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Uganda's President Museveni Coming to America, Seeking Funds

Thursday, Oct. 18, 2007

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni will meet with U.S. President George W. Bush in the White House October 30. An October 12 White House press statement lists Uganda's role in Somalia, the conflict with the LRA/reconstruction in the North, and combating HIV/AIDS as the main topics for discussion.

In each area, the Ugandan leader is likely to make a case for continuing or increasing U.S. funding:

-On Somalia, Uganda has been the sole African Union country to fulfill its commitment to deploy troops in a U.S. funded stabilization effort. Uganda's Daily Monitor reports that Museveni is likely to offer to send another 250 troops, even though other countries are still lagging.

-Uganda is close to ending a 20 year civil war with the Lord's Resistance Army rebel group in the north, and Museveni has introduced proposal for a $180 million reconstruction effort to revitalize the North. 2/3 of the effort would be donor funded under the proposal.

-The U.S. President's Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (PEPFAR) currently contributes 80% of the money toward Uganda's AIDS prevention program. Despite early success, the AIDS rate is rising in Uganda, and continued or increased support will probably be requested.

Stabilizing Somalia, revitalizing the North, and fighting AIDS are all important, but the U.S. should look hard at Museveni's history before pledging any money directly to the government.

Washington Post columnist (and former Bush speechwriter) Michael Gerson implores the U.S. to fund the Northern reconstruction effort in a Wednesday column, saying a failure to do so would be a "retreat from responsibility" and threaten "a fragile peace."

But as I wrote in a recent World Politics Review commentary, Museveni has a mixed record in dealing with the North in good faith. His record on corruption, and election rigging should also prompt concern.

Uganda's Foreign Affairs Minister, Sam Kutesa told the government-owned New Vision newspaper that Uganda's participation in the U.S. Millennium Challenge Account is also on the agenda. Reinforcing the need for caution, it is important to note that Uganda does not currently qualify for a compact with the Millennium Challenge Corporation, in large part because of low scores on corruption, good governance and rule of law.

An opposition MP in Uganda also told the Kenya-based East African Standard that Kenya's upcoming elections are also something Museveni will bring up.