President Museveni has called for stronger bilateral relations especially in the areas of defence and security, economic and technical cooperation with Russia which he said has been with “us for the last 100 years” and therefore, Uganda can never take position against it.
“Whenever issues come up and some people want us to take positions against Russia we say; but these people have been with us for the last 100 years. How can we be automatically against them? We have forgiven our former enemies; the colonialists that did bad things to us, how can we be against somebody who has never harmed us but instead helped us,” Mr Museveni said Tuesday after meeting Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at State House, Entebbe.
According to the president, Uganda does not believe in being enemies with enemies of any country.
“No! We want to make our own enemies not fight other people’s enemies. This is our doctrine. We have got our clear position as part of the African liberation movement. We know who is who and who’s doing what and why, and we know where we stand,” Mr Museveni explained in reference to why Uganda abstained from voting as the UN General Assembly in March this year overwhelmingly elected to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, as international pressure on Moscow grew.
Mr Museveni who has ruled Uganda since 1986 when he shot his way to State House through a guerrilla warfare emphasized that his government would rather trade with Russia and not isolate it.
“We want to trade with Russia. We want to trade with all countries of the world. When there was the cold war one day they asked me a question; are you pro-East or pro-West? I said, ‘You must think I'm an idiot. Why do you think my main job is to be pro-some body. I am pro-myself and I deal with all the other people according to how they relate with my own interests’. These people think we're stupid. The question is idiotic,” said Mr Museveni who last visited Russia in 2019.
Uganda enjoys warm bilateral relations with Moscow, bolstered by President Museveni’s East-West balancing act.
In May, Kampala voted to abstain—remain neutral—during the UN General Assembly’s emergency session convened to call for an immediate cessation of violence and withdrawal of the Russian military from Ukraine.
In late February, Moscow launched an all-out invasion of its former Soviet territory by sea, land and air, which conflict has killed thousands and displaced millions of people.
The conflict, among others, has since interrupted supply chains for petroleum products and food exports around the world precipitating a rise in the cost of living and inflation. Western countries have accused Moscow of trying to starve Africa.
In a statement published last week by Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr Lavrov said: “We are well aware of the importance of Russian supplies of socially important commodities, including food to many countries around the world. We are mindful that these supplies play an important role in preserving social stability.”
In Uganda the commodity prices have shot up and people can barely live within their income. A litre of petrol is nearing Shs7,000 from Shs3,800 a few months ago, while diesel is about Shs6,500 from Shs3,400 in the same period. Food prices have also increased as the dry spell batters most parts of the country.
Meanwhile, an outfit calling itself, the Ukraine Solidarity Committee in Uganda in a statement yesterday protested Mr Lavrov’s visit and described the motives behind as sinister.
“It is a shame that the Russian diplomat [Sergey Lavrov] is shamelessly going to announce donations of food to these countries. We reject these symbolic donations of food,” the statement read in part.
“Prices of food in the very countries Sergey Lavrov will visit... has gone up, we demand that instead Russia completely stop the war and allow growing of wheat and export of wheat to return to full normalcy without a war situation. Stop shelling Ukrainian farmers so that they can grow food for the world,” the committee further argued through the statement.
In regards to disrupted businesses and cancelled contracts, the committee demanded for Russia’s full compensation to Ukrainian companies and the Ukrainian government for the losses and damages.
On his first stop in Cairo on Sunday, Lavrov reassured Egyptian leaders that their orders for Russian grain would be met.
It came hot on the heels of a landmark deal Russia and Ukraine signed on Friday with the United Nations and Turkey aimed at relieving a global food crisis caused by blocked Black Sea grain deliveries.
Less than 24 hours later Moscow struck the Ukrainian port in Odessa -- one of three exit hubs designated in the agreement -- sparking fury in Kyiv and heightening fears the Kremlin would not go through with the deal.
Lavrov has also visited Congo-Brazzaville and is later due in Ethiopia.