Bush To Host Ugandan Pres. For White House Talks
President Bush To Host Ugandan President for White House Talks
President Bush will welcome Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni to the White House October 30 for talks that will salute Museveni's leadership in promoting peace and reconciliation in Somalia and Africa's Great Lakes region, in battling the HIV/AIDS pandemic and in promoting economic growth and development in Uganda and throughout the continent.
James C. Swan, deputy assistant secretary of state for African affairs, told USINFO on the eve of the White House talks that Museveni's visit is important because it allows the United States government to recognize his leadership not just in the Great Lakes region, but in other areas as well.
"Ugandans were the first contingent to deploy to AMISOM [African Union Mission to Somalia] -- an important African Union initiative to try to stabilize Somalia and return it to peace after more than 20 years," Swan said. "For reasons of Uganda's own national interest, it has contributed to this mission," he added, "but it has a very important role in terms of regional stability in East Africa" as well.
Swan also praised Museveni for being "very active" in consulting with other key leaders within the Great Lakes region, "most recently at a summit meeting with President Joseph Kabila in Tanzania in September," during which the leaders discussed a number of issues, including a peaceful resolution of some disputed border areas, as well as the need to consult on how to address the problem of disruptive forces that continue to operate in Eastern Congo.
Swan noted that the United States wants to use the White House visit as an opportunity to encourage Ugandan efforts to resolve the long-standing challenge posed by the Lord's Resistance Army, or LRA.
The LRA is a rebel guerrilla army operating mainly in northern Uganda and parts of Sudan. The group is waging an armed rebellion against the Ugandan government in what is now one of Africa's longest-running conflicts. It is led by Joseph Kony, who proclaims himself a spirit medium and apparently wishes to establish a state based on the Ten Commandments and local Acholi tradition. The LRA is accused of widespread human rights violations, including mutilation, torture, rape, the abduction of civilians, the use of child soldiers and a number of massacres.
The Lord's Resistance Army," Swan explained, "has been operating brutally in Northern Uganda and elsewhere in the region for more than 20 years. There is an active, African-led peace process mediated by the government of southern Sudan and supported by a U.N. special envoy, former Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano," he added.
The United States, Swan stressed, "is very supportive of these talks" and has worked quietly behind the scenes toward a positive outcome of this effort. "We have also made it very clear that in our view, these talks should not be open-ended," he said, noting that "the LRA should not be permitted to be comfortable in Eastern Congo, where it is currently based," and that "it is important to try to resolve this issue soon."
To that end, he added, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer has recently appointed a senior adviser for conflict resolution, Timothy Shortley, who is focusing additional diplomatic attention on the LRA and other negative forces, in addition to the regional approach the United States is pursuing.
There is already a "very active" U.S. humanitarian assistance program in Northern Uganda alone, he said, which provided about $106 million in aid during the most recent fiscal year.
Swan said the United States also wants to continue to signal its "strong encouragement" for President Museveni's leadership role in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
"Uganda is in many ways a model of how to combat this pandemic. Indeed, President Bush's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief [PEPFAR] is in many respects modeled on the Ugandan program," Swan said. "We want to continue to signal our enthusiastic support of President Museveni and his government, of these efforts in this regard."
Finally, Swan said, the United States wants to discuss at the White House talks Uganda's continued requirements to move ahead with its active economic development plan.
Uganda has enjoyed "significant economic growth since the mid-1980s" he said, and is the recent beneficiary of a Millennium Challenge Corporation Threshold Program of slightly more than $10 million," aimed at reducing corruption and improving governance.
"We hope that the Ugandans will move ahead quickly with the implementation of this program and other efforts to combat corruption so that they can proceed quickly to become eligible for a full Millennium Challenge Corporation Compact," Swan said.