As U.S. Celebrates 245th Anniversary, Relations At Low Point With My Country Uganda

Obote and Kennedy
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President Kennedy welcomes Prime Minister Obote to the White House 13 days after Uganda's independence. 

Harold Acemah

[Aluta Continua!]

Sunday marks the 245th anniversary of the declaration of independence on July 4, 1776 by 13 British colonies in what was then called “the new world.” The national anthem of the USA, “the star-spangled banner” proclaims America as “the land of the free and home of the brave,” unlike Uganda which seems to be home of cowards and land of people who are not yet free. The national motto of the USA is: “In God is our trust.”

I would, at the outset, like to convey greetings and congratulations to the government and people of the USA on this auspicious and historic occasion.

“The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen United States of America” is a masterpiece in the annals of world history. The authors of the document include Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and John Adams. The declaration argues convincingly the case for the bold and courageous decision 13 colonies took to confront and rebel against the powerful British Empire as follows:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness; that to secure these rights Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.”

The declaration accuses Britain’s King George III of committing a litany of atrocities, crimes and offenses including, “repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these States,” which reminds me of comparable and similar situations prevailing in our neck of the woods today.

I visited the USA for the first time in 1973 to attend the 28th regular session of the UN General Assembly in New York and served there from 1974-1980 as a diplomat at the Permanent Mission of Uganda to the United Nations. I have many fond and pleasant memories of the USA, a country with which Uganda established and has maintained cordial diplomatic relations since 1962. The US has been one of Uganda’s major and reliable donors of assistance and a development partner since our country achieved independence 58 years ago.

President Kennedy welcomes Uganda's Prime Minister Milton Obote to the White House on October 22, 1962. Also shown in background left to right are: Secretary General of the Uganda People's Congress, John Kakonge; Minister of Justice, Grace Ibingira; and, Minister of Finance and Economics, James Simpson. Relations are at a low point today. Photo: John F. Kennedy Library.

Among many things which impressed me about the USA was the sheer size and variety of the country which has enabled me to put Uganda-USA bilateral relations in its proper perspective. On a lighter note, I remember the USA for Budweiser, the “king of beers” and a wide variety of fast food restaurants, such as, KFC, McDonalds and Pizza Hut.

At the political level, although basically a two-party democracy, the USA has many small political parties including Communist Party of the USA (CPUSA), but the Democrats and Republicans are the two big parties which dominate the political landscape of the country.

For academicians and intellectuals, the USA is fertile territory. As a member of the American Political Science Association (APSA), I have benefitted enormously from the work and publications of APSA.

Uganda has a lot to learn from the USA. In this regard, it’s regrettable that bilateral relations between Uganda and the USA appear to be deteriorating. I hope the new Minister of Foreign Affairs will make every effort to mend previously friendly bilateral relations for mutual benefit. Otherwise, the US government has both the will and means to deal decisively with unfriendly regimes. If you doubt me, ask Manuel Antonio Noriega of Panama.

A poor developing country like Uganda cannot afford to antagonize the USA. Our country is better off with the USA on our side than against us. The front page story of Uganda’s Sunday Monitor of April 18 titled, “US slaps travel ban on top Ugandan officials” indicates that all is not well in Uganda-USA bilateral relations. Like most Ugandans, I think Americans are fed up with a corrupt, decadent, incompetent, violent and ungrateful regime of 35 years which has clearly overstayed its welcome.   

Arua, Uganda.

June 29, 2021.

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