By Isaac Akugizibwe
KIU, Main Campus - Forum for Ideas (FFI) is a student think tank that nurtures intellectual growth among students across all academic disciplines offered at KIU. Considered the best intellectual hub at Uganda’s leading private university, the six-year-old Forum for Ideas was created as a result of scorn towards KIU students by members of the public and peers from other institutions.
Following its charter in 2008, Kampala International University (KIU) embarked on rebranding and establishing an undisputable international reputation as the name suggests. By 2010, the University had almost everything in place; strategic location, infrastructure, renowned lecturers, and well-equipped resources expected of an International University. Different student's societies were allowed to form and keep students on course but neither of them was able to improve students self-esteem and intellectual abilities. This vacuum needed to be filled.
Early 2014, a number of students including Obadia Ismail Otim (currently the patron Forum for Ideas and also Company Secretary and Chief Legal Officer of Next Media Services Limited and all its subsidiaries including NBS Television Limited), Mugumya Andrew Kanoti, Masozera Nkwanzi Viviane, Nsubuga Anderson James, and Ladu Morris.E. all practicing Advocates with various entities currently, approached their lecturer Mr. Abdul Kareem Azeez, their then Staff Adviser and Coordinator, later Head of Public and Comparative Law and the School of Law (KIU), and currently a Senior Lecturer, with Commercial Law Department, Modern College of Business and Science, in Muscat Oman.
They wanted to establish a students' think tank that would enhance students' self-esteem and intellectual abilities. When they disclosed their idea to Abdul Kareem, he found it valuable and immediately agreed to have a platform established. This platform would serve as a think tank that could act as a pool of passionate, and excellent students with an academic score above 3.5 CGPA across all the faculties, schools, and colleges at KIU in order to create a forum that would nurture intellectual growth, build capacity and develop a positive mindset among the members. The team enacted a Constitution that would guide the platform.
On 26th November, 2014, KIU's first-ever multi-discipline academic-oriented intellectual student's think tank, The Forum for Ideas (FFI) was established by the aforementioned founders. The Forum was established under the motto,"Truth is bitter but better." Abdul Kareem Azeez became its founding Patron, a position he served in with dexterity until late 2019 when he handed over to Obadia Ismail.
Ever since its establishment the members have successfully represented the university both nationally and internationally in all competitions and platforms. Few days after its inception in 2014, FFI members Abdi Nuur and Wamelo won the national insurance competition-beating UCC in finals. In 2015 Obadia Ismail and Nsubuga James Anderson represented the KIU in the CEHURD National Constitutional Moot Competition, and emerged as the overall Champions beating Makerere School of Law in the Finals at Makerere.
One of the forum's most remarkable moments was in 2016 when Obadia Ismail, after winning regionally, represented Uganda and KIU in the Monroe. E. Price Media Law International Competition Final rounds, in Oxford, London, in the UK, wherein he emerged as the first African to win two awards at the International Final rounds vide. He also won the 10 Oralist Award and Spirit of the Competition Award.
Because of the core objectives of the forum and the strong foundation, its members have continuously represented the University in Germany Manzi Mark, Netherlands (Sentongo Yakubu), South Africa (Nambozo Suzan and Chitindi Marvelous), Nairobi (Hemed Swalleh and Patrick Muema Mumo), and Rwanda (John and Hatowa Munya) among others.
The Speaker of the forum, Rt. Hon. Mahad Balyamujura, has just recently emerged the best speaker and the team overall winner in the National Environmental Debate.
"FFI made me what I am today. It taught that everything approached in the right way is achievable," says Patrick Muema Mumo, a professional Lawyer and former principal coordinator of the Forum for Ideas.
Patrick who joined the Forum in 2015 adds that it taught him values of solidarity, sharing, hard work, debate, and refined leadership. Ibrahim Ruhweza Atwooki, a professional journalist at Dream Chaser Media admits that the Forum boosted his self-esteem and confidence.
"I was very shy and hardly spoke in public by the time I joined the forum in 2017," says Ibrahim.
The forum conducts charity or community service-related activities every semester, ranging from giving or sensitizing the surrounding communities about their rights and the law. They believe that there is no greater feeling and reward than giving.
The forum is comprised of all nationals in Africa. One has to go through an oral interview and pass with an average of 80% to become a member of Forum for Ideas. Recruits are meant to read their dreams at their first appearance in any of the forum's meetings so that each member and the forum supports them until they achieve it. They are meant to believe that with the right mindset, one can achieve anything.
“It doesn't matter the university or where you come from, it all starts with and it’s about you, you got the power of your future, success and path in life," says Obadia Ismail.
The Forum is governed by two bodies; The Executive headed by the Principal Coordinator and Congress led by the Speaker. Whereas the Executive is in charge of planning and implementation of projects, the Congress organizes debates, scrutinizes every activity, project and activity for the Forum. It is responsible for debating and passing budgets for different Forum projects and activities.
Members of Forum refer to one another as "Honourable" and whoever acts contrary is subject to a serious warning and perhaps a punishment which can even include suspension from Congress for a week or so.
It is FFI's custom to reward every member that scores a first class at the end of a semester. Since its inception, the excellent performers have always been treated to a special outing by the Patron. This is aimed at promoting academic excellence among members.
In bid to promote professional skills, the Forum publishes weekly articles. These articles are pinned on all notice boards across KIU. It is a must for each member to write at least an article in a semester. This has been the norm since the Forum's inception. It is the same motive that Forum organizes moots. The moot court competitions are open even to non-law students.
Forum for Ideas remains the best student think tank at KIU with their weekly articles shaping students debates, their moot court competitions attracting students of different disciplines but most notably is that their track record of producing charismatic and highly confident individuals who not only represent the forum in the Guild Union but also the university in national and international competitions and forums where they emerge champions in most cases.
“There are more ideas on earth than intellectuals imagine. And these ideas are more active, stronger, more resistant, more passionate than "politicians" think. We have to be there at the birth of ideas, the bursting outward of their force: not in books expressing them, but in events manifesting this force, in struggles carried on around ideas, for or against them. Ideas do not rule the world. But it is because the world has ideas (and because it constantly produces them) that it is not passively ruled by those who are its leaders or those who would like to teach it, once and for all, what it must think. At FFI we don't only believe in ideas but believe that we are the ideas, and we are the change we want to see.yes, we can," FFl Patron, Obadia Ismail concludes.
According to Obadia, plans to extend the perimeters of Forum for Ideas are underway. He says that they plan to have it in every University across the continent.
The writer Isaac Akugizibwe is a senior member of the Forum for ideas and a distinguished Award winning multimedia journalist currently pursuing a Masters of Science in Mass Communication at KIU