ugandan_diaspora_social_networking_event_2015_00

Mr. Todd Haskell | Deputy Assistant Secretary of State – Bureau of Africa Affairs Visits Ugandan Community In Boston

Jeanette McCarthy the Mayor of Waltham, Massachusetts presents Mr. Todd Haskell the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State with the Totems of Uganda coffee table art-book written by Taga Nuwagaba

Jeanette McCarthy the Mayor of Waltham, Massachusetts presents Mr. Todd Haskell the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State with the Totems of Uganda coffee table art-book written by Taga Nuwagaba

By Ronnie Mayanja — On Monday July 18th I was privilege and honored through my contacts at the State Department to be invited to organize a Ugandan Diaspora Community Town-hall in Boston. Together with The Fireplace church that graciously accepted our request to host the event we embarked on the mobilization of our community leaders. However being a working day we faced some huddles of confirming attendance.  However I was glad that when I reached out to the Mayor of Waltham Jeannette McCarthy she committed to attending the town-hall and also agreed to receive the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Africa Affairs at the Department of State – Mr. Todd Haskell.

Deputy Assistant Secretary of State - Bureau of African Affairs Mr. Todd Haskell makes his opening statement.

Deputy Assistant Secretary of State – Bureau of African Affairs Mr. Todd Haskell makes his opening statement.

Of-course given Waltham’s importance having been described by the Boston Globe article from a few years ago as “Little Kampala”, due to the large number of Ugandans that are resident in Waltham town – Mayor McCarthy used the moment to take us through the history of this great town as the birthplace of the labor movement and a major contributor of the American industrial revolution. In her opening remarks Mayor McCarthy revisited this past taking us through the history of how in 1813, back in Boston, a businessman by the names of Francis Cabot Lowell and several partners formed the Boston Manufacturing Company.

The Mayor of Waltham, Massachusetts - Jeanette McCarthy makes her welcome remarks.

The Mayor of Waltham, Massachusetts – Jeanette McCarthy makes her welcome remarks.

The company built a tall brick mill building next to the Charles River in Waltham, Massachusetts, incorporating various mechanization technologies to convert raw cotton into cloth. The Waltham mill integrated the chain of tasks under a single roof, later inaugurating what would become the American factory system of the nineteenth century.  After that brief history lesson Mayor McCarthy then encouraged those Ugandans present to join the city council as a way to effect change in their community and the town they now call home. She said it was now time for those in the community to institute change at local, State and Federal levels of government.

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Another notable speaker prior to Mr. Todd Haskell’s conversation was Mr. Martin Byakuleka a pro-democracy activist whose speech centered on issues of governance and freedom. In summary he spoke for the need to look to the primary change agents that can deliver democratization for Ugandans within the country, by looking to the Diaspora with the support of development partners. “Today in Uganda, the would be primary actors are intimidated through repression and are suffocated – they can no longer perform their primary role of democratic change; that role has now shifted to the Diaspora and development partners”  — he noted. On his part Mr. Tendo Kaluma an IT consultant also called upon the Deputy Assistant Secretary to help put pressure on the government to improve its human rights record and end the treatment of Ugandans as subjects rather than citizens.

Mr. Tendo Kaluma - IT Consultant during the Q&A in Waltham.

Mr. Tendo Kaluma – IT Consultant during the Q&A in Waltham.

As the strongest opposition constituency in North America it did not take long for some to voice their disappointment with the February 2016 polls that were marred with irregularities and the continued Ugandan Police brutality meted at opposition politicians.  Although the meeting was non political it was clear that simmering concerns were largely political something the Deputy Secretary acknowledged during his remarks.

Event coordinator -- Ronnie Mayanja

Event coordinator — Ronnie Mayanja

Following a vibrant Q&A session it was then time for the Waltham Mayor to invite the chief guest — The Deputy Assistant Secretary of State who was in Massachusetts on Government business had earlier addressed the African Diaspora. He was quick to recognize Uganda as a partner in the fight against terrorism but noted that they as a government were concerned about the lack of a level political playing field in the country. He reminded us that the US Government has spoken out on the various occasions regarding the arrest of opposition candidates and noted that during the swearing in ceremony US diplomats had chosen to walkout in protest after the appearance of President Omar Bashir.

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He however noted that the US Government values the long term relationship it has enjoyed with the people of Uganda and reiterated that the US Government assistance through programs like the USAID and AGOA would continue. He also recognized Uganda Government economic policies that have allowed the economy to grow over the past 30 years as good thing for Uganda.   Mr. Haskell spoke about the Africa Young Leaders Initiative – YALI Program as one of the tools the Obama administration has been employing educate and train leaders in Uganda. The YALI Network provides virtual resources and vibrant physical spaces to equip young African leaders with the skills and connections they need to foster change in their communities and their countries – said Mr. Haskell.

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As Deputy Assistant secretary he also addressed a series of questions ranging from corrupt regimes in Africa and what they US Government was doing to limit or impose travel bans on those responsible for this abuse, Human-rights violations across the country also came into focus, the ongoing conflict in the Sudan, Uganda’s peace mission to Somalia and the search for Kony in the CAR. The rigorous immigrant and visitors visa process that sees more denials than approvals.

Mr. Henry Ndawula - Gwanga Mujje Boston during the Q&A

Mr. Henry Ndawula – Gwanga Mujje Boston during the Q&A

Mr. Haskell did well trying to explain the US visa processes and some of the challenges faced by consular officers during visa interviews. He encouraged those Ugandan American citizens aggrieved by the system both at home and here to seek redress through their Senators and Congressmen as the best way to effect change since he was a public officer. Overall the town-hall was a good start to a conversation that will help push the Uganda Diaspora interests and agenda at the Bureau for Africa Affairs.

Pastor Godfrey Owori of Fire Place Church together with the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State.

Pastor Godfrey Owori of Fire Place Church together with the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State.

Special thanks to all the Boston religious and community leadership that made the time and effort to attend. We especially thank the Mayor of Waltham – Jeanette McCathy, The Bureau of Africa Affairs for this opportunity, Pastor Godfrey Owori and the entire leadership at The Fireplace Church for hosting the event, Karibu Restaurant for the coffee and welcome accorded the Deputy Assistant Secretary on his visit to Waltham, Massachusetts. The meeting attended by about 60 youth, women and religious leaders was not open to the public and was the first in a series meant to engage the community.

Brief Biography — Todd Haskell became the Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of African Affairs in August 2015. Previously, he was the Africa Bureau’s Director of Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, directing the deployment of public diplomacy personnel and resources at 48 U.S. embassies and consulates in Sub-Saharan Africa. In that position, he worked with posts in the field and agencies in Washington to implement the first Mandela Washington Fellowship, the signature program of President Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI)


About the Author

Ugandan Diaspora News Team

Ugandan Diaspora News Online is an independent, non political news portal primarily aimed at serving Ugandans who work and reside outside Uganda. Our aim is to be a one stop shop for everything Ugandan and the celebration of our Ugandan heritage.

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