The history of Rotary District 9102 cannot be told without first tracing the origins of Rotary in Africa. Rotary having been introduced to the world spread like wildfire from the first Rotary Club in Chicago to Canada to Dublin, Belfast and London to Latin America to India to other parts of Europe and then to Asia after the First World War. Australia and New Zealand were next before Rotary reached Africa in 1921, sixteen (16) years after Paul Harris had founded the first club in Chicago, USA on 23rd February 1905. The first club to be chartered in Africa was the Rotary Club of Johannesburg in April 1921.
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From Johannesburg in 1921 and within the next decade and a half, Rotary jumped over the Kalahari Desert, the Kilimanjaro Mountain, the Great Africa Lakes, and the Sahara to land on the Mediterranean shores of North Africa, reaching Cairo, Egypt on 2nd January 1929, through the effort of the Canadian Col. James W. Davidson; thereafter to Casablanca, Morocco; Algiers in Algeria; back south to Salisbury, Rhodesia (now Harare, Zimbabwe), and on to Nairobi, Kenya in the east, all in the same year 1930. Rotary’s journey continued to Tunisia in 1935, Sudan in 1938, and finally to Senegal in West Africa, in 1939. [table id=1 /] Rotary was first introduced and received in West Africa in 1939 in Dakar, Senegal. The Rotary Club of Dakar, the Doyen Club in D9100 was born on 10thJuly 1939 with the membership of eighteen French expatriates. Dakar would remain the Rotary lone star in the skies of the region for seventeen (17) years after which period Rotary reached Cote d’Ivoire in 1956 and the Cameroon in 1957, both being French-speaking countries. The first English-speaking country in the region to receive Rotary was Ghana, the newly independent nation, through the initiative of an indigene, an African (Ghanaian) Accountant named Michael Daniel Quist, who worked with the American oil company TEXACO in Accra. He had previously studied in the UK where he got to know about Rotary through regular invitation by British Rotarians. The Premier Club, the Rotary Club of Accra, organized the Rotary Clubs of Kano, Lagos and Ibadan in Nigeria, and Freetown in Sierra Leone. Michael Daniel Quist, through his historical external family links in neighboring Togo also had ultimate aim to introduce Rotary to that country. The growth continued swiftly.
The principle of Rotary as an organization is that clubs be grouped into districts led by an elected officer, the Governor, for their efficient and effective administration. But a District cannot be created when certain criteria have not been met, such as regards the minimum number of clubs and Rotarians in the geographical territory under consideration.
In Rotary year 1968 – 1969 there existed in our West African region only twenty-one (21) clubs with small numbers of Rotarians in twelve countries, that is seven (7) clubs in Nigeria, four (4) clubs in Ghana, and one in each of the remaining countries. Therefore the region did not qualify to be designated as a Rotary District. Our clubs were thus described as non-districted clubs. Non-districted clubs existed also in other parts of the Rotary world. For instance in October 1964, there were sixty (60) non-districted clubs, and one hundred and twenty-seven (127) in April 1973.
Said Rotary International President Luthen H. Hodges (1967 -1968) in his presidential report to the 59th Annual R.I. Convention in Mexico City, Mexico, 12 – 16 May 1968: “One of the most significant developments of the 1967 – 1968 year, had to do with non-districted clubs. These are clubs, which are not attached to a specific Rotary district and which get no official visits or supervision, and have always posed a problem in administration. Generally speaking these non-districted clubs are in distant places, not easily tied with other clubs” (Convention Proceedings – Mexico 1968). One of the glaring disadvantages was that non- districted clubs could not elect their own delegates to the Council on Legislation. Article IX of the Bye – Laws of Rotary International provides in Section 1(How constituted):
“The Council on Legislation shall be composed as follows: not more than one representative of non – districted clubs to be designated by the President”.
Before taking any action on the subject, President Luthen H. Hodges accompanied by Past Rotary International Director LeRoy William 1st Vice President of R.I. (1965 – 1966), undertook a four-week African tour of eighteen (18) countries, in which existed non-districted clubs, among which were: Sierra Leone, Benin, Gabon, Cameroon, Niger. The hazards of travelling by air in Africa surprised the Presidential team at the Abidjan (Cote d’Ivoire) airport. There was a long delay of fifteen (15) hours! This delay though was utilized for a fruitful meeting with the members of the Rotary Club of Abidjan. Also during the waiting time, the Charter of the Rotary Club of Niamey (Niger) was presented by the R.I. President.
As an outcome of these visits, President Hodges succeeded in persuading the R.I. Board to create administrative structures for non-districted clubs. His report at the 59th R.I. Convention in Mexico City is partly reproduced below.
“Following my trip to certain African countries (mainly to non- districted clubs), I made certain observations and recommendations to the Board, as did my traveling companion former first Vice President Leroy William.”
The Board, at its January 19, 1968 meeting gave much attention to these non – districted clubs and authorized the General Secretary to take action to ensure that all the clubs were either (1) assigned to a regular district or (2) put in an identified group for administrative purposes”.
Hence, in our sub region, the non-districted clubs were placed under the following groups:
- Group E: Niger, Senegal, Mali, Dahomey, Cote d’Ivoire, Togo
- Group F: Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Ghana
- Group G: Nigeria (All 8 clubs: Aba, Enugu, Ibadan, Ikeja, Kaduna, Kano, Lagos, Port Harcourt)
- Group H: Cameroun, Central African Republic, Chad, Gabon, Republic of Congo (Congo Kinshasa)
Each group was to be administered by an Administrative Adviser appointed by the R.I. President for a period of one year, with duties similar to those of a District Governor.
Among Rotarians who were appointed to perform this function at that time were Tommy Hope of Freetown (Sierra Leone), Philip Huledey of Kumasi (Ghana), Joe Richards of Monrovia (Liberia) and Anofi Guobadia of Ikeja (Nigeria).
The West African Rotarians in all the groups were eager to build a viable regional Rotary community. To this effect they started holding annual conventions; the first was held in Accra on 21– 23 March 1968, attended by eleven (11) clubs coming from Ghana, Dahomey now Benin, Liberia, Mali, Nigeria, Sierra Leone namely: Accra, Bamako, Cotonou, Freetown, Ibadan, Kano, Kumasi, Lagos, Monrovia, Takoradi, Tema. This historic conference had the privilege of the presence of R. I. Vice President Steve O. Halloran, the Special Presidential Representative for Groups F & G; he was accompanied by his wife.
Four subsequent annual conferences followed at different venues. The fifth took place again in Accra on 8 – 12 March 1972 with the participation of the Rotary Clubs of Freetown, Monrovia, Enugu, Ibadan, Ikeja, Kaduna, Accra, Accra-West, Kumasi, Sekondi-Takoradi, Tamale, Tema, and Lome, the new club from Togo making it the seventh member-country. The conference was once again honoured by the presence of R.I. President Ernst G. Breitholtz, accompanied by his wife.
One may reasonably conclude that the fifth Annual West African Convention, attended by R. I. President Ernst G Breitholtz, represented the turning point for district status, as it demonstrated the maturity and dedication of Rotarians so convincingly. Thus in October 1972, the R.I. Board, under the new R.I. President, Roy D. Hickman (1972 – 73), took a Board decision to create the new Rotary District 210, to take effect from 1st July 1973 for clubs in Groups E, F, & G including Chad and Cameroun from Group H, and all future clubs that may be organized in Mauritania, The Gambia and Burkina Faso.
President Hickman then instructed his second Vice President Jules P. Flock to call for nomination of names for the position of the first District Governor. The circular letter from Jules P. Flock dated 25th October 1972 reported that at the close of nomination on 15th December 1972, two out of the seven nominations were rejected for late submission, that the majority of clubs in the District took part in the balloting, which resulted in the selection of Francois Amorin as the District Governor-Nominee for the Rotary year 1973-1974; his nomination was endorsed at the 1973 West African Conference in Lome, Togo in April 1973. Subsequently Francois Amorin was formally elected the first District Governor of District 210 at the 1973 R.I. Convention in Lausanne, Switzerland where William C. Carter was elected the RI President for 1973-1974 Rotary years.
In accordance with the By-Laws of Rotary International, the District Governor is required to organize two events, namely the District Assembly and the District Conference during his year in office. In so large a District as D210, with very limited inter-country transportation facilities, not to mention corresponding high costs, it appeared to the first District Governor that it would be unwise to organize two District Meetings in the same year. The solution arrived at was therefore to hold the District Assembly in two separate locations in cities closer to the participants in the area. Consequently the first District Assembly was held on 26-27 April 1974, in Ibadan, Nigeria for clubs in Nigeria and to the east of Nigeria, and the second in Tema, Ghana for clubs to the west of Nigeria.
The second annual meeting in a District, which in this case was the first District Conference of D210, was held in Lome (Togo) on 21, 22 and 23 February 1974. The co-chairmen of the Organising Committee were Sam Okudzeto (Rotary Club of Accra) and Bawa Mankoubi (Rotary Club of Lome). All clubs were represented. “A Time For Action” was the Presidential Theme for the Rotary year 1973 – 1974 when William C. Carter from Great Britain served as R.I. President. To make Rotary meaningful in the newly constituted District, the Theme for reflection was “Is Rotary relevant in Africa?”
At the time of the Conference, most of the Sahelian part of the District was struck by a severe drought. A special plenary session was accordingly devoted to studying ways and means by which Rotary could assist the affected communities. Relief funds contributed by friendly clubs in France, Japan, U.S.A and from within District 210 itself were shared among the clubs in the drought stricken areas. In the true Rotary spirit, the clubs in Nigeria decided to donate their share of the relief funds to the clubs in the worst stricken areas. During the first five year period of District 210, club extension was stagnant; only three new clubs were created: Nouakchott in Mauritania, Abidjan-Cocody in Cote d’Ivoire (1978) and Banjul in The Gambia (1979).
A decision by the R. I. Board in Rotary year 1976 – 1977, changed the numerical designation of District 210 to District 910 of which Rotarian Sam Okudzeto became the first Governor. The number 210 was re-assigned to an Italian district in the Catania Province.
In the eight-year period 1978 – 1986 and particularly from 1982 and into the new millennium, a lot of growth took place in D910. New countries appeared on the West Africa Rotary map. Rotary extension gained momentum notably in Nigeria as a result of the oil boom. A single Governor could no longer discharge his duties effectively over such a vast geographical territory as D910. It became obvious that re-districting was the solution. To that effect a resolution introduced by the Rotary Club of Yaoundé was debated and adopted at the District Conference in 1980. The matter was further considered by clubs as required by the Board of Rotary International. General opinion supported geographical, rather than linguistic criteria.
In 1982 R.I. ceded territory from D910 to form two new Districts – D911 and D915. District 911 covered the whole of Nigeria, while the clubs in Cameroun and Chad in Group G joined clubs in Administrative Groups H, I, and K to form the new District, D915. Our District 910 was as a result reduced to clubs in countries west of Nigeria. Meanwhile the clubs in Mauritania elected to join the Magrebean District 9010. Happily this loss was compensated by the addition of three countries occasioned by the birth of clubs in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso (1984); Praia, Cape Verde Islands (1992); and Bissau, Guinea Bissau (1992). There was also intra-country growth in the number of clubs, notably in Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire.
As things turned out in 1982, if Nigeria had not been taken off D910 to be designated D911, Rotarian Prince Julius Adelusi Adeluyi of Nigeria who had already been nominated as candidate Governor for D910 would have become the District Governor of D910 in the Rotary year 1982 -83. The problem was quickly resolved by nominating Emil Carr of the Rotary Club Freetown (Sierra Leone) the District Governor for the 1982 – 1983 Rotary year
In the Rotary year 1991–1992, the R. I. Board decided to add the number zero (0) to all existing districts worldwide, thus altering D910 to D9100. District 9100 constitutes the larger part of the West African Sub-Region of Africa, south of the Sahara, and is made up of fourteen countries: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde Islands, Cote d’Ivoire, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Togo. Indeed D9100 was at the time the largest geographic district in the Rotary world.
With the continuing growth of Rotary in the new District 9100, the same reasons for the creation of Districts 910, 911 and 915 out of D910 in 1973, re-emerged. The District is still too vast for its effective administration by one Governor, because of the perennial difficulties encountered by the succeeding Governors: geographical size, language barriers, communication and transport difficulties, to name a few. The introduction of the District Leadership Plan by R.I. resulting in the appointment of Assistant Governors to support District Governors does not appear to provide a permanent solution. The need for re-districting therefore once again became an important item on the district agenda. This issue was debated at the 15th and 17th annual District Assemblies and Conferences in Dakar (April 1988) and in Yamoussoukro (April 1990). A committee was set up headed by PDG Rito Alcantara to study the field and propose solutions.
Three options were eventually suggested to the clubs:
Option 1 – Re-districting by linguistic demarcation: Anglophone and Francophone/Lusophone
Option 2 – Re-districting by geographical demarcation into three (3) multilingual districts.
Option 3 – Re-districting by dividing the district into two halves:
- Ghana and the countries to its north and east: Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, and Togo
- Cote d’Ivoire and the countries to the west: Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Senegal, Cape Verde.
There, the matter rested until resurrected seven years later at the meeting of Past District Governors (PDG) held on the sidelines of the District Assembly and Conference in Praia, Cape Verde in 2007. The PDGs unanimously agreed to the division of the district as recommended in option 3 of the Rito Alcantara committee’s report, subject to the following changes:
- Addition of Mali to the Cote d’Ivoire group
- Decision by all clubs on which of the two groups Burkina Faso would join
The District Governor and subsequent Governors were accordingly assigned responsibility of taking steps to move the re-districting forward by addressing the following specific issues:
- Organisation of a ballot by all clubs
- Dissemination of the procedures laid down by RI for re-districting.
- Early submission of an application to R.I.
It would take another two years before the clubs of the district would formally pass a resolution at the DAC in Lome, Togo on 17 April 2009 to request R.I. to redistrict D9100. Finally, the Board of Directors of Rotary International, at its meeting on 23-28 January 2011 “agreed to reorganize the clubs in District 9100 into two new districts, effective 1 July 2013, as follows:
- District 9101: Cape Verde, Senegal, Gambia, Mali, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Burkina Faso, and Côte d’Ivoire
- District 9102: Ghana, Togo, Benin, and Niger
and requested the General Secretary to notify the clubs”
As at 31st December 2012, the number of Rotary Clubs in the countries of the upcoming District 9101 were 65, while District 9102 had 62. These fall short of the R.I. condition which encourages each district to have at least 75 clubs with a minimum of 2,700 Rotarians. Being well aware of this requirement, clubs have mounted major extension efforts since August 2011, when a Rotary Zone Institute was held in Accra, Ghana, at which the then R.I. President Kalyan Banerjee called for concerted action to grow Rotary membership in Africa.
Today, Rotary District 9102 has ninety (95) clubs in all four (4) countries with two thousand and four hundred eighty-five (2485) members – five hundred (500) females representing 33.67% and nine hundred and eighty-four males representing 66.26%. Rotarians in Rotary District 9102 continue to increase efforts in eradicating polio; promoting peace; fighting disease providing clean water; saving mothers and children; supporting education and growing local economies.