Museveni: Here is how the US can help Uganda

US under secretary for political Affairs, Victoria Nuland (L) greets Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni (R) in Washington D.C before the two what Mr Museveni said a good discussion on regional security, democracy and human rights in the context of diversity and inclusion during his visit to the US to attend the US-Africa Leaders Summit. PHOTO/ PPU

What you need to know:

  • Across three days at the US-Africa summit, President Museveni together with over 40 counterparts from the continent got the chance to make direct pitches to one of the world’s most powerful persons. Mr Museveni told Monitor’s Arthur Arnold Wadero that his contingent made significant headway in Washington DC.

You have been here for three days, holding a series of bilateral meetings. Ugandans would like to know the key priority areas that have been discussed with the United States. What are the key takeaways from this summit for Uganda?

Well, our target in international relations is a package of four elements: investments, trade, tourism and security cooperation because Uganda has all other things. We have the raw materials, we have the human resource, [and] the workforce [among others]. So, what we need are those four from other people. Of course, we’re making our own efforts. We do the investments ourselves. We have internal trade. We have regional trade. We build the infrastructure … if we can get the collaboration from others, it will make the work much easier. So, really, it is the four—ITTS, if you want to summarise … investment, trade, tourism and security cooperation and anti-terrorism.

Talking about ITTS, and specifically security cooperation, Uganda is known to be a powerhouse in the Great Lakes region. How do you envisage the aspect of security cooperation playing out?

The NRM (National Resistance Movement) have built a strong army from the beginning. We were clear. We spent many years of preparation when we were still a student movement in the 1960s. So, we were able to clarify all [of our thoughts]. 
You know, thinking is not as easy as people think. To know what factors will help the economy to grow, to know what factors will enable you to build a capable army, things are not all that clear to people. Not only in Africa [but] even in the world, they make a lot of mistakes. We spent a lot of time before we came into the government because we started in the 1960s as part of the student movement. Then we spent 16 years fighting from 1971 to 1986. 
So in that time, really, we had time to know what can work and what cannot work. That is why we were able to handle very controversial subjects like, for instance, the return of the Asian property.  This was not clear to people. When we came into power we said give back the property of the Indians. Ugandans did not understand. They thought [that] we were wrong but we were right.
We were right because there was no way we could disappoint old investors and then you invite new ones to come. It would not make any sense. The Indians who had been there for almost 100 years were crying that their property had been grabbed. And then you say: ‘you new investors you come.’ Who would believe you? Because we were clear, we said: ‘no!’ 
You cannot be credible and it is not fair, and it is not necessary for Ugandans. Blacks—the Africans—to grab the properties of the Indians? You are parasites. Give back the 4,000 properties of the Indians. If you go to Kampala now, the properties of Africans there are like two million. So, you wonder why they were crying for 4,000 properties of Indians!
In Ntungamo, my area, there were six miserable shops of four Indians and two Arabs. The whole district is just there. We had more land, we had more cows, we had banana plantations. Why do you have envy for these miserable shops of these Indians? Give back. 
Now you see it helped our economy to grow because not only did the Indians come back, but other people who didn’t even know Uganda came. They are now all flocking there. 
On security, it is the same issue. There are things you must be clear about like, for instance, you cannot have sectarianism and you have a strong army. So, we have got a strong army and when we talk of security within Uganda we don’t need anybody to help us because we have the capacity. The only area where we need cooperation is beyond the borders where we don’t have authority. That is where we need cooperation and we have been able to make our own contribution there. So, that is what we have been discussing with others. Otherwise within Uganda, we are able to stand on our own.

Let’s talk about the issue of interconnectedness of Africa in terms of infrastructure as a driver of economic development. Has this subject matter come up for discussion here in Washington DC? Is it gaining traction?

Absolutely! That is what we have been discussing. We have been for a long time actually [talking] even under what they call NEPAD [New Partnership for African Development] within Africa. You cannot talk of trade without talking about the railway [system]. We need a railway system from East Africa to [the Democratic Republic of the] Congo. From Congo to West Africa. We need some roads. We need Air links [and] definitely we need to connect the electricity grids.