Meet the first woman from East Africa to be admitted to the English Bar, who went to become the first black model to grace the front cover of the American Vogue magazine in 1968, and before then Harper's Bazaar magazine. She later became hte foreign minister of Uganda in the 1970s. and addressed the UN General Assembly in Elizabeth bagaya of Toro, now 75, a woman who turned heads in her heyday Curtis Abraham went to meet her.
IN LATE 1974, PRINCESS ELIZABETH Bagaya of Toro, as Uganda's minister for foreign affairs, led a colourful delegation to the 29th session of the United Nations General Assembly rhe occasion was to be one oi her finest hours as a diplomat and a pan-Africanist.
Bagaya and her delegation travelled to New York aboard Idi Amin's presidential jet, which had been a gift to the Ugandan president from the Israelis. In New York, the then US secretary of state, Henry Kissinger, gave a luncheon for all the African foreign ministers who were attending the UN session. Bagaya, as the elected chairman ol the Organisation for Ahican Unity (OAU) group, thanked Kissinger for his ho.spitality and for his peace building efiorcs in the Middle Kasc and Indo-China, and then emphasised Africa's agenda to Kissinger.
She explained to him and the other dignitaries thac a radical new economic order, which would encompass fair trade among other issues, was needed if Africa was to achieve economic in-dependence and poverty alleviation. Turning to South Africa, Bagaya told the gathering that "apartheid was a policy that was completely contrary to any civilised and humanicarian principles, and continued to make a mockery of African dignity and independence. So long as colonialism and imperialism continued, the world would continue to have human righrs problems."
She concluded her speech by asking "Kissinger to support the African liberation movements, and to visit Africa insread of depending on distorted reports about the African people and their societies". A photograph of Bagaya at the podium ofthe United Nations General Assembly shows her wearing a stylishly long, narrow dress of gold Chinese brocade, a gift from the Chinese government, and her hair plaited into a crown.
The photograph also depicts a very beautiful African woman who.se posture communicated a certain defiance ofthe Malcolm X variety; a defiance in line with the "blackpower"\deo\ogy. Her speech was critical of the West in every facet.
She pointed our the hypocrisy and vin-dictivenesN of Britain and Israel - both countries undoubtedly helped Amin in the overthrow of former President Milton Oboce - in blackening Uganda's image abroad. Both countries, Bagaya pointed out, had convinced the IMF and the World Bank to stop financial relations with Uganda.
When I first met the now 75-year-old Princess in early 2011, international politics was not on her mind - but culture. What is the role of traditional African culture in today's society? Bagaya was pondering when we held...