By Andrew Baba Buluba
Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja has praised Next Media Chief of Protocol Officer Pablo Bashir Sewalu for excellently doing his job.
The Premier was hosted on Simon Kaggwa Njala’s Eagle show which runs every Saturday on NBS TV, a subsidiary of the Next Media Group.
After a largely successful presentation at the show, Nabbanja used her official Twitter handle the following morning to shower praise to the little known official for a job well done.
“I thank the Next media chief of protocol Pablo Bashir for the great job done when I stepped at Next Media,” the Prime Minister tweeted on Sunday.
But Who is Pablo?
Though not a very popular item on the menu of Uganda’s media celebrities, Pablo is one of the few protocol officers in Uganda who are on top of their game.
In that capacity, he has enjoyed a largely celebrated six-year career in the business of ushering in highly sensitive and high profile guests to their places on arrival at the station.
Besides leafing guests for media interviews, Pablo’s role as Chief Protocol Officer entails leading the way for his boss Dr Kin Kalisa and moves ahead of the CEO wherever he goes.
During a recent interview with The Pearl Times, Pablo opened up on the pros and cons of a professional protocol officer.
He disclosed that usually, his first priority is to get his guests to where they need to be and achieve what took them there.
This is why Pablo never leaves the side or loses sight of the persons he is in charge of, be it when they are delivering an important speech at a business lunch or appearing for the first time for a TV interview.
Proudly, he boasts of having been in the room with VIPs from President Museveni, Next Media Services CEO Kariisa to Prime Ministers, Ministers like General Katumba Wamala, police, and UPDG high ranking officers, among others.
Some continental dignitaries like Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta, his vice William Ruto and Mufti Menk also make it to the ever increasing list of people he has served. He has even had the honour of handling part of Pope Francis’s protocol during the 2016 papal visit to Uganda.
Why a Protocol Officer is important?
A protocol officer is someone employed to facilitate meetings, ensure proper etiquette for official engagements, and streamline interactions with dignitaries and other important people.
The job typically involves some elements of event planning, but focuses more on personnel issues. A protocol officer’s main job is to guide leaders, be elected officials or corporate executives, away from etiquette or cultural mistakes. This typically requires a lot of research and a great deal of tact.
What makes a good Protocol Officer?
1. Discretion is key
Pablo has been in the room with everyone from President Yoweri Museveni, Next Media Services CEO Kin Kariisa to prime ministers, ministers like General Katumba Wamala, police officers and he says what makes him welcome in these rooms is discretion. He has handled continental dignitaries like Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta, his vice William Ruto. He has even had the honour of handling part of Pope Francis’s protocol during the 2016 papal visit to Uganda.
A protocol officer must be an expert at seeing and hearing everything while not talking about it. A protocol officer is like a bodyguard, the best are never noticed, they are the gel that puts at ease those in their care.
A protocol officer will witness many embarrassing moments but the best of them earn the trust of the protocol officer that no one else who was not at the scene will ever know of it. Being at the scene leads to another important rule, Pablo has learned as he practiced his trade.
The best protocol officer will minimise to remove opportunities for faux pas to happen. On Pablo’s watch, his first priority is to get his guests to where they need to be and achieve what took them there. This is why Pablo never leaves the side or sight vision of the persons he is charge of be they delivering an important speech at a business lunch or appearing for the first time for a TV interview.
Having been around a dignitary for hours or years helps Pablo to ensure the environment around them at a highly stressful time will be as comfortable as possible. Equally important, he will organise the environs of the hotel or high stakes event in such a way that his principal is able to function and do what they are supposed to do there.
Pablo was on hand to ensure that the then Director General at Angeie-Primature in the Office of the President of Guinea Camara Namory had a memorable, productive visit to Alam group of companies. Namory met with the top management team of Alam Group of Companies before embarking on a tour of some of the group’s various business ventures.
Escorted by the senior Alam, Namory was given a tour of the Sugar & Allied Industries Limited whose lead product is Kaliro Sugar with Pablo overseeing every step of the visit.
Few skills are more necessary for the work Pablo does than diplomacy. His ability to bring down the temperature in a room is key as he has to work with personalities who are often on opposite sides of a political fight. Pablo is as comfortable in the company of fiery government critic Mathias Mpuuga (LOP) as he is with government spokesperson Ofwono Opondo.
The protocol officer must expect to mediate at some point in their career. Sometimes over a long period. Pablo relishes this challenge.
4. Exit strategy master
Pablo believes that many aspiring protocol practitioners forget it is as important how a guest leaves a location as they arrived. He argues that these final touches are what determine the lasting impression a guest will have of an occasion or service they have received while in your care.
This is why time does not matter in his protocol calling. Pablo will ensure that he is at the airport past midnight to receive a guest like revered Mufti Ismail ibn Musa Menk when he visited Uganda in April 2021. The celebrated but unassuming Mufti Menk who shirks an entourage congratulated his hosts on having the only assistant he would consider hiring if he had no choice but to have an entourage after experiencing Pablo’s round care while in the pearl of Africa.