KAMPALA/LONDON – Ms Winnie Byanyima has announced that she is leaving her post as Executive Director of Oxfam International, a British charity, to take over a similar role at UNAIDS.
In an emotional email to Oxfam staff on Wednesday, Ms Byanyima, who is wife of Uganda’s opposition lynchpin Dr Kizza Besigye, said despite enjoying her stay, she could not turn down the UNAIDS job given her passion for spearheading the fight against HIV/AIDS that has ravaged Africa for many years.
She also revealed that her own brother, one Bernard down of the disease.
“I have been encouraged by many activists from all over the world to lead the campaign against HIV/AIDS and I realized that I couldn’t turn down the opportunity… My own brother Bernard died of AIDS..,” Ms Byanyima added.
She added that while a confidentiality agreement bars her from making a public announcement on the appointment, she said she had to let her colleagues know before UNAIDS makes a formal announcement.
She also revealed that she would remain Oxfam Executive Director for some time before moving to her new role.
The UNAIDS job fell vacant after the executive director, Michel Sidibe, left the position in May, having served for 10 years.
Ms Byanyima had in June been shortlisted along top five others.
The list of names was sent to the UN Secretary-General who made the appointment.
Oxfam International has come under global criticism over allegations of sexual abuse of refugees by their aid staff.
Ms Byanyima will replace Gunilla Carlsson, who was appointed to the position in May, following the resignation of Sidibé. Sidibe is now health minister in Mali.
Ms Byanyima was born on January 13, 1959, in Mbarara, western Uganda. She attended Mount Saint Mary’s College Namagunga in Mukono District before pursuing a bachelor’s degree in aeronautical engineering from the University of Manchester.