Amb. Julius Baker Onen was born on September 4, 1948 to late Yakobo Oboo and Maria Acanda Oboo at Aber Mission Hospital in the then Lango District. Both parents were teachers who instilled a sense of responsibility in him right from his childhood.
He attended St Joseph’s Junior School in 1962 from where he later joined St Peter’s College, Tororo from 1964-1967 for his O’ levels, before heading to St Mary’s College, Kisubi in 1968.
He later left Kisubi and joined Sir Samuel Baker Secondary School in Gulu, where he completed his A’ level studies.
In 1970, he joined Makerere University, Kampala where he pursued a bachelor’s degree of law and graduated in 1973.
Onen first joined public service as a foreign service officer in 1973. He was later posted to Tokyo, Japan in 1974 as the third secretary – counselor at the Uganda Embassy.
From 1986-1988 he worked as the head of the legal department at foreign affairs ministry.
Between 1991 and 1996, he was posted as Uganda’s Deputy High Commissioner to Nigeria from where he rose to become Uganda’s High Commissioner to Nigeria, a position he held from 1996-2001.
In 2004, he was appointed permanent secretary in the foreign affairs ministry, a position he held until 2006.
After, he was appointed as deputy secretary general of the East African Community from 2006 to 2009.
In 2009, Amb Onen was appointed permanent secretary in the Ministry of Tourism, Trade and Industry. Even after Tourism was split from Trade and industry, Amb Onen remained permanent secretary of the Trade and Industry ministry position he held until his death.
– Grief and condolence –
The Trade Ministry announced Onen’s passing in a message on its Facebook page and twitter handle.
“Amb. Julius B. Onen, Permanent Secretary Ministry of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives, gone too soon. May his soul rest in eternal peace,” read the post.
As news of his death broke Sunday March 10, 2019, messages of grief and condolence started flowing in.
“His demise leaves our region poorer of champions that it needs to spur economic take-off and realize our common vision,” the Secretary General of COMESA Chileshe Mpundu Kapwepwe said in a message of condolences.
East African Community Secretary General Amb. Liberat Mfumukeko described Amb Julius Onen as an instrumental player in EAC Affairs since it was re-established in 2000 until his death.
Adding that, “EAC will remember Amb. Onen as an illustrious, selfless and avid integrationist, and above all, a distinguished international civil servant who was also an astute team leader wherever he worked and his legacy will remain in the minds of many of us.”
Former Secretary General of the East African Community and currently serving as Rwanda’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Dr. Richard Sezibera, said that he was, “Saddened to hear of the passing on of Ambassador Julius Onen.” He described him as a tireless advocate.
Mr Ralph Ochan, a former permanent secretary at Public Service ministry, described his deceased cousin as a warm and humorous person.
“He was totally dedicated to his work and I can tell you everyone in Arusha, Tanzania, will tell you that he was a very good secretary general,” Mr Ochan said.
The Democratic Party President Norbert Mao described Onen as, “a kind hearted and generous man who served with unmatched professionalism.”
“The untimely death of Ambassador Julius Onen has robbed Uganda of a public servant of sterling character, a diplomat’s diplomat, a kind hearted and generous man who served with unmatched professionalism. A man devoid of bitterness, he shunned pettiness in all its forms. RIP’’ Mao tweeted on Sunday.
“This is sad and very painful to loose ladit Onen, a very accomplished public servant. We pray for his family in this trying moment,” said Minister in charge of ICT Frank Tumwebaze after news of the death Sunday night.
“He had an aura of life around him everywhere he would be, be it at home,” said his son and radio personality James Onen (commonly known as fat boy).
Onen, 71, owner of Capitol Palace Hotel Naguru and the Carnival Restaurant, died on Sunday night at Paragon hospital in Kampala where he had been admitted. Family sources say that he had just returned from India where he had been flown for treatment over heart complications.
Onen will be laid to rest today (March 16, 2019) at Dima village in Kiryandongo district.