Ugandan Traveler's Embassy Incident Misrepresented in Black Star story

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[Letter To The Editor]

The Editor
The Black Star News
32 Broadway, Suite 511
New York, NY, 10004


We write to you in response to an unfortunate and misleading article that was published in the 10th December 2011 edition of your on-line newspaper entitled “Stranded Ugandan Traveler Claims Paris Embassy Abandoned Her”. The article is unfortunate from the point of view of the story as well as from the facts on the ground, and appears instead to be a fabrication by persons whose motives are not entirely clear.

The Embassy did receive a call one September morning, from a unidentified Ugandan individual based in Germany purporting to be a relative of a well-placed Ugandan politician, who requested the use of the Embassy as a rendezvous address to pick up a Ms. Aisha Namuganzza, whom he claimed had been travelling to Germany from Sweden, via Denmark by overland coach but who had over-slept and missed her transfer station somewhere at the border of France. She was headed "inadvertently" to Paris, where she would be picked up by a German friend of this Ugandan, for her onward journey to her final destination. The caller indicated that she was expected to arrive at the Embassy shortly after mid-day and would be picked up in the mid afternoon around 3pm.

Aisha presented herself to the Embassy, not as a "consular problem", but simply resulting from a request to use the Chancery as a rendezvous, there being no other point of reference for the individuals concerned. She did not declare a loss of her travel document neither did she claim to have been beaten up. Instead, Aisha arrived at the Embassy close to 4pm with a can of beer in her hand and carrying luggage which had additional drinks packed in it! There are several witnesses to this fact. She was put in contact with the above referenced individual from Germany (who had made several earlier calls to inquire whether she had arrived) on telephone, from which a quarrel also ensued. There are phone logs available to prove the time, destination and durations of the calls made.

Aisha did not travel by air as purported in the story. In any case it is highly unlikely that any transit airside traveler would have ventured out of an airport terminal "at midnight" as reported in the article, having missed her flight, without even attempting to connect to any of the hourly flights out of and between the European capitals. A cursory look at the map of Europe raises questions about the coach theory as well. To get to France overland, Aisha would have spent many hours in the very Germany which was purported to be her destination!

Somewhere between Aisha and her Ugandan friend in Germany, therefore, the story gets muddled up. One can easily pick that up. She wasn’t even on a student visa; but in her own words according to eye witnesses, had been promised a job in Sweden but was on her way to Germany after that offer had failed to materialize. We hope this case is not part of a subliminal racket in human traffic. One needs only to pay attention to international and local Ugandan news to realize that there is a growing problem of trafficking to the developed countries originating from Africa.

People like Aisha need to be protected. That protection should begin from the point of departure. Efforts need to be made to ensure that young unsuspecting individuals do not fall prey to the often false allure of wealth to be made abroad. This is, ultimately, a matter for policy makers. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Uganda on its part, has established a Diaspora Services Division, which when fully functioning will aim at addressing all the many aspects of the challenges faced by Ugandan nationals living abroad. In the meantime, the Embassy has evolved a rapport with the French authorities, whom often contact us first before processing any suspected stranded Ugandan individual in France. The Embassy has always done its best to respond to all the calls as quickly as it can.

Mr. Dan Lwanga, who appears the principal subject of the story, is an individual known to me personally since the early 80’s in Kampala. He has worked in France for many years and is a pillar of the community as well as the Embassy with which he has worked as a local staff since the 90’s. Dan does not commute to work by car. Like many other Parisians, he uses public means; i.e. the metro. The same week as the Aisha incident, Dan had succeeded in securing assistance for another genuine stranded Ugandan who had a case requiring repatriation back to Uganda; which he managed to do outside of the available funds resource but through his connections with the local French authorities. There are many incidents in which Embassy Staff go out of their way to dig into their personal resources to deal with problems involving stranded Ugandans.

I honestly think a great deal of harm has been done to Dan Lwanga as well as to the reputation and integrity of the Embassy of Uganda in Paris a result of the above referenced article. This comes at a time when we have been implementing a Diaspora outreach and have steadily extended our network to the Ugandan community in France precisely to be able to deal with the kind of un expected consular problems that individuals find themselves faced with.

Our role as a Ugandan Mission, is to reach out to Ugandans in the area of accreditation. We can only do that if the Ugandans themselves respond, in faith, instead of attempting to use official cover for personal gain or interest.

Philip Odida
Chargé d’ Affaires a.i.

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