Stranded Ugandan Traveler Claims Paris Embassy Abandoned Her
"That is not our responsibility," the embassy employee told Namuganzza's Ugandan friend who was on the phone with him from Germany, the friend told The Black Star.
When Aisha Namuganzza, a young Ugandan traveler who was lost, finally stumbled to the Ugandan embassy in Paris after being mugged a few hours earlier, she was greatly relieved.
At last she would now get the assistance from embassy officials the 20-year-old traveler, who had been on transit when she was assaulted and robbed at the airport, thought. Perhaps embassy officials would help her get medical attention and even summon the police.
At the very least, she would be able to recover from the shock of being attacked in a city that was strange to her. Perhaps she would also provide French police with a description of her assailants.
Thank God Uganda had an embassy in Paris, the young lady thought. Namuganzza was disheveled and traumatized. She had no money. She knew no one in France. So the Ugandan flag in Paris gave her hope.
Aisha was due for another shock.
The employee she met at the embassy told her that he couldn't do much for her. He had to pick up his child from school since it was already nearly 4PM. The best he could do was allow her to make a phone call; that was all. What's more, after she finished the conversation with a friend in Germany, she would have to leave the embassy building since it was closing.
Sure enough, after a tearful Namuganzza spoke with her friend in Germany by telephone, she was instructed to leave the embassy. "That is not our responsibility," the embassy employee told Namuganzza's Ugandan friend who was on the phone with him from Germany. He didn't offer to have Namuganzza ride in the car with him when he went to pick up his child from school.
"The people at the embassy said we are not concerned with your problem," Namuganzza's friend based in Germany later recalled in a telephone interview with The Black Star News. "He said sometimes Ugandans who had expired visas showed up at the embassy expecting help. I told them to check her Visa and that it was not expired. Even if it had expired, even if she had killed somebody, as a Ugandan citizen she would be entitled to assistance."
The embassy employee, Dan Lwanga, who is identified as the front office manager, when contacted by The Black Star News by telephone, confirmed that, indeed, when Namuganzza arrived at the embassy, it was about to close. He denied that he had been unhelpful. "In fact, I allowed her to call her friend in Germany. The friend said he would send someone to pick her up," Lwanga said. He also confirmed that it was almost 4PM and that he had to go pick up his child from school.
Namuganzza's Germany-based friend tells The Black Star News that he ended up doing what an embassy is supposed to do for its citizens. "They are there on tax payers money. If you are not concerned with Ugandans, why do you accept this job?" he said.
He says in the end, a friend of his, a German professor who taught in Lille, France, 137 miles away from Paris, traveled by train to the French capital and picked up Namuganzza, at around 8PM. He found her crying and shivering, seated on a park bench near the embassy and the two rode the train back to Lille, he said.
"The German professor could not understand how embassy officials can lock out a stranded fellow citizen," Namuganzza's friend recalls. "He said that if that happened in his country, or any true democracy here in Europe, people would even be calling for resignations of such officials for locking out a citizen left outside to die. Shameful indeed."
On Saturday September 17, Namuganzza's friend drove to France from Dusseldorf and picked up Namuganzza. In Germany, she was treated for trauma through the assistance of the German Red Cross, he said.
Namuganzza had traveled to Sweden on a three-month visa to study, earlier this year.
Her ordeal started when she traveled from Sweden, heading to visit the Ugandan friend based in Germany, through France, on September 15. At the airport in Paris, she went to the wrong terminal and missed her connecting flight. She then ventured outside the terminal building after midnight. She might have presented a ripe and tempting target for French night-time predators.
Namuganzza was beaten and robbed of her money and valuables.
Luckily, a Good Samaritan bought her a train ticket to Paris and another Samaritan called the embassy to ask if someone could pick up Namuganzza. The stranger ended up taking Namuganzza to the embassy.
Her Germany-based Ugandan friend said he called at least four times and begged Lwanga not to send Namuganzza out alone in the streets of Paris.
Lwanga stressed to The Black Star that he was helpful and that Namuganzza never brought up the issue of accommodation.
"Speaking Truth To Empower."
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