She wasn’t a saint but she was professional and knew what she wanted
By Robert Atuhairwe
A few years ago, as part of a research and legal project tackling alcoholism and drug abuse among children, I spoke to an officer of police who gave me the contact of another officer he said was in charge of children affairs in the force. I called the number (071638….) and someone called Christine picked the call.
The person at the other end of the line was very co-operative and supportive of the matter I presented and said she was working on ways to effectively address the problem of alcohol consumption among underage groups and would gladly work with me to achieve the objective. We had never interacted before. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to meet her for reasons I don’t recall now but from her tone and perspective, I knew she was somebody committed to her job and its purpose.
When reports of the Ethiopian Airlines crash came in, with a senior officer named as “Christine Alalo” being named as one of the victims, it was universally shocking. But, somehow, I didn’t connect her to the officer I had spoken with on phone until about two days later when I learnt that the unfortunate officer had been the head of the “Child and Family Unit” at some point. Further inquiries confirmed that indeed she was the one. I felt “sick”!
From my impression of Christine, it was no surprise that she scaled the heights of duty, albeit getting in harm’s way in the process. Why do the good ones go first? A female officer to put up resistance against visible and invisible odds to attain high rank and then depart from the life scene in such unnatural circumstances is too bad. But it should not discourage others from being the best they can be.
On the website of the European Conference on Antennas and Propagation (EUCAP)-Somalia, there is an entry on the organization Head of Mission and the whole staff mourning the death of Alalo.
“We will always remember her vibrant energy, her wisdom and poise, her positive outlook on life and the glint in her eyes. Over the years, she became an invaluable interlocutor to EUCAP and we cherished the advice and wisdom she shared with us, which she had gained from her more than 15 years of experience working in the Ugandan Police Force”.
The entry refers to a 2014 ceremony at which she was awarded the EU Human Rights Defenders Award for her work in tackling, among other things, child abuse. At the award ceremony, the citation stated: “Christine stood out in
the Uganda Police Force as a change agent, who is readily accessible and approachable”. Her approachability and humaneness had transcended individual appreciation and national recognition. It was an inborn trait that suited her for the job of working with children and women, and everybody. Surely, she was of great use in the Somalia situation where she was deployed in her last days.
What if she had died under very different circumstances, would her death have mattered? Yes, it would! At her rank, she was an influence on many. She was a “security diplomat” or expatriate representing her country abroad. I cannot think of any accolade a cop would look out for than being seconded to take up an international posting. Christine could have progressed further or returned to scale the echelons of the local police force, or opted for influential civilian service like others have done before her.
Truly, Christine gave police a human face; she wasn’t a saint but she was professional and knew what she wanted. A posthumous medal and attention to her family will not be too much to ask of her seniors. May her soul rest in eternal peace!
The writer is a member of the Commonwealth Writers Group