National Prayer Breakfast: President Obama, Abandon Uganda's President and other dictators

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[Global: Open Letter To U.S. President]

Dear President Obama,

I listened with great interest at your comments in the annual National Prayer Breakfast on 2nd February and I especially thank you for mentioning Uganda, my once beautiful and peaceful country.

Mr President, you said : "Our men and women", referring no doubt to the U.S. armed forces, "have made us safer and more secure and we were eternally grateful to them, but war and hardship still remain in too many corners of the globe." This is so very true. Your armed forces may have made you safer and more secure but what about the ordinary people in Libya who are now more unsafe than ever, who now live in abject poverty, who are now starving like wolves as a result of your, in my opinion, ill-advised decision to attack and destroy Libya just so one man would be killed?

And what about the ordinary man, woman and child in Somalia suffering untold daily violence?

As you know, Uganda too needs a lot of prayers today and going forward. Your remarks are specifically appropriate for Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni who has deliberately failed to bring peace and security to the north-region of Uganda.

You said: "And when I decide to stand up for foreign aid, or prevent atrocities in places like Uganda, or take on issues like human trafficking, it’s not just about strengthening alliances, or promoting democratic values, or projecting American leadership around the world, although it does all those things and it will make us safer and more secure.  It’s also about the biblical call to care for the least of these –- for the poor; for those at the margins of our society."

When you refer to preventing atrocities, I , like many Ugandans hope you are referring to past atrocities, and also today’s crimes, which present the most threat to Ugandans and to the East African region. I am of course referring to the Uganda People’s Defence Forces armed forces of President Museveni and the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) who move in and out of Uganda as though playing a game of cat and mouse.

The two forces have been waging a senseless war for nearly 30 years bringing about death, destruction, separation of families and enslavement in so called "protective camps" where thousands have died from planned neglect--starvation, malnutrition and treatable diseases. Both men and women have been raped and even innocent children defiled where they should supposedly have been protected.

Prior to the February 2011 Presidential elections, political opponents were being intimidated, victimised and arrested on a whim. There were several assassination attempts on the life of Olara Otunnu, the UPC leader and presidential candidate, before the rigged general elections; and on April 18, 2011, he was arrested while participating in the Positive Non Violent Resistance campaign. This campaign is a peaceful demonstration in which thousands walk to work twice a week across the country to protest the high gas and food prices and rising inflation.

Dr. Kizza Besigye, leader for Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) has been a leading figure in the marches against high prices and government corruption since April, when Activists For Change (A4C) was established by a group of activists. He has been arrested many times since then, merely for walking in Kampala's streets.

During the elections of February 2011 African Union election observers said that Uganda's presidential poll suffered from several shortcomings, and other international observers cast doubt in its legitimacy. European Union observers said Museveni used his power as incumbent to such an extent that it compromised the level playing field among candidates.

Dr. Besigye said widespread bribery, ballot-stuffing and harassment rendered the poll "illegitimate." He rejected the outcome and initially called for Egypt-style protests prompting Museveni to issue a stern warning that he would jail anyone who tried to spark Egypt-style unrest.

Yet in 2010/2011, the Museveni regime received about $250 million in direct foreign aid from the US. Why is this Mr. President? When President Museveni’s human rights abuses, violation and intimidation of political opponents and ordinary citizens is quite legendary. Museveni’s 26-year rule is characterised by not only incompetence but corruption at the highest level. Is Museveni not the embodiment of the ‘’big man’’ you referred to in your Accra Speech when you denounced dictatorships and their debilitative impact on Africa?  Is the Uganda government not the epitome of the bad governance you condemned in your Accra Speech?

Yet again, just last week while in Uganda, U.S. deputy Secretary of State William Burns wrongfully said: “Our view is that President Museveni is the democratically-elected President of this country..." By what stretch of the imagination was the basis of that remark? Certainly not on concrete evidence. Of course Museveni provides Ugandan troops to Somalia under U.S. financing. But Mr. President does playing regional policeman for the U.S. trump justice, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law?

Mr. President, you cannot condemn tyranny in one country and condone it in another. When corruption is rampant, how are you assured that the regime puts US foreign aid in Uganda to good use? Health, education and infrastructure continue to suffer because there are no conditions attached to this aid. It is such assistance --with no strings attached-- that has allowed an undemocratic government to maintain power.

Mr. President you mention the responsibility given in proverbs to "speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all those who are destitute." Mr President, I ask you humbly, w
ill you speak out for all Ugandans, in all parts of the country, suffering under Museveni's tyranny? Will you now speak up for the Acholi people in Uganda, who were specifically targeted for retribution by Museveni's regime?

Will you speak up for the orphaned child in the street, who will go
hungry again today and who will sleep outside a shop veranda?
Will you also speak up for the woman who suddenly became widowed, for the man with no education and prospects of employment, because of lack of educational facilities or vocational training, as the regime diverts resources to the military or to foreign bank accounts? Even your own ambassador to Uganda deplored the Museveni regime's corruption in a WikiLeaks revealed memo.

I personally placed my trust in you as did countless other Ugandans and people in other countries around the world where the U.S. helps to sustain dictators. We placed our hopes and dreams in you. We prayed that you would be a different type of politician. 

Let your heart speak to you now, Mr President. Let Uganda be the pearl of Africa once again. Let Uganda be what it was, the bread basket of Africa. Let the U.S. side with those who yearn for freedom allover the world.

Allimadi writes for The Black Star News from London.

"Speaking Truth To Empower."

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