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Monica Arac de Nyeko Alumnus of the Year 2014

02 December 2014

The University of Groningen has selected Ugandan writer and UNICEF humanitarian specialist Monica Arac de Nyeko as its Alumnus of the Year 2014. The prize for the Alumnus of the Year is a specially designed image of the Groninger artist Jan Steen. Monica Arac de Nyeko will receive the prize on december 15th during the decemberdiner in the academy building of the RUG.

Monica Arac de Nyeko photo: C.Asare Photography
Monica Arac de Nyeko photo: C.Asare Photography

‘Monica Arac de Nyeko is a woman who in her work takes up the cause of vulnerable groups such as women and children in Africa, literally doing this in word and deed. She therefore gives expression to one of the core values of our university’, concluded the jury. ‘Monica is a prime example of the great potential of the international students at the University of Groningen and is a fantastic ambassador for our university. We hope she receives the attention that she deserves, not just inside but also outside Africa.’ Read the jury report here.

Work in vulnerable regions

Monica Arac de Nyeko came to study in Groningen in 2003 with a grant from the University of Groningen Eric Bleumink Fund. Having earned her Master’s degree in Humanitarian Assistance, she went on to work for the World Food Programme (WFP), the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and UNICEF in countries such as Italy, Sudan, Kenya and Ghana. Through this work she makes a valuable contribution to solving humanitarian problems in vulnerable regions.

Prizewinning literature

Arac de Nyeko writes internationally acclaimed, prizewinning literature that broaches socially relevant themes such as homosexuality, which is a sensitive topic in Africa. In 2007, she won the most important African literary prize, the Caine Prize for African Writing, for her story ‘Jambula Tree’.

The themes that she covers are often serious, but her tone is lively, cheeky and witty, is how the jury of the Caine Prize described her work. She is able to add a human dimension to her topics and her main characters are people of flesh and blood.

This year she was selected for Africa39, a list of the 39 most talented and promising young writers from Sub-Saharan Africa below the age of 40.

Literature event 17 December

Monica will hold a literature event at bookstore Godert Walter on December 17th. She will read from her latest work and talk about her writing, career, Africa, women empowerment and more. Please sign up via: info

Alumnus of the year

The University of Groningen is proud of its over 110,000 alumni all round the world. Each year it honours one of them with the title of Alumnus of the Year. This prize is intended as an expression of both recognition and encouragement. The Alumnus of the Year is someone who, in the jury’s opinion, has made an exceptional contribution to society, academia or culture, is a source of inspiration for others and can be considered to hold great promise for the future. Previous alumni of the year include Jeroen Smit, Jelle Brandt Corstius, Stine Jensen, Matthijs Bierman and Wim Pijbes.


Monica Arac de Nyeko is an award-winning writer and specialist in the humanitarian field with almost ten years of international UN experience in fundraising, external communication, relationship management and coordination. She graduated from the Makerere University in Uganda with a Bachelor’s degree in Education, English and Literature in 2001 and went on to complete her Master of Arts in Humanitarian Assistance at the University of Groningen in 2003. She then began her international career as Junior Consultant at the Early Warning Unit at WFP Rome in Italy (2004). She became a Report Officer for WFP Khartoum in 2006 and later in the same year for OCHA/IRIN, an NGO that reports from the frontline of crises and mobilizes a humanitarian response. Arac de Nyeko has worked for UNICEF since 2009, first as Report Officer in Khartoum and then as a specialist in external relationships and fundraising in Accra.

Nominations and awards

2014 – Selected for Africa39: a list of the 39 most promising writers under the age of 40 from Sub-Saharan Africa. Africa39 is a Hay Festival and Rainbow Book Club project.

2007 – Winner of the Caine Prize for African Writing

2004 – Nominated for the Caine Prize for African Writing

2003 – Best Personal Essay in the Women’s World writing contest ‘ Women’s Voices in War Zones’.
Last modified:13 December 2022 4.43 p.m.
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