U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, told reporters that her visit to Kampala on August 4 was to reaffirm and strengthen the U.S. relationship with Uganda, not to compete with Russia. Her trip came just days after one by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
Speaking after her meeting with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, Thomas-Greenfield described the session as productive and frank, covering solutions to food and security issues, high energy costs and supporting refugees in Uganda.
Thomas-Greenfield said the most important issue discussed with Museveni was the effects of Russia’s war in Ukraine on the availability of food and on oil prices.
With fuel costing $2 a liter in Uganda, Thomas-Greenfield was clear about what would happen to African countries that are dealing with Russia, especially on goods covered by sanctions.
“Uganda and any African country has the right to choose who their friends are and who their enemies are. We are here as Uganda’s friend,” she said. “If a country decides to engage with Russia, where there are sanctions, then they are breaking those sanctions. And we caution countries not to break those sanctions because then, if they do, they stand the chance of having actions taken against them.”
The meeting also touched on a broad range of issues including the security situation in the Great Lakes region, democratic institutions and press freedom in Uganda.
Dismas Nkunda, a political analyst, said it is no coincidence that Thomas-Greenfield is in Uganda one week after Lavrov visited.
“It has its inkling of understanding where they think that particular influence of Uganda and Museveni in the geopolitics of the Great Lakes. If it’s swayed in a certain direction, it has its own complexity in terms of the United States losing out, given the changes that are happening internationally. And also, to have the regional hegemony,” Nkunda said. “Somalia is still there, South Sudan is still there. And there’s that sense that by sending [Thomas-Greenfield] to Uganda, it is cementing that particular idea.”
Museveni has made it clear he will not side with any foreign power, and only does so to serve Uganda’s interests.
Chris Baryomunsi, Uganda’s minister for information and communication, told VOA they are open to all visitors.
“I don’t think we should read much between U.S. and Russia and so forth. Because we cannot be swayed into anybody’s position,” Baryomunsi said. “We take independent positions as a government, as a country. Somebody’s enemy doesn’t have to be my enemy. If you have issues, they are between the two of you.”
Thomas-Greenfield’s visit to Uganda comes before the Africa leaders’ summit, set for Washington in December.
She also announced $20 million in development assistance to Uganda. The fund, which is subject to U.S. Congressional approval, is aimed at helping smallholder farmers adopt improved agricultural practices.
This is meant to increase productivity, reduce post-harvest losses and mitigate impacts of growing food insecurity, which she said have been exacerbated by Russia’s aggression in Ukraine.