FCS’s Guest Writer Sylvester Hanga visited and talked to Charles Lwabulala, the Secretary-General of Iringa Civil Society Organization (ICISO) about the network’s engagement in the East African Community Integration initiative supported by the Foundation
- Published on 20 March 2017
Q 1. Briefly describe ICISO and its mission and key objectives?
Lwabulala: Iringa Civil Society Organizations [ICISO- Umbrella] was established in 2000 by CSOs including the Community Based Organizations [CBOs], Faith Based Organizations [FBOs] and Non-Governmental Organizations [NGOs] involved in various activities of different sectors in Iringa region. The organization was registered by the government of Tanzania as NGO with registration number S.O. No. 10966 on September 2001, with a compliance certificate No. 00001548 which was issued on 12th December 2013. ICISO operates in the whole region of Iringa. Currently the umbrella has more than 112 members and they are spread all over the region.
Our vision is to see a sustainable and vibrant engagement between CSOs and the government in Iringa region. Our Mission is to build solidarity among CSOs in Iringa region in order to accelerate development and promote equitable economic, social and cultural growth for improving the quality of life through a range of short and long term strategies. In addition, our goal is to act as an umbrella organization representing the interests of the Civil Society [CBOs, FBOs, NGOs] and serve the community.
Our general objectives are to coordinate programmes and activities of CSOs of Iringa region, to facilitate communication system and dissemination of information to stakeholders and provide the capacity building to CSOs in the region including OD, Policy, Good Governance, Advocacy and Lobbying.
Q. ICISO is a member of the EACSOF Secretariat. Briefly describe the Forum and how useful it is to Tanzanian CSOs?
Lwabulala: ICISO has involved itself in EACSOF activities and plans by pushing up the establishment of EACSOF Tanzania chapter. EAC member member countries each have EACSOF country chapter from which some of their leaders have been accorded observer status in the EACSOF secretariat meetings. Tanzania had no representative from the Civil Society Sector to the secretariat. ICISO has participated in various meetings Organized by TANGO and some sponsored by the Foundation of Civil society to chart ways and means of establishing EACSOF Tanzania Chapter. ICISO participated fully in the drawing of the constitution from the beginning up to the end when a caretaker Secretariat was established and adapting the constitution. ICISO (represented by me) chaired one of those meetings). ICISO carried out a Survey through its members to know people conducting cross border trade to know their problems and experiences which eventually were shared in the above said meetings.
Q. In what ways has ICISO been involved in EACSOF plans and activities to-date?
Lwabulala: ICISO is planning to conduct an Advocacy Strategy to boost awareness to its members, Business Interest Groups who have very little information on the Customs Union and Common Market Protocols by disseminating friendly user language of rules and regulations so that they can be understood well to enable them take full advantages of the provisions- especially those on cross-border trade.
Apart from the Advocacy strategy, ICISO will follow up all protocols and strategies of the EAC integration, translate them into user friendly language and distribute them to our members and general public, we will as well disseminate the same through community Radios and other electronic channels.
Q. Can you explain how the ICISO Advocacy Strategy will support its members to participate in the East African integration process and which activities has your network implemented in spearheading EAC integration in Iringa region?
Lwabulala: ICISO through TCCIA Iringa Branch has identified three members conducting cross border trade and recommended them to TANGO and eventually they attended a 2 days’ workshop on matters related to cross border trade.
Q. What serious challenges has ICISO encountered in carrying out the advocacy strategy for EAC integration?
Lwabulala: ICISO has encountered a number of challenges in our efforts to carry out the advocacy strategy for EAC integration. One is lack of funds with which to pay for the services and activities we have planned to undertake. There are also the problems of unavailability of rules, regulation and protocols governing the EAC integration. Also, our members and the general public are not aware that they have a part to pay! They think that the whole issue of EAC integration concerns politicians and Government officers. The few traders who ventured to conduct Cross Border Trade have since despaired due to hardships they encountered on both Borders i.e on the Tanzania side and neighboring country. Paying high duties on small consignments(rules and regulations are not readily available lack of the much needed information. Constant charging requirements on goods exported to neighboring countries ie: (in the past they used to export rice but now they are compelled to sell without removing husks!
Q. What will you propose as the right way or approach in enabling your organization play its part in supporting members on EAC integration initiative?
Lwabulala: In order ICISO to pay its part in supporting our members on EAC integration initiative, it needs funds with which it will use to: reach its members in the region, collect information (rules and regulations of different protocols) translate them into friendly user language and disseminate them through print and electronic media, conduct workshops and seminars, websites as well as live radio broadcastings through community radio.
Q: In two paragraphs describe your experience in working with CSOs and networks in Tanzania
Lwabulala: I joined the CSOs sector in 1995 when I spearheaded the establishment of The Tanzania Diamond and Gemstones Polishers Association aiming at promoting the need to add value to Diamonds and gemstones instead of selling them as rough. I was later elected its first chairperson.
In 2000 I participated in the birth of ICISO as its public relations officer since then to date. We established districts networks in 6 districts which are still working (three of them are now in Njombe Region). In collaboration with Networks of Mbeya and Rukwa Regions we established the Southern Highlands NGO Network (SOHINGONET). In collaboration with Forum CC, I organized a one day workshop of CSOs from The Southern Highlands Zone in Iringa to collect CSOs inputs to the National strategy for Climate Change.
Together with nine others, I represented Tanzania CSOs as advocates/activist on Climate Change to the CoP 17 which was held in South Africa in Kwa Zulu Natal, I as well presented a paper on Indigenous knowledge in fighting Climate Change which was organized by UNESCO and was held in MAURITIUS. I have participated in several National CSOs forums conducted by different institutions like FCS, TANGO, TCDD, the government of Tanzania just to mention a few.
ICISO organized a public debate on “MKUKUTA” funded by the Foundation for Civil Society. 150 participants representing the CSOs and normal citizens from all over the region and few from Mbeya and Ruvuma regions. All members of regional secretariat (Government) were there to answer questions and comments on the implementation of different sectors in MKUKUTA. The issues raised were entered into the action plan which is being worked out by the CSOs and the government at regional and district levels. The citizens are demanding more debates.