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Cheers, celebration as USA embassy awards 13 Ugandans

Iganachi Razak Omia, outstanding Alumnus in Agriculture

Iganachi Razak Omia, outstanding Alumnus in Agriculture

Sheraton hotel, Kampala was a beehive of activity on January 19 as the USA Mission in Uganda hosted the inaugural USA mission alumni impact awards.

The awards sought to recognize the outstanding work of 13 Ugandan alumni – beneficiaries of different USA mission exchange programmes. The embassy has several programs that provide opportunities for Ugandans to participate in exchange experiences in the United States and East Africa.

To be considered a “US program alumnus/alumna” means someone has completed a USA government-supported exchange program.

Exchange programs managed by the US Department of State’s Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs include the International Visitor Leadership Program, Fulbright Program, Mandela Washington Fellowship, Study of the US Institutes, Pan African Youth Leadership Program, Community Engagement Exchange, Community Solutions Program, Professional Fellows Program and other programs funded by the Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs and managed by the public diplomacy section, among others.

Some of the categories considered for the awards included agriculture, media and journalism, education, civic leadership, and the Dorothy Ngalombi Lifetime Achievement award, among others. The event drew guests from civil society, the central government, political opposition and the private sector.

Among those in attendance were Kampala lord mayor Erias Lukwago; Beatrice Anywar, the state minister for Envoronment; former minister Joyce Mpanga; musicians Juliana Kanyomozi and Eddy Kenzo, among others.

In her remarks, the USA ambassador to Uganda Natalie E. Brown appreciated the alumni for doing tremendous work in transforming Uganda. Their actions, she said, had strengthened the 60-year-old relationship between the American and Ugandan people.

“Since we believe in people, our focus is on the software [the people]. We believe that as alumni, you shall use the attained skills to transform the community. We hope that these exchange programmes shall present a deeper understanding of both the American people and their culture,” she said.

Ambassador Brown singled out the alumni working at the Kampala Capital City Authority. These, she said, had worked with the embassy to coordinate one of the most successful Covid-19 vaccination drives.

Innocent Ronald Hakiza, founder of Ugabus, an online bus ticketing application in Uganda, was recognized as the most outstanding alumnus in the business and entrepreneurship sector. Hakiza was part of the inaugural cohort of the Young African Leadership Institute for East Africa held in 2015 in Nairobi, Kenya.

Talking to The Observer, Hakiza said the award was a recognition of his effort in trying to harmonize transport, most especially for people who use buses for travel. At the same event, Margaret Sekaggya, the executive director of the Human Rights Centre of Uganda, was the recipient of the Dorothy Ngalombi Lifetime Achievement award.

The award was created in honour of Dorothy Ngalombi who has spent approximately 36 years working with the embassy in Kampala. Many of the alumni have interacted with her in their processes of travelling for USA programs.

With a career spanning over 30 years in advocating for human rights and the rule of law in Uganda and beyond, Sekaggya has earned herself a moniker of the ‘Jajja’ of human rights in Uganda. She was also the founding chairperson of the Uganda Human Rights Commission.

She later served as the United Nations special rapporteur for human rights to approximately 45 countries around the globe. In her acceptance speech, Sekaggya expressed gratitude for the recognition. This, she said, was an affirmation of a job well done while advocating for human rights and the rule of law in Uganda and beyond.

“I have mentored very many people and it is good to see that several young people are coming up to follow in my footsteps. I believe that we can make a bigger difference in the country. We should ensure that people who come after us take over the mantle. We should be proud of the tangible progress we have made in advocating for human rights over the years,” she added.

Victo Nalule, outstanding Alumna in Civic leadership

Other recipients of the awards were Florence Nightingale Kuteesa, for outstanding alumna in the public sector; Victo Nalule, for outstanding alumna in civic leadership; Etheldreda Nakimuli Mpungu, for health; Engineer Bainomugisha, for engineering; Elizabeth Rwabu, for Education; Mercy Musingo, for young alumna; Moses Obbi, for the leader in the community; Iganachi Razak Omia, for agriculture; Richard Kayiira, for media and journalism; Fred Mutebi, for creative arts; and Raymond Musiima, for the Alumni Booster award.

The event MCs, Dr Zahara Nampewo from Makerere University and journalist Ivan Kyeyune did the function justice. They minimized the speeches to allow the guests to enjoy the entertainment. To end it in style, musician Kenneth Mugabi’s live performance left the guests yearning for more.

samuelmhindo@gmail.com

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