SAVE US! UN’s FAO-Uganda staff in panic over looming job loss

Rosa Malango, the UN Resident Coordinator (L) and Priya Gujadhur

There’s growing unease among local staff at the Uganda country office of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) who allegedly feel the white bosses are out to get revenge against them after they survived a racism probe that had been prompted by staff complaints. After the probe which staff say was biased in their favour cleared them, they are now reportedly threatening to sack almost all staff come December 2021 when most of their contracts expire. The bosses have reportedly said they will advertise all their jobs. Staff think they are on a revenge mission.

HOW DID WE REACH HERE

Early this year, local and African employees petitioned the government of Uganda, alleging a string of cases of racism, staff disrespect and intimidation by expatriate supervisors.

The employees accused FAO Uganda’s white bosses of instigating several staff changes that allegedly relegated Ugandans and other African staff to terminal redundancy leading to constructive dismissal while promoting white international staff to supervisory positions.

That the white bosses decided to hire expatriate staff including unqualified relatives.

The petition also pinpoints the hiring of a white staff whose stint at Catholic Relief Services was bogged by serious staff troubles.

“Many talented staff left the CRS because of failure to work with her, and always complained she could not appreciate human diversity,” a senior official at the CRS Uganda office said.

At FAO-Uganda, this same white staff’s tenure was reportedly extended in what the petitioners claim was a fraudulent process.

The arrival of other new white bosses did not also reportedly help matters at all.

But at the time the world is engaged in a movement against racism including institutional racism, especially in the UN system, the staff too petitioned the UN Country Resident Coordinator Rosa Malango, FAO sub-regional office coordinator for Eastern Africa in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, FAO regional Office for Africa in Accra Ghana and the FAO Office of Human Resources in Rome Italy.

As part of the racism charges, the staff point to the appointment by white bosses of one Charlee, a junior officer, to supervise senior and seasoned professionals in animal health and veterinary medicine to develop a proposal on animal health.

The staff felt disrespected and finally the proposal failed to work as relations were broken down.

Other racist actions pointed out include appointment of white staff to coordinate and supervise projects, previously supervised and developed by local and African staff, with an example of the desert control project.

The petition cites an example of staff whose contracts were not renewed and have since left FAO Uganda as a result of harassment and foul environment including; Beatrice Okello, a programme officer, and Godfrey Ocibo, a procurement assistant.

The above were allegedly victims of harassment by white bosses after they opposed their management style.

Accordingly, the same white bosses also recently allegedly started an irregular recruitment drive of international white staff to supervise local and black staff in all departments.

“…continues to instigate hiring of expatriate staff for positions easily qualified for by national staff,” says the petition.

Among the key staff who has suffered the white bosses’ racist management style is the Ugandan Assistant FAO Representative in charge of Programme, Dr. Charles Owach. All projects and staff that were previously being supervised by Dr Owach were withdrawn from him and are now under supervision of white staff.

 

UN PROBES

Following these complaints, the UN tasked FAO’s Inspector General to investigate and guide the next course of action to correct the situation, Rosa Malango, the UN Resident Coordinator, confirmed then.

It is this report that exonerated the alleged racist white bosses. The local and other African staff are currently living in fear of losing employment at FAO now that the probe has cleared the racist white bosses.

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