Image source: U.S. Department of State - Photo: 2022

Planned Biden-Museveni Meeting at U.S.-Africa Summit Draws Protests

By Lisa Vives, Global Information Network

NEW YORK (IDN) — President Joe Biden is scheduled to meet his Ugandan counterpart Yoweri Museveni on the sidelines of the US-Africa Leaders’ Summit this on December 13-15 in Washington, DC.

The meeting will take place at the White House with the two leaders expected to discuss, among other things, the security situation in Africa.

President Biden outlined his agenda for the upcoming meeting. “The U.S.-Africa Leaders’ Summit will build on our shared values to better foster new economic engagement; reinforce the U.S.-Africa commitment to democracy and human rights; mitigate the impact of COVID-19 and of future pandemics; work collaboratively to strengthen regional and global health; promote food security; advance peace and security; respond to the climate crisis; and amplify diaspora ties.”

But the meeting has generated some controversy with several letters from the Chairperson of the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations Robert Menendez petitioning Biden to withdraw Museveni’s invite. 

Menendez’s letter followed another petition from opposition forces in Uganda led by the National Unity Platform (NUP) accusing Museveni of gross violation of human rights. 

In his petition, the Senator stated that Museveni has twice changed the constitution to suit his needs, impeded democratic processes, turned a blind eye to rampant corruption, and subjected civil society, and political leaders to illegal detention, violence and torture with impunity.

Criticism of the meeting was also levelled by the authors of a recent article in Foreign Policy, an American news magazine. The article was titled “Biden’s Africa Summit Has Democracy on the Agenda, But Not the Invite List,” and contained the charge that “at least three heads of state accused of war crimes or crimes against humanity, the foreign minister of an autocratic country whose security services stalked senior U.S. congressional staffer this year, and top officials from a military junta that took power last year have made the invite list.

The Summit is the first opportunity for this administration to showcase how it views the future of U.S.-Africa relations on its home turf and reflects efforts to reset U.S.-Africa relations after the Trump era. But the article’s authors question extending invites to autocrats and leaders with checkered rights records. 

Uganda’s ambassador to Washington, Mull Sebujja Katende, commented on the recent petitions and explained Uganda’s current hiring of a top Washington lobbying firm to reset U.S. relations and challenge the narrative from rights groups and supporters of rival candidate Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, known by his stage name Bobi Wine. Wine’s movement claims it was violently suppressed to ensure Museveni a sixth term in office. 

“Certainly, we are not in the best of shape with regard to the way we are understood here in Washington,” Katende said. “And it is in our interest to tell those authorities the truth of what’s happening in Uganda.” 

“The problem we are dealing with is there are so many interest groups that are trying to misguide (the U.S. government),” he said. “They want to nullify the elections because they want to provide alternate leadership. That is not how things should work.”

Last year the U.S. imposed sanctions on the head of the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence, Maj. Gen. Abel Kandiho, over alleged human rights violations including torture, beatings and sexual abuse.

“Treasury will continue to defend against authoritarianism, promoting accountability for violent repression of people seeking to exercise their human rights and fundamental freedoms,” Andrea Gacki, director of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, said at the time. Kandiho has since been relieved of his post by President Museveni.

Meanwhile, the U.S Congress and Biden administration have been reassessing the U.S. relationship with Uganda, an important counter-terrorism ally in East Africa and major beneficiary of health and security assistance. [IDN-InDepthNews — 04 December 2022]

Image source: U.S. Department of State

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