Western diplomats wary as Uganda leans towards the East

R-L: Norway Prime Minister, Jonas Gahr Støre, lawyer Samuel Muyizzi and NATO Secretary General,  Jens Stoltenberg. Photo | Derrick Kiyonga

What you need to know:

  • President Museveni is currently in Russia attending the Russia-Africa summit called by Russia’s Vladimir Putin 

In recent meetings with Uganda lawyers, western diplomats disclosed how worried they are about Uganda’s shift to the east. 

President Museveni is currently in Russia attending the Russia-Africa summit called by Russia’s Vladimir Putin.  

“I’m glad to be in St Petersburg, Russia, and looking forward to having fruitful engagements at the Russia-Africa summit especially in areas of cooperation that are beneficial for both Russia and Africa,” Mr Museveni tweeted Wednesday. 

Moments later, Mr Museveni said that he had held bilateral talks with Mr Putin with his proposition to Russia that they discourage, by policy, the importation of raw materials from Africa and instead work with Africans to add value to their raw materials at source. 

“In that regard, I have invited Russia to take interest in several business opportunities in fields of oil and gas, agricultural production, industry, and space science,” he said.

On the military side, Mr Museveni said Uganda has managed to become an island of peace in the world due to cooperation through the procurement of equipment from Russia over the years.

Earlier this month, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi was also in Uganda on a two-day state visit and noted: “The West today is trying to promote the idea of homosexuality and by promoting it they are trying to end the generation of human beings."

Recently, Ugandan lawyers including Sam Muyizzi, who has represented several opposition figures in Uganda, have had meetings with Jens Stoltenberg, the Secretary General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Stør, and his foreign minister Anniken Huitfeldt. 

Western diplomats, according to sources that attended meetings have been taken aback by shrinking political space in Uganda, saying: “This explains why Museveni is now hobnobbing with the Eastern bloc (Russia- China) which doesn’t care much about democracy and human rights.”

With the West moving to isolate Russia after its full-scale invasion of Ukraine last year, it moved to cultivate ties with countries from the Global South.

Russia not only has a notable presence in the politics of Central and West Asia but it is consistently befriending countries in the African continent eyeing their untapped resources. 

Another pointer to shrinking political space, the Western diplomats say, was the 2021 directive by President Museveni to suspend the activities of the Democracy Governance Facility (DGF) wondering how its managers were operating such a mega fund without proper government oversight.

Efforts to have the Fund reopened hit a dead end forcing the contributing partners to pull out of the arrangement that had seven members including; Austria, Denmark, The Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Ireland, and the EU.

They used to raise over Shs100 billion to fund different civil society organizations and government institutions engaged in human rights and good governance activities.

Sources that attended the meetings say Western diplomats believe that Uganda’s trajectory to autocracy could be irreversible.

“They just do see a way back of Uganda and that’s the worry,” a source that was part of the meetings said.   

When contacted by this reporter, Mr Muyizzi couldn’t disclose the details but he said he has a relationship with Western diplomats that stretches for over 15 years.