How Uganda's Museveni plays off neighbours to open America's wallet


Museveni of Uganda

By: Julius Barigaba

The brutal revelations about Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni that continue to emerge from global whistleblower WikiLeaks’ release of US diplomatic cables have helped to confirm what the public has always suspected, but kept only in the rumour mills — that while Museveni is Washington’s chief agent in the region, he also goes to great lengths to scheme up ways to wring money out of the United States.   

Even the president’s handlers concede that the latest cable on the Ugandan leader coming into the public domain as it did, is going to cause problems between Kampala and its neighbours. A diplomatic embarrassment, to put it mildly: The cable reveals Museveni’s fears.

“I am in two minds about it. Some of the things this man has published, like the US army killing unarmed people and two Reuters journalists are sinister things that the world should know about. But about Uganda?

It’s a bad idea for those things to be published; they were sent in private, but what’s going to happen now is that they will affect relations between nations,” said John Nagenda, senior media and public relations advisor to the president.

Australian born journalist Julian Assange’s Wikileaks website had earlier published live footage of an Apache combat video in the Iraq war. On July 12, 2007, a US gunship killed innocent civilians and journalists in what the WikiLeaks described as “collateral murder.”

But as the juicy leaks stream in, geopolitical analysts are reading another twist into the saga: Museveni the strategist has always played these games with Washington in order to get money to fund his military adventures in the region.

Undiplomatic Games

In a June 13, 2008 meeting with Jendayi Frazer, former US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Museveni confessed his fears that Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi would assassinate him in the aftermath of his falling out with his Libyan counterpart over the latter’s fancy project to create a United States of Africa.

The leaked cable also reveals Museveni’s frustrations with leaders in the entire Great Lakes Region; Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila and Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir feature prominently.

Museveni also described troubled Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe as an embarrassment to African liberation leaders, while Eritrea’s Isaias Afewerki is cast as the chief supplier of arms to Somalia’s militias.

In the wider scope of the region’s diplomacy and geopolitics, this development is surely going to isolate the Ugandan president as an agent of the Americans as his peers now know what Museveni’s game is — to cast his peers in Washington’s eyes as assassins, weak and funders of regional instability, Imam Kasozi, a geopolitical analyst says.

When Museveni wants money from the West he plays the assassination card, even if it’s not true that Gaddafi wants to assassinate him. Museveni has dug his own grave because now Gaddafi may have a motive to fund his opponents,” said Mr Kasozi.

Mr Nagenda said there is almost nothing that can be done, apart from desperately poring over the penal code to see whether Kampala can nail the world’s whistleblower. “What can you do? It’s already out there,” Mr Nagenda told The EastAfrican last week.

“We will see if we have laws in the penal code to charge that man if he came here. It is after the deed is done that we start wondering what can be done. But laws should be in place to safeguard national secrets.”

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