Top US envoy reveals Museveni still their man

The United States Representative to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield (L) addresses journalists in Kampala on August 4, 2022. Looking on is US ambassador to Uganda Natalie E. Brown. Photo/ ABUBAKER LUBOWA 

What you need to know:

  • Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield’s visit came hot on the heels of a similar working trip by Russia’s top diplomat—Mr Sergei Lavrov.

The United States Representative to the United Nations (UN), Linda Thomas-Greenfield, on Thursday confirmed that Washington “still has a strong partnership with President Museveni.”

Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield, who was in Uganda as part of her two-nation Africa tour, underlined Washington’s resolve to keep working with Kampala on issues of mutual concern in the restive Great Lakes region. This came after she held a closed door meeting with President Museveni at State House, Entebbe.

“It’s the broad view of the US government that you have to engage with all leaders,” she noted, adding, “It is within those engagements that we can talk about things we have in common but also talk about issues where we have concern.”

The United States gives Uganda nearly $1b dollars each year, mainly for health and security support. In return, the Kampala regime runs security errands in the region, more significantly fighting al-Shabaab in Somalia, brokering peace with bickering neighbours, and playing its diplomatic power favourably at international fora. 

After Mr Museveni polled a sixth electoral term in office in a contested election in 2021, there were growing fears that relations with the US had been damaged—possibly irreparably. Washington would later take a wide range of actions, including a blanket travel ban on government officials—politicians, police, and army brass— involved in human rights violations and undermining democracy during and after the January 14, 2021 polls.

President Museveni, who last set foot in the US in 2018, looked vulnerable. Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield, however, told the media on Thursday that relations are anything but frosty. Mr Museveni has also been extended an invitation to meet the seventh American president his 36-year reign has encountered. President Joe Biden will host the US-Africa Leaders Summit from December 13 to 15.

“We are in the process of planning the summit and the plan is to invite all countries that are not under sanctions and are of good standing with the African Union,” Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield revealed, adding, “We have heard from different groups who say their presidents should not be invited but we think this is a good opportunity to engage.”

Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield was referring to a March 2022 petition by Mr Robert Menendez who chairs the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. Mr Menendez wanted President Museveni locked out of the US-Africa Leaders Summit.

“We speak clearly about and make the US values known. We make clear that we value human rights, democracy, and freedom of the press,” Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield said.

Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield’s visit came hot on the heels of a similar working trip by Russia’s top diplomat—Mr Sergei Lavrov.

The US Representative to the UN made clear that her visit wasn’t intended to counter Moscow. She said while Uganda has the “right to choose…their friends or enemies” caution has to be the byword.

“We have no sanctions on any agricultural products coming out of Russia,” she noted, but added that “if a country decides to deal with Russia where there are sanctions then they are breaking the sanctions.”

Inviting Museveni to the US...  

"We are in the process of planning the summit and the plan is to invite all countries that are not under sanctions and are of good standing with the African Union. We have heard from different groups who say their presidents should not be invited but we think this is a good opportunity to engage,’’ Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield.

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