The outgoing US Ambassador Deborah Malac has said discussion on political transition is not entirely “in the sense of politics”—of who or which group should rule next—but about charting the country’s future by forging common goals and “figuring out” all voices, especially the youth who comprise the majority population.
Speaking to the media yesterday in Kampala, Ambassador Malac acknowledged that while discussions on transition in Uganda are suppressed, there are consequences.
“It is about how do the majority of the population, the 30-year-olds and below feel; like they have a voice, have solutions to problems. Like let us not talk about who sits in what chair; let us talk about where do we want the country to be in five years, 10 years or in 20 years,” Ambassador Malac who was named envoy to Uganda in September 2015, replacing Scott DeLisi, said.
She added: “Some of that is not political in the pure sense of politics; it’s about opening those opportunities, opening those doors for Ugandans to have a voice to say ‘‘we want this”; what do we need to do differently in terms of different economic policy making, what do we need to do differently in terms of political decision making, about policies...”
She said across history, regimes that stay in power for long do not plan for what comes next and often end badly.
“... but you know a transition will happen at some point because it must. None of us are immortal,” she said.
Ambassador Malac, a career member of the senior Foreign Service, who previously served as US envoy to Liberia between May 2012 and 2015, and before that as Director of the Office of East African Affairs in State Department, also announced that she is retiring from diplomatic service after 39 years.
She also described Uganda “as a cornerstone of stability in a tumultuous neighbourhood”.
She also emphasised economic growth and better protection for human rights.
“I’m aware of the criticism that we [i] get about how we are propping up the government, and then on the other hand we are being accused of absolutely trying to change the government, by supporting the Opposition; am not sure how we’re doing both, but ultimately what we’re trying to do is to ensure that Uganda remains stable,” she said.
Highlights of her works
Ambassador Malac was involved in helping government contain two Ebola outbreaks last year, training, equipping and deployment of 25,000 Uganda military personnel to Somalia, and lobbying for the US-led consortium to win tender to build, operate, and maintain Uganda’s greenfield 60,000 barrels per day (bpd) refinery.
Ambassador Malac has been vocal against government’s excesses, and is remembered, together with other European diplomats, to have walked out of President Museveni’s swearing-in ceremony in May 2016 at Kololo Independence Grounds after he made disparaging comments about the International Criminal Court.
The US President Donald Trump administration last November tapped Ms Natalie Brown, formerly in Tunisia, as the new US envoy to Uganda pending confirmation by US Senate.
In 2018 the US provided $896m (about Shs3.3trillion) to Uganda, more than half of it allocated to the health sector and military, making it the country’s biggest bilateral partner and President Museveni’s biggest ally.