Rotary International President Shekhar Mehta has appreciated Makerere University for supporting and carrying forward the newly introduced programme aimed at advancing peace on the African Continent. Launched in January 2020, the Rotary Peace Centre at Makerere University runs a postgraduate diploma programme in Peace-building and Conflict Transformation. The hands-on program entails coursework that addresses topics including human rights, governance, and the role of the media in conflict. Other studies focus on refugees and migration, as well as resource and identity-based conflicts.
At a high level meeting held with the University leadership on 15th September 2021 at CTF1, President Shekhar Mehta said Rotary International was proud to be partnering with Makerere to promote peace on the African Continent. “The mere absence of war does not translate into total peace. Besides war, there are many other factors undermining peaceful co-existence. It is our duty to address these issues so as to create harmony in our communities. Through the Rotary Peace Centres across the globe, we are undertaking a number of initiatives aimed at promoting peace. Since 2002, the Rotary Peace Centres have trained more than 1,300 fellows who are working to advance peace in more than 115 countries. We are happy to work with Makerere University to foster peace and development on the African Continent,” he noted. President Shekhar Mehta, who was on a three-day tour of Rotary projects in Uganda, was visiting Makerere for the first time since the University won the bid to host the International Rotary Peace Centre, the first of its kind on the African Continent.
President Shekhar Mehta, who was in company of past and current Governors of Districts 9213 and 9214, said peace was a necessary catalyst for the progress of humanity and general development of nation states across the globe. Elected for the 2021-22 term, President Shekhar Mehta, through his year theme Serve to Change Lives, asks Rotarians to participate in service projects where they can make a difference in their communities and the people who live in them. Since he joined Rotary in 1984 as a member of the Rotary Club of Calcutta-Mahanagar, West Bengal, India, President Shekhar Mehta has led many major service initiatives in India and South Asia, including among others, constructing 500 homes for Tsunami survivors at Andaman and Nicobar Islands, and starting the Shelter Kit programme in India which has served about 20 disasters and benefited about 75,000 disaster victims.
Delivering her remarks, the Chairperson Council, Mrs. Lorna Magara appreciated Rotary International for entrusting Makerere University with the mandate to host the first rotary peace centre on the African Continent. “Choosing to house the Centre at Makerere University shows Rotary International’s trust and confidence in Makerere and her vision for building for the future. We are grateful for the opportunity to contribute to the advancement of Rotary International’s agenda. We also sincerely appreciate Rotarians all over the world who have committed funds to support the Rotary Peace Centre at Makerere University,” she noted. Similarly, she appreciated The Rotary Foundation (TRF) of Canada for setting up an endowment fund for the Peace Centre. “This will go a long way in ensuring the sustainability of the Peace Centre at Makerere University. The fund will help in the Capstone week where Fellows will present their social initiatives. These initiatives will showcase how the Rotary Peace Centre contributes to positive peace initiatives all over the world.”
In his remarks, the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe informed the President that the decision to establish the first Rotary Peace Centre in Africa at Makerere University was welcomed with ‘excitement and gratefulness’. “We consider this to be a vote of confidence in our efforts in the peace and conflict resolution agenda. We extend our appreciation to Rotarians in Uganda and beyond for selflessly supporting this noble cause.” The Vice Chancellor appreciated the leadership of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at Makerere, and the Director of the Centre, Dr Helen Nambalirwa Nkabala for their tireless efforts in ensuring the centre achieves the intended objective.
By the end of this year, the Centre will have hosted two cohorts of peace fellows. The first cohort was at Makerere University between February and May, 2021. Currently, these Peace fellows are carrying out their peace initiatives in their communities. The second cohort will report on September 27, 2021. In both cohorts, Peace Fellows were chosen from 20 countries and by the end of the year, the Centre will have had a total of 36 Fellows.
On behalf of Makerere University Management, the Vice Chancellor committed to growing the Rotary Peace Centre. “Our vision is to have a fully-fledged centre with complete mediation facilities. We plan to encourage and support peace clinics that will ably respond to the challenges in the communities that the Peace Fellows come from and those that surround us. For us, this is a grand vision. The Peace Centre enhances our relevance to society and enables us to meet the needs of our communities, something in line with the vision of Rotary International,” he explained.
Prof. Nawangwe thanked the Governors of Districts 9213 and 9214 for their support throughout the process of setting up the Peace Centre. He also thanked the Advisory Board for their commitment in serving the Peace centre and guiding it to achieve its mandate.
Speaking about the Centre, the Principal, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, Makerere University, Dr Josephine Ahikire emphasized the importance of peace and human security in development. “Peace and human security are at the centre of what we struggle for as humanities scholars. We are delighted to be leading on this intellectual agenda to create a new generation of peace makers,” she said.
Briefing the President on the Centre, the Director, Dr Helen Nambalirwa Nkabala appreciated Rotary International for selecting Makerere University as the host of the first Rotary Peace Centre in Africa. She thanked Makerere University Management for providing able leadership for the Rotary Peace Centre. “We are most grateful to the Vice Chancellor for his leadership as Chair of the Advisory Board of the Rotary Peace Centre at Makerere University. In a special way, we thank the Advisory board members for the continued guidance and support to the management team of the Centre.” Dr Nkabala acknowledged the enormous support received by the Centre from various stakeholders including Rotary Clubs in and outside Uganda.
Besides the Rotary Peace Centre at Makerere University, the President, in company of the First Lady Rashi Mehta visited a number of other Rotary projects including; the Empower Girls Initiative, the Rotary International-USAID WASH Strategic Partnership, the Maternal Health and Child Health Programme, the Rotary Centenary Bank Cancer Ward at Nsambya Hospital, and the Mengo Hospital Rotary Blood Bank, both major projects sponsored by Rotarians. He also presided over the inauguration of the Board of Trustees of The Sam Owori Rotary VijanaPoa Village.
ABOUT PRESIDENT SHEKHAR MEHTA
President Shekhar Mehta was born in 1959 in Kolkata India. A keen academician, he graduated from St. Xavier’s College, and has a Masters in Commerce. He is a qualified Chartered Accountant, Cost Accountant and Company Secretary. He joined Rotary in 1984 and is a member of Rotary Calcutta Mahanagar. He served as District Governor in 1999-2000 and was elevated to the Board of Directors of Rotary International for 2011-2013. He has been Chairman of Joint Partnership Committee of Rotary International, Strategic Planning Committee of Rotary International, Rotary India Literacy Mission, Rotary Foundation India, Rotary India Centennial Celebrations and Rotary India Humanity Foundation. He served as Director on the Board of Rotary International from 2011 to 2013, and helped Rotary add two countries to its fold – Bhutan and Maldives.