RISING DIASPORA: LIVING THE AMERICAN DREAM
recently appointed CEO of the Atlanta-based National Center for Civil and Human Rights.
Uganda is the land of former dictator Idi Amin whose name is mentioned alongside other brutal
dictators such as the late Mobutu Seseko of former Zaire, Saddam Hussein of Iraqi, Augusto Pinochet of
Chile or Adolf Hitler of Germany.
Uganda is also the land of Joseph Kony who has waged a brutal armed rebellion against the government
of current President Yoweri Museveni since 1986. Joseph Kony remains at large even with a US $5m
bounty for information leading to his capture.
Among Joseph Kony’s accomplices in crimes against humanity in Uganda and Central Africa Republic, are
Okot Odhiambo, who is confirmed dead in a military strike against their Lord’s Resistance Army, and
Dominic Ongwen, currently on trial at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
Like many Ugandans of the day, Derreck Kayongo and his family fled the civil war in Uganda to the
relative safety of Kenya, which has for years offered refuge to victims of civil strife in Uganda, South
Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, Congo, Rwanda and Burundi.
Eventually, Kayongo found his way to the United States. In 2009, he founded a social enterprise, Global
Soap Project, which collects used soap bars from hotels and recycles them into new bars for distribution
to people in need in refugee camps and other disaster zones in about 90 countries all over the world.
Kayongo has also worked for Care International.
For his social enterprise work, Kayongo has received acknowledgements and awards from several
organizations, among them CNN’s Top 10 Heroes award. He is also a public speaker in demand for his
inspiring, can-do, refugee-to-CEO story.
The National Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta is in the birth place of The American Civil
Rights Movement. The Center features an exhibit of Martin Luther King, Jr. Collection in collaboration
with The Morehouse College. The exhibition contains Dr. King’s documents and speeches.
Visitors to The Center can expect a reason to cry for the graphic display of the human rights abuses
across the globe. But there is also a reason to smile for The Center’s display of inspiring work of past and
current human rights advocates in various hot spots all over the world. The Center has become a must-
visit, along with other attractions of Atlanta, such as The CNN Center, Coca Cola and the Aquarium.
The Center’s new CEO is expected to bring on board his vast experience in developing national and
international programs for human rights in line with the Center’s mission of challenging and inspiring
people from all walks of life to stand up and firmly reject discrimination based on race, gender or class.
Among his major tasks will be capacity building, networking with governmental and non-governmental
organizations, marketing of The Center’s various programs and fund raising. It’s a challenging job. But
Kayongo’s past shows he can turn challenges into opportunities.
By Leonard Njoroge, DM Media Contributor