In October last year (2020), Uganda was pleased to receive the new US ambassador to Uganda, H.E Natalie Brown who immediately prior to her appointment was Chief of Mission of the U.S. Embassy in Asmara, Eritrea. Ms. Brown replaced Ms. Deborah Malac who had served in the same capacity since 2016. Being a woman, the fact that a woman diplomat was replacing another on Ugandan soil weighed a lot on my heart. It fitted well with the empowerment drive so dear to Uganda and which the Americans seem to appreciate alike.
Moreover, soon after, Ms. Kamala Harris, a black American, was elected as vice president of the US, a first in the great country’s history. The twin “deployments” around the same time were significant because the world is becoming more equal on all fronts-gender, race and, I believe, geopolitically.
Ambassador Brown came to Uganda under very exceptional circumstances of Coronavirus in that even her swearing in was witnessed virtually by friends from all over the world. This had never happened before and it tells of the unique times we live in where all peoples of the world are one, aggressed by similar challenges, both natural and manmade. Uganda’s story with Covid-19 has been “luckier” than America’s; we are managing relatively well and we pray that the US will overcome the major hit exacted by the pandemic on its people. Covid-19 is a security matter which should not be treated as a simple flu. The Americans know better.
Ugandans should not let their guard down because if we give up the strong front and leadership that has enabled us to suppress the figures very low, then we shall have let down the promise of better leadership and progress that our bilateral friends admire in us in these trying times. We shall not be respected.
Ambassador Brown also started her tour of duty in Uganda at a critical time when we are organising elections. This is very important and the US, as a strategic partner that understands Uganda’s usefulness in the geopolitics of the region and the stabilising factor that Uganda is, must take the elections seriously while keeping respectable distance to allow Ugandans decide who leads them some more. We have had elections before and managed in our own way to emerge stronger and better prepared. Things may not be perfect but are they ever, anywhere in the world?
Looking at her resume, Ambassador Brown has served “all over the world” and garnered notable experience in diplomacy working “in both bilateral and multilateral diplomacy with a geographic focus on Africa and the Middle East”, going through countries such as Jordan and Kuwait, and Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Ethiopia, Guinea- Conakry and Tunisia. Uganda is certainly an easier place to work and live than many of those countries but the main point is that we have unique systems and cycles for running our affairs. Our interests are both similar and dissimilar but the bare minimum expectation for all of us is continuity in peace and stability. On that, we cannot compromise or promise to offer particular favours.
Our democracy has undergone tremendous evolvement over the years, from notorious fascist governments that had almost taken Uganda to its grave until NRM came to power with President Yoweri Museveni at the helm. That democracy is a beacon of hope, the foundation on which we build to secure the future.
More of our children are going to school, many youths are in leadership, empowerment programmes to create jobs for those who need them are a priority and we take the issue of human rights seriously. We are receptive to ideas for improvement from all angles.
Uganda is an exceptionally beautiful country. We intend to maintain our heritage despite the strain exerted by divergence of opinions on the direction to take as a country.
But that is politics, and it is not localized to Uganda. Even the US has had its fair share of such dramatic turns which makes our two countries sisters in the struggle to set a course and become greater.
I have been told that Ambassador Brown is “a free-spirited person who loves cooking, art and music”. Uganda is rich in all those aspects. Our foods are reputed to please the palate of a food lover, with a unique array of staples to choose from, as diverse as the people and their cultures. For the art and music, some of the crafts made in Uganda cannot be found anywhere else in the world. The music is in a league of its own and is likely to stay ringing in the ear for long. Ambassador Brown is welcome to tour Uganda widely and see for herself the gifts of nature and learn more about our history, our struggles and strides made in our journey as a progressive. As a linguist she is welcome to learn basics of our local languages such as “Oli otya?” (How are you in Luganda) or “Khodeyo” (in Lusoga).
We may not be the best in the world in certain respects but our unique story of progress is our pride and we plan and pledge to uphold and build on it with the kind and respectful encouragement of our strategic friends. Welcome to the Pearl of Africa, Y.E Brown!
The author is a Private Secretary to H.E the President of the Republic of Uganda Media Management.