US candidate in poll is process, not Opposition

By Tabu Butagira

You said Americans want to come and invest here, but they need an appropriate business environment. Presumably that means that you need to see leaders in Africa that respect rule of law, come and go but Uganda has a leader who has spent more than 30 years and has changed the Constitution. Is this something that you discussed with President Museveni?
When we have these discussions with the President, we don’t disclose the specifics. However, as regards electoral processes and democracy, there is always an assumption that US favours the Opposition. I want to state it categorically that US does have a candidate in every election and that candidate is the electoral process. The process here includes; fair election and free participation.
The US will not say that vote for this [or that candidate]. That’s up for the people to decide. We look at the process whether it is fair and then we will be positive about it but if it’s not, then we make a statement against it. But on how long the President stays, that’s absolutely for people of the country to decide.

You said that your candidate is the process and that you respect the outcome of the election but credible players like the Catholic Church in the DR Congo said otherwise [about outcome of their election this year].
The clear message is that the people of Congo went in millions to vote and the election result was announced. But while [President Joseph] Kabila left, the situation in Congo was fluid and dynamic as [new President Felix] Tshisekedi took office.
We will absolutely work with President Tshisekedi to see that Congo prospers and doesn’t recede to clashes and we congratulated Congolese people for going out in millions to vote. We monitored the elections and we congratulated the new leader because the people had voted. We are positive and hopeful that the democratic change will go on.

The US has always been tough when it comes to sanctions against some countries. For example recently in Congo, there were sanctions against the electoral commission chief. But in Uganda and Rwanda, we never see such kind of things. Someone would call this double standards.
I will dispute the term ‘double standards’. In Congo which you mentioned, they had an election and we still had to respect the result election. We also said that by the time the US sanctions individuals who involve in undermining democracy during the electoral process, there is always guidance we take and we resolve this around the world. Even in Congo we sent a statement congratulating President Felix Tshisekedi at the same time and were involved in resolving the conflict.
What’s the US plan under President Donald Trump’s administration to address the al Shabaab problem in Somalia and security in Africa generally?
On the whole, Africa gets better every year. Unfortunately, there have been areas still ravaged by insecurity. When I left in 2002 [the post of US Ambassador to Ethiopia], there was an extremist group in Somalia. Now
I come back almost 20 years later, the situation is still bad and this time, another group, al-shabaab has emerged. Thankfully, African partners like Uganda, Burundi, Kenya, and Djibouti have helped intervene in the situation.
We have engaged very actively with government of Mogadishu to try and get Somalia army up to speed so that they can try and [defeat] the al Shabaab. At the end of the day, it has to be Somalis to end this war. We are hopeful that 20 years from now, there will be no other American seated here talking about Somalia.
As US, we have worked with partners to calm the situation but right now, unfortunately, the situation is getting worse than better as the extremism has extended to other countries. But like I said, the world has to work together to save the situation.
President Museveni wants number of [foreign] troops deployed in Somalia increased to defeat the al-Shabaab. The international community supports building the capacity of the Somali National Force. How do you reconcile these differences in approach to achieve the common goal of a stable Somalia?
It’s a difficult question and, unfortunately, I won’t give you an answer. But what works best is the defeat of al-Shabaab and the construction of Somalia. The big question is you have a very big complicated clan-based system and divided into federal member states and there is always this question; is the best policy to work with the central government for the whole country, or is the policy better to work for the federal state?

Transcribed by Amos Ngwomoya

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