Western leaders shrill on Uganda's anti-gay bill, silent on Uganda heading the UN General Assembly

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Radio interview broadcast on The Morning Mix, KPFA 94.1fm-Berkeley/Northern California,  04.23.2014
 
KPFA Morning Mix Host Anthony Fest: The United Nations General Assembly will soon be choosing a president. The President presides over the General Assembly somewhat like the Speaker of the House. A new article says the next person to hold the post may be Sam Kutesa, the Foreign Minister of Uganda. I'm joined on the phone by Milton Allimadi, Editor and Publisher of the New York City-based paper, the Black Star News. Welcome to the Morning Mix.
 
Black Star News Editor Milton Allimadi: Thank you for having me on.
 
Anthony Fest: And joining me in the studio is KPFA's Ann Garrison.
 
KPFA/Ann Garrison: I'm here, Anthony.
 
Anthony Fest: Milton Allimadi, when is the new General Assembly President slated to be chosen?
 
Milton Allimadi: It will be -- I believe -- the second week of June. So there's still enough time for the international community to wake up and do the right thing. Unless something happens, it will be Sam Kutesa, who is the Foreign Affairs Minister of Uganda. And this does a number of things. Number one, it provides Uganda a great podium for propaganda, and it also inoculates the regime against many of the criticisms that the regime deserves. The anti-gay law, for example, how bad can it really be if the international community thinks that Uganda's Foreign Affairs Minister deserves to be President of the UN General Assembly? At the same it also exposes the UN to a great level of public ridicule. Really.
 
Anthony Fest: Now, tell us a little bit about this man, Sam Kutesa, the Foreign Minister?
 
Milton Allimadi: Okay, individually, Sam Kutesa is reputed to be one of the most corrupt politicians in Uganda and also one of the wealthiest. He's been linked to many corruption scandals. And the only reason why he has not really been tried and convicted is because of his close relations to General Yoweri Museveni, the President of Uganda. They have family ties and he's been Foreign Minister since 2005. And one of the most serious corruption allegations involved the alleged accepting of millions of dollars in bribes from foreign oil companies. And in fact, in a letter which was leaked by Wiki Leaks, the US ambassador to Uganda at the time, in 2009, wrote that Kutesa was one of three senior officials implicated in this alleged bribe scandal. The others were Amama Mbabazi, who was the Prime Minister, and then Energy Minister, Hilary Onek. And in that letter the Ambassador suggested that in fact Amama Mbabazi should be denied visa privileges to travel to the United States. And in that same letter, he also mentioned Sam Kutesa.
 
Anthony Fest: Tell us, given what you've told us about him, how did he get the inside track to be elected to this post?
 
Milton Allimadi: That's very interesting, that's still something that needs to be properly investigated and I'm not sure yet. It's a rotational position. It rotates by the major regions of the world. So this is now Africa's turn, but the actual candidate first slated for it was the Foreign Affairs Minister of Cameroon. I think there were actually some background negotiations, probably between Uganda and Cameroon. So Cameroon withdrew its candidacy and then Uganda was elevated and the African candidate gets the African Union endorsement. So pretty much, there is no other candidate, so come June, unless something happens, he will by acclaim become the President of the UN General Assembly. And of course, as many listeners know, Uganda, at this time, is the least deserving country to have its candidate become President of the General Assembly. In addition to its President signing the detestable anti-gay law on February 24, Uganda has committed numerous violations of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the Congo and Rwanda, and most recently South Sudan. And of course, the United Nations is based on that cardinal principal of respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty. Now, how can a country, whose army has violated this cardinal principle so many times, then have its Foreign Affairs Minister become President of the UN General Assembly? It is almost preposterous actually.
 
Anthony Fest: It's 8:44 in the morning, this is the KPFA Morning Mix. I'm speaking with Milton Alimadi, Editor of the New York City-based Black Star News, although, Milton, you are originally from Uganda yourself, right?  And let's bring KPFA's Ann Garrison into the conversation. She joins me because she has covered news from the Great Lakes Region of Africa for many years. Ann?
 
Ann Garrison: Yes, thank you Anthony. Milton, it seems like Kutesa could be elected President of the General Assembly while no one is looking because most people don’t pay that much attention to the UN, especially Americans who don’t feel threatened by what the UN Security Council's going to do next. We don’t pay much attention to the UN unless we're about to go to war, so this could happen even as the LGBT and LGBT supportive community is clamoring for an end to US aid and diplomatic relations with Uganda. Right?
 
Milton Alimadi: I agree with you. I think this is something, Ann, and thanks for that question, that the LGBT community should jump on and other people that care about the important work that the UN actually does do in other parts of the world, should jump on immediately. Recently, when Iran announced that it was sending its new candidate to become its permanent representative to the United Nations, the US declined to offer him a visa because apparently he was one of those who took American citizens hostage during the 1979 crisis at the US Embassy in Tehran. I believe that this is one instance where Secretary of State John Kerry should do the same thing and deny Sam Kutesa a visa to come to take this post at the UN. In any event, Kerry had already been advised earlier by the US Ambassador to Uganda to deny visas to Ugandan officials who were implicated in this high level corruption scandal. I think this is one instance where he should step forward and do the same thing.
 
Anthony Fest: Now Milton Alimadi, regarding the new Iranian ambassador to the UN, since the UN is in New York on US territory, isn't that giving the US a second veto, a veto outside the Security Council, if they can keep out someone they don’t like? However contemptible he might be as an individual.
 
Milton Allimadi: I think sometimes, you have to do the right thing. I think in this case, we can debate about the case of the hostage taking in 1979. We could ask the question whether that is something that's now been resolved, and that both countries want to move beyond since they are involved right now in the negotiations over Iran's nuclear program. But in this particular instance, where it's ongoing, where you have Ugandan soldiers allegedly committing atrociities, as we speak, in South Sudan. Where you have this law-- which was recently just been signed, and is now exposing members of the LGBT community to personal harm, to be beaten, to be discriminated against and even to be killed, I think it's preposterous to allow this person who is the top spokesperson of General Yoweri Museveni to become President of the UN General Assembly.
 
Anthony Fest: But by the way, also on that subject, isn’t it safe to say that probably the Obama Administration has already given its assent to this?
 
Milton Allimadi: I think by its silence it seems that that is the case. And that also then raises the other question, what is really happening in the background when we have yet to get the official response from the Obama Administration to the signing into law of the anti-gay bill? We were told that the administration was weighing its options and they would come out with the formal reaction that is yet to happen. In fact, what we saw happen was that the US sent additional forces to supposedly help the Ugandan army in the search for Joseph Kony. If you go to Uganda and you ask Ugandans right now, what is their number one priority, I think this might come up number ten on that list and I think the first item on the agenda for Ugandans would be the removal of the 30-year dictatorship of Yoweri Museveni.
 
Anthony Fest: It's 8:49 in the morning. This is the KPFA Morning Mix, and we're speaking with Milton Allimadi, I am Anthony Fest here with Ann Garrison.
 
Ann Garrison: Milton, what do you think it would take and what can Americans do to keep Sam Kutesa from becoming the next President of the UN General Assembly?
 
Milton Allimadi: Well we've launched a petition drive on change.org and people can search for that by going to change.org and then using the search keywords "US must deny visa to Uganda Sam Kutesa." And we also have attached an open letter to Secretary John Kerry, explaining why Kutesa should be denied this visa and we also, obviously, elaborate on his background, the alleged corruption scandals and the fact that Uganda has repeatedly violated the cardinal principle of respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty. In fact, Uganda was found liable by the International Court of Justice in 2005 of committing more crimes in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, including massacres of Congolese people. Congo was awarded $10 billion as reparations from the International Court of Justice and not a dime of that has been paid. Now, given that conviction, how is it still possible that the Foreign Minister, from the same country, should become the President of the UN General Assembly? I think America should become much more insistent in demanding that the Obama Administration stopped the double standard that's been extended to Uganda for such a long time.

Yowerii Museveni is not the only Ugandan who would be interested in helping the US fight the spread of terrorism in African countries. For example, to help, we are trying to bring peace and stability in Somalia.  Africans are interested in the same stable and prosperous Somalia. It is not only Yowerii Museveni. In fact, if Yoweri Museveni was not the President of Uganda, I think more African countries would be willing to contribute troops to go to Somalia and other hotspots on the continent to help restore peace and stability there.
 
Anthony Fest: Okay, Milton Allimadi from the Black Star News, thanks for joining us on the Morning Mix.
 
Milton Allimadi: Thank you so much for this opportunity and I hope more Americans pay attention this important matter. Thank you and have a good morning.
 
Anthony Fest: And Ann Garrison, thanks for arranging this segment.
 
Ann Garrison: Thanks, Anthony.

To listen to the audio archive of this conversation, click here.
 

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