is taking seriosly the investment aspect. As the Chairperson of the investment committee of KRC, I want to work with KRC management to make KRC 102 FM,one of the biggest radios in the Country and also open a Television station in Fort Portal.I can forget to single out the most outstanding KRC staff whose enormous contribution has made KRC what it is today. These include, Mr. Julius Mwanga and his entire Senior Management team, Joseph Basaija who is our longest serving staff and Mr. John Murungi, whose zeal and commitment has made sold KRC both locally and internationally through his great writings about our work. As we celebrate 20 years of KRC, I would also like to salute the KRC Alumni who despite moving on to other instituions they have kept raising the KRC flag. These include; Mr. Richard Busiinge, Mr. Andrew Bahemuka, Miss Ednah Karamagi, Miss Lydia Muchodo and Mr. Asiimwe Robert. I can not forget appreciating the KRC Board Members with whom I served both as ED and now a Board Member.