â€œDestituteâ€? U.K. Ugandanâ€™s Case Investigated
Indeed, a copy of a visa request letter dated March 9, 2006 to the British High Commission in Kampala bearing the Uganda foreign affairs ministry letterhead, in addition to asking entry visas for Rwabyomere and her two sons, also names three other individuals, including Karamagi.
Africa News Update: The "Gardener" And The Ambassador
Uganda’s foreign minister says he will investigate allegations by a national of the East African country that she was hired by its UK High Commissioner and summarily dismissed five months into a three-year contract and made homeless in London.
Separately, the High Commissioner in a letter to the UK Employment Tribunals which is now hearing the matter says the employee was fired for unsatisfactory performance during her probationary period.
The Ugandan national, Evelyn Karamagi, says she left her job with a prestigious Uganda hotel in Kampala, after High Commissioner Joan Rwabyomere –the equivalence of ambassador- invited her to come work with the Mission in London.
She says she was fired and is now destitute, thousands of miles from her homeland, without even air fare to return.
The Black Star News has obtained a copy of the three-year employment contract at $20,800 annual salary, signed by Karamagi and Rwabyomere “For And On Behalf of Uganda High Commission.” She was to be employed beginning April 1, 2006 as a gardener and caretaker. Karamagi’s duties according to the contract were, “Taking care of and maintaining the garden and lawn at the official residence at 39 Ingram Avenue or any other official residence.”
Rather than abandoning her in the streets of London, as Karamagi asserts, the High Commissioner in a letter dated April 2, 2007 to the Regional Secretary of the Tribunals, and in response to the Tribunals’ questionnaire, writes, “The employee was on probation for six months. She received several verbal warnings but was unable to fulfill her duties as a gardner/caretaker at the residence.” The High Commissioner also tells the Tribunals that Karamagi was fired August 28, 2006.
Karamagi’s contract states she could be fired if she ignored “duties or fail to comply with any official directives or fail to perform duties without any good cause or disclose any information relating to the affairs of the Mission with any unauthorized person(s) or maliciously or negligently mishandle Mission Property you may be summarily dismissed with or without notice.” Karamagi insists she was fired after her repeated requests for medical care for her diabetes were ignored by the High Commissioner.
The episode has gained traction because Karamagi says she was specifically brought to the UK by the High Commissioner. Indeed, a copy of a visa request letter dated March 9, 2006 to the British High Commission in Kampala bearing the Uganda foreign affairs ministry letterhead, in addition to asking entry visas for Rwabyomere and her two sons, also names three other individuals, including Karamagi.
The three others and Karamagi are listed as “domestic staff.” One of the other two is not working with the Mission and is now working at a UK factory, The Black Star News has learned. The other’s whereabouts is not known. (It is not clear whether Karamagi had exceptional gardening skills and this newspaper is investigating another reason as to why the High Commissioner may have wanted Karamagi away from Uganda).
In his remarks to The Black Star, Sam Kutesa, the foreign minister, says, “No, absolutely rubbish. It’s not correct; there is no way it could happen,” when informed about Karamagi’s case. “I’m the one who appoint the people working in the foreign missions. I should have known if there was anything wrong,” Kutesa adds.
Earlier attempts to get reaction from Rwabyomere bore no fruit; the top diplomat either wouldn’t take a call or return phone messages.
“I shall investigate the matter and find out the fact, but I don’t know the person you’re talking about,” Kutesa continues. “We are committed to fighting any corruption, but I don’t know about the document you are talking about,” Kutesa says.
Separately, a Ugandan Member of Parliament, Nathan Nandala Mafabi (MP for Budadiri West), who was recently in London, says he too will investigate the matter. “We have just learnt about this case. If this is true, it’s a violation of diplomatic privileges,” says Mafabi, and adds, “but I can assure you that, this issue will be handled carefully because it is an embarrassment to the nation.”
Karamagi’s lawyer plans to move the case to the High Court since the Tribunals does not address criminal matters; improper payments may have been made before Karamagi’s trip to the UK, The Black Star News has learned.
Investigative reporter Miwambo writes for The Black Star from London.
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