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Uganda - US Relations

The United States established diplomatic relations with Uganda in 1962, following Uganda’s formal independence from the United Kingdom. In the post-independence period, the country endured despotism and near economic collapse. The human rights abuses of several Ugandan governments strained U.S. relations with Uganda.

During the Cold War the United States had no significant geopolitical, business, or trading interests in Uganda, although a number of United States firms did a profitable business with Uganda, particularly during the Amin period. For the most part, the United States government maintained a low profile, avoiding involvement in domestic Ugandan political issues, while administering a relatively small economic assistance program and seeking Uganda's support on several issues before the UN. For their part, the Ugandan authorities attempted to adhere to a policy of nonalignment that allowed them to criticize such United States policies as its intervention in Vietnam, while persuading the United States to expand its development assistance and to support an increase in Uganda's international coffee quota.

Although US-Ugandan relations were strained during the rule of Idi Amin in the 1970s, relations improved after Amin's fall. In mid-1979, the United States reopened its Embassy in Kampala. Relations with successive governments were cordial, though Obote and his administration rejected strong US criticism of Uganda's human rights situation. Bilateral relations between the United States and Uganda have been good since Museveni assumed power, and the United States welcomed Museveni’s early efforts to end human rights abuses and to pursue economic reform.

US assistance to Uganda promotes democratic governance, peace and security, and local development. In FY 2011, the United States provided over $600 million in assistance to Uganda. The President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) works with the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to fight the HIV/AIDS pandemic. In FY 2011, the United States provided approximately $285 million in PEPFAR assistance to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS. Other US health assistance to Uganda targets malaria, family and reproductive health, child and maternal health, tuberculosis, and other infectious diseases. Other programs promote trade and investment, curb environmental degradation, encourage the peaceful resolution of local and international conflicts, and promote honest and open government.

US Peace Corps volunteers are active in primary-teacher training and HIV/AIDS programs. The Department of State carries out cultural exchange programs, brings Fulbright lecturers and researchers to Uganda, and sponsors US study and tour programs for a wide variety of officials from government, nongovernmental organizations, and the private sector. Through the Ambassador's Self-Help Fund, local groups in poor areas receive assistance for small projects with a high level of community involvement.

US-Ugandan relations benefit from significant contributions to health care, nutrition, education, and park systems from US missionaries, nongovernmental organizations, private universities, HIV/AIDS researchers, and wildlife organizations. Expatriate Ugandans living in the United States also promote stronger links between the two countries.

On July 23, 2013 Deputy Defense Secretary Ash Carter visited Uganda, meeting with senior government and military leaders to affirm the growing security partnership between the United States and the East African nation. Carter met with government and military leaders to affirm the growing security partnership between the United States and Uganda. The visit was part of a trip Carter was making to Israel, Uganda and Ethiopia to discuss issues of mutual importance with defense and government leaders in the three countries. Carter was the highest-ranking DOD official ever to visit Uganda.

Senior defense officials traveling with Carter said the United States commends UPDF soldiers involved in AMISOM for their commitment and selfless support to the Somali people and to the fight against al-Shabaab, an al-Qaida-linked militant group and U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organization fighting to create a fundamentalist Islamic state in Somalia.

“Uganda is a key partner in terms of security and stability in the region,” a senior defense official said. “Not only do they tend to security within their borders, but … they’re operating in the region trying to track down LRA, which is something that affects four different countries in the region. It’s not just Uganda, it’s the Democratic Republic of Congo, it’s South Sudan, and it’s the Central African Republic.”

The US slapped sanctions on Uganda - cancelling a military air exercise, imposing visa bans and freezing some aid - amid deep US anger at "vile" Ugandan anti-gay laws, AFP reports. The legislation "runs counter to universal human rights and complicates our bilateral relationship," the White House said in June 2014, renewing calls for the law to be repealed. Signed by President Yoweri Museveni in February, the law called for "repeat homosexuals" to be jailed for life, outlaws the promotion of homosexuality and obliges Ugandans to denounce gays to the authorities. Rights groups say it has triggered a sharp increase in arrests and assaults of the African nation's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.

The US gave some $487 million in aid to Uganda in 2013, of which $411 million went towards health programs. Some of those funds will now be frozen or redirected, with money going towards non-governmental organizations rather than the health ministry.

A $2.4 million program for a community-policing program will also be stopped as the US is "very concerned about the extent to which the Ugandan police may be involved in abusive actions" in implementing the law, the White House said. And a planned National Health Institute will now be built in another African country with some $3 million in US aid.

While the United States was committed to supporting the health needs of the Ugandan people, "we seek to invest in partners and programs that share our commitment to equal access and our evidence-based approach to medicine and science," the White House said. Plans for a US military-sponsored aviation exercise in Uganda were also cancelled, but Hayden stressed none of the moves "diminishes our commitment to providing development and humanitarian support for the Ugandan people." Nor would the US cut back on its bid to track down "the murderous Lord's Resistance Army."

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Page last modified: 01-12-2021 16:18:57 ZULU