Meet Natalie Brown, a resilient crisis manager replacing Malac as US envoy

The incoming United States’ Ambassador to Uganda Ms Natalie E. Brown (left). On the right is Ms Deborah Ruth Malac

What you need to know:

  • During a globe-trotting three-decade career as a U.S. State Department diplomat, Brown has served her country while promoting peace, security, women's rights, and stronger ties with the rest of the world. At Central, Brown studied both French and German before moving on to graduate from Georgetown University and pass the exam to join the foreign service.
  • Her State Department career has taken her to numerous postings around the world, including deputy chief of mission to the U.S. Mission to the UN Agencies in Rome, deputy chief of the U.S. embassy in Tunisia, economic counselor in Jordan, political chief in Kuwait, and assignments in Ethiopia and Guinea. U.S. postings included serving as senior watch officer in the State Department operations center during the 9/11 attacks. Her career reached a new climax in 2016 when she took over as chief diplomat of the U.S. embassy in Eritrea. Her job isn't without danger.
  • While in Tunisia, the mission came under attack just days after the deadly attack on the U.S. facility in Benghazi, Libya. But she said she considers it the "best job in the world" to be able to represent the American people around the globe.

Natalie E. Brown, the incoming United States’ Ambassador to Uganda served in the North African country of Tunisia at the time of the Tunisian Revolution. She witnessed the Tunisian revolution an intensive 28-day campaign against the government corruption, social inequalities and unemployment that saw the ousting of the President Ben Ali in January 2011. Ben Ali had ruled the country for 22 years.

Brown worked at the US Embassy in Tunisia, when an attack at the Embassy in Tunis in September 2012 occurred. The attack on the embassy and an American school in the town followed a US-made film reportedly demeaning Prophet Mohammad. Four people died in the ensuing clashes.

While in Tunisia, Brown says her role was to keep others strong. She describes herself as a resilient person who does not back down from challenges, but also a crisis manager and this is what has kept her going over the years in her career spanning almost three decades.

“When I was assigned to Tunisia, our Embassy was attacked, and there were people who depended on me. I needed to be resilient so they could do their jobs,” Natalie said in an interview with Women in Foreign Policy, an online journal that inspires girls and women to pursue careers in foreign policy.

A career member of the US Foreign Service, Brown carries experience working in countries of semi democratic and authoritarian leadership. She has vast experience working in Africa, Middle East and domestically in the USA.

She has served in Eritrea, a one-party state and highly-militarized society. She also served at the U.S. Mission to the UN agencies in Rome, in Amman, Jordan; Kuwait, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and in Conakry, Guinea. Natalie speaks French, studied Arabic and German and Amharic. She also speaks a little Italian, and Tigrinya, an Afro-Asiatic dialect used in Eritrea.

She was one of the Senior Watch Officers on duty on September 11, 2001, when a series of coordinated terrorist groups of Al Qaeda attacked the World Trade Center killing up to 2,977 people.

According to the US Department of State’s Certificate of competency for nominees to be chiefs of mission, she has garnered both bilateral and multilateral diplomacy with a strong focus on Africa and has got a distinguished record of leadership thus making her qualified to be the next US Ambassador in Uganda.

“I've done a little bit of everything, from ordering supplies for the embassy to managing assistance funds. I've spent the past three years working on food security issues with the UN agencies charged with increasing agriculture production and reducing hunger,” Brown says in Women in Foreign Policy.

After spending three years in Rome working in a multi-lateral environment, she was envious of the ability of the people working around her to switch so effortlessly between languages, something that defined her love for learning new languages.

She is a free-spirited person who loves cooking, art and Music. Brown’s love for Art Paintings, can be see-through her regular social media posts and comments on various kinds of arts pieces and their uniqueness. She particularly loves coffee paintings and has always appreciated the expression portrayed in the art and the composure.

Brown’s journey as a diplomat was not an easy one. She went through a complex vetting process to finally become an Ambassador. However, the road for equal opportunity for a woman, let alone an African American was bumpy as few were considered into service. Luckily for Natalie, climbing the diplomatic ladder was a mix of positives and negatives.

She joined the State Department shortly after Alison Palmer, a diplomat, filed a lawsuit against the State Department for discrimination and won. This gave many women a chance, as the state department focused on employing more women and their growth in service. Natalie says the success of this lawsuit helped her in her career.

“They gave me opportunities that otherwise would have been denied to me. At the same time, people would say you got in because you're a woman and you're black." Natalie says.

Natalie Brown earned a Bachelor of Science degree with a concentration in comparative studies of Africa and Western Europe from Georgetown University’s Edmund E. Walsh School of Foreign Service. From 1998-1999, she was one of two State Department Officers assigned to the Marine Corps Command and Staff College where she earned a Master of Science degree in Military Studies.

She is from Omaha, Nebraska. Her two dogs, Cashmere, from the Animal Welfare League of Arlington, Virginia, and Riko, adopted in Kuwait, travel with her.

Brown will be stepping into and filling Deborah Ruth Malac’s big shoes as her tenure comes to an end. Malac’s stay in Uganda has been that of advocating for rights and freedom of Ugandans, but also supporting women and the health sector. She has personally taken to the streets in the protest against the murder of women in Entebbe and condemned Government action against the opposition and civilian.

Brown meanwhile has not been in the news, perhaps due to the fact that this will be her first posting as a full Ambassador, but this could also change as she moves to a semi-democratic country Uganda from more authoritarian countries.