The Murky Politics Behind Uganda’s Agreement to Host Afghan Evacuees

The Murky Politics Behind Uganda’s Agreement to Host Afghan Evacuees
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni speaks during a visit to Juba, South Sudan, Oct. 15, 2018 (AP photo by Bullen Chol).

KAMPALA, Uganda—Fifty-one Afghan evacuees arrived at Uganda’s international airport in Entebbe on a chartered flight on Aug. 25. They were shunted across the hot tarmac into buses and brought to lakeside hotels previously emptied due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Their arrival was the result of a deal Uganda made with the United States, in which Kampala promised to provide temporary shelter to some 2,000 “at risk” Afghan evacuees. The agreement was celebrated by Ugandan and American politicians, but the details of exactly how it came about, and the fate of the asylees themselves, remain shrouded in secrecy. The deal also further complicates the already messy relationship between the U.S. and Uganda. 

In January, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni won a sixth term in office following a blood-soaked election process. At least 54 people were gunned down by security forces in riots that erupted following the November arrest of opposition presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi—better known as Bobi Wine—for allegedly failing to respect COVID-19 guidelines. 

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