Uganda needs US more than ever

Robert Kigongo

What you need to know:

Uganda should never jeopardise its relationship with the US, especially now.

As the US marks 247 years of independence today, it is not just a political celebration but a significant day for thousands of Ugandan beneficiaries.

On July 4 in 1776, the US gained its independence from Great Britain.  It has established diplomatic relationships across the world, including in Uganda, over the years.

Uganda-US relations were established 60 years ago. These relations have been tested over the years.

Besides the political issues, the US government has advanced financial and technical support in various areas such as health, agriculture, education, and ICT, among others, in Uganda.

At the individual level, this support has transformed lives.

Mr Hakim Owinyi, the founder of Big Deal Dialogue in Northern Uganda, is a 2021 Mandela Washington Fellow.  He was affected by the Lord’s Resistance Army-led war in the north and east.

Mr Owinyi said his participation in the fellowship was life-changing.  “I wish every young African community leader gets a chance because the fellowship is about continuous learning, exposure, and networking.”

The US exchange programmes like the Mandela Washington Fellowship offer young leaders an opportunity to learn leadership techniques and tools to cause change in their Communities.

Mr Peter Okware, also a beneficiary of the exchange programme, said: “The Mandela Washington Fellowship transformed my life in a way that I had so many ideas that were still in abstract format. But through the Focus project tool kit, I rearranged my ideas.”

He now owns a Teachers Development Centre, which has trained more than 1,500 teachers since last year.

There are testimonies of people who have benefited from other US initiatives like Feed the Future and the health sector.

For example, Donald Kasagga, a resident of Ggaba (not real name), got infected with HIV 10 years ago.  Though he visited the nearby clinics when he fell sick, his health deteriorated. After weeks of agony, his sister, a field epidemiology trainee of USAID, advised him to undertake an HIV test at Aids Information Center, a non-governmental organisation (NG0). The NGO carries out HIV/Aids tests and is a beneficiary of the Civil Society Organisation Fund under the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).

Mr Kasagga, unfortunately, tested positive for HIV. He was enrolled in the antiretroviral therapy programme under PEPFAR, where he got free antiretroviral drugs.

Mr Kasagga, who has five children, has been living positively, thanks to PEPFAR and other US-Uganda initiatives that aim at curbing stigma and HIV infections.

According to official figures, more than one million of 1.4 million Ugandans who are HIV positive are benefiting from PEPFAR.

Every year, the US government injects nearly $500 million (about Shs1.8 trillion) into HIV/Aids and other health sector programmes such as malaria in Uganda. PEPFAR is aiding Uganda to end HIV/AIDS as a public health threat by 2030 through investing in HIV and Tuberculosis tests and treatment, among other interventions.

The US government has also been at the forefront of combatting and managing disease outbreaks.  In 2012 through Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the US government set up National Public Health Emergency Operations Centers to coordinate the response to disease outbreaks and supported 34 Ugandan laboratories to attain International accreditation.

Uganda also contained the spread of Covid-19 due to, among others, support from the US government such as data management, risk communication, health worker training, human resource support, supply chain strengthening, and cold storage capacity. By the end of 2022, the US government had donated about 18.2 million Covid-19 vaccine doses to Uganda.

It’s evident that for Ugandan communities to earn incomes and live longer, there is a need for strong diplomatic bilateral relationships between the United States of America and Uganda. Uganda should never jeopardise its relationship with the US, especially now at its take-off point to a middle-income earning status.

Uganda needs the United States more than the past 60 years to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and Vision 2040.

Mr Kigongo, sustainable development catalyst.