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To Uganda and back

Geoff Walker will be 2024’s first speaker at the Wairarapa branch of the Institute of International Affairs.

Masterton-born Geoff Walker, a well-known photographer, will give an illustrated talk, ‘From Here to Uganda and Back’, on February 22 at Rosewood, Queen Street, Masterton at 8.00pm.

As Geoff Walker will discuss, Uganda is bordered by five countries: the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to the west; South Sudan to the north; Kenya, to the east; and Rwanda and Tanzania to the south. In the southeast, Uganda has a coast on Lake Victoria, Africa’s largest lake.

Most New Zealanders are aware of Idi Amin’s regime in the 1970s, but little else.

Uganda, independent from Britain in 1962, still has English as an official language together with Swahili.

With its 50 million population and an economy solidly based on agriculture and tourism, Uganda still has high levels of poverty and corruption.

At the same time, it is part of the pan-African emergence as a growing economic power block – along with the well-entrenched influence of China.

Walker first took the opportunity, via a Danish friend, to visit Uganda after photographing the fatal hot air balloon tragedy in Carterton in 2012.

Becoming very fond of the land-locked central African country and its people, Geoff Walker spent longer periods there from 2013 to 2016 and, in early 2016, was in Kampala the day Yoweri Museveni won his fifth five-year term as an increasingly autocratic president.

Walker spent most of 2017 to 2023 in the northern Ugandan city of Gulu, several hundred kilometres north of Kampala, with partner Mirriam Auma and her two children.

They often travelled to Mirriam’s family village where he was the first white person many villagers, still living a simple, pre-technology lifestyle with no power or phone network, had ever seen.

The couple had twins and it was decided to return to New Zealand in 2020, leaving her two elder children in Uganda to complete their education.

However, bureaucratic difficulties, covid-19 and the closing of New Zealand’s borders put the family’s arrival in the Wairarapa – with all four children – back to the end of 2023.

During those years in Uganda, Geoff Walker was a founder member of Gulu District’s Covid Task Force, and co-founded the Ki Gen Sanctuary, a community-based organisation working in the area of gender-based violence and particularly focused on young female survivors.

The meeting will be at Rosewood, 417 Queen Street, Masterton at 8.00pm on Thursday 22 February. Tea and coffee from 7.30pm. All are welcome. Non-members: $5.00 door charge. For more information contact Aileen Weston, phone: (06) 372 5741,
[email protected]

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