KAMPALA- The representatives of the United States of America and European Union countries yesterday walked out of President Museveni’s swearing-in ceremony at Kololo ceremonial grounds because Sudanese president Omar al Bashir was in attendance and President Museveni bashed the International Criminal Court (ICC).
In addition to bashing the ICC, Mr Museveni, 71, also praised China and Russia, which he called Uganda’s genuine friends and made negative comments that were interpreted as targeting the western countries.
Immediately after introducing Gen Bashir, Mr Museveni said the ICC “is none of our business; that’s a useless body. Initially we thought they were serious but they are a bunch of useless people.”
A number of diplomats representing the US and a number of western countries were seen walking out immediately after these comments were made, a development that the American Embassy confirmed to Daily Monitor.
“I can confirm that the US delegation departed the inauguration ceremony because of the presence of (Sudanese) President Bashir and the comments of President Museveni regarding the ICC. The US did not lead the walkout, it was a mutual decision,” American embassy Spokesman Chris Brown said by telephone last evening.
The US was represented at the function by the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for African Affairs, Mr Bruce Wharton, and the US Ambassador to Uganda, Ms Deborah Malac.
While the diplomats from European countries we spoke to confirmed the walk out, they declined to comment for this article because, they said, they still had consultations going on.
Mr Museveni was swearing in for his fifth and last constitutional presidential term since he will be barred by age in 2021, but the occasion seemed fated to cause unease to the representatives of Western governments because of the presence of Gen Bashir, against whom a warrant of arrest was issued by ICC.
Uganda, as a signatory to the Rome Statute of 2002 that set up the ICC, is duty-bound to arrest Gen Bashir and hand him over to the ICC the moment he steps on Ugandan soil.
“Failure to do so (arrest Bashir) would be a breach of its duty and would be a cruel betrayal of the hundreds of thousands of people killed and displaced during the Darfur conflict,” said a statement by Mr Muthoni Wanyeki, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East Africa.
The Ugandan leader of over 30 years went on a collision path with the ICC when the court indicted Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta, his deputy William Ruto and four others over the post-election violence that engulfed Kenya after the 2007 elections, which led to over a thousand deaths and hundreds of thousands of displaced persons.
The ICC has since dropped the charges against Mr Kenyatta and his co-accused, and the Kenyan president was among the 14 heads of State and heads of government who graced the swearing-in.
Also present was South Africa’s Jacob Zuma, who caused controversy when his government did not arrest Gen Bashir on South African soil in 2015.
Good Russians, Chinese
On a day that increasingly appeared set aside for bashing the West, Mr Museveni, after introducing a “special representative” for Russian president Vladimir Putin, made his preference for Russia clear. Russia is an arch rival of the US and Western Europe.
Speaking in Luganda, Mr Museveni said: “Abarussia abo batuguza amafumu gano gemulabye awatali bukwakkulizo n’omwepankopanko. Omanyi emyepankopanko twagigaana dda. Buli omu afuge ennyumba ye. N’olwekyo abantu abo mikwano gyaffe ddala.”
This is loosely translated as: “Those Russians sell to us those spears you have seen (referring to guns and fighter jets) without conditionalities and arrogance. You know we already rejected arrogance. Let everyone rule over his house. Therefore those people (Russians) are our genuine friends.”
The tirade against the West continued when Mr Museveni later introduced a representative from the Communist Party of China. Again speaking in Luganda, he said: “Abantu abo nabo mikwano gyaffe ddala. Tebalina mwepankopanko. Omusajja bwobeera n’ennyumba yo n’ogenda mu nnyumba y’omuntu omulala … oba musiru wannaba ki?”
This loosely translates to: “Those people are also our genuine friends. They have no arrogance. If a man has his own house and he goes in another man’s house … what type of fool are you?”
Joining presidents Bashir, Mugabe, Kenyatta and Zuma were Mr Idriss Déby of Chad, the current chairman of the African Union who also spoke on behalf of the visiting presidents and heads of State.
The others were Mr Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea, King Letsie III of Lesotho, Mr Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, Mr Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger, Mr Salva Kiir of South Sudan, Mr Hailemariam Desalegn, prime minister of Ethiopia, Mr Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud of Somalia, and Mr Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta of Mali.
Mr Edgar Lungu, president of Zambia and Tanzania’s John Pombe Magufuli also attended. The team from Tanzania was further bolstered up by former presidents Jakaya Kikwete and Ali Hassan Mwinyi.
Mr Museveni also introduced many dignitaries from other countries in a speech that was richly interspersed with Luganda as he sought to connect to his supporters, many of whom donned yellow and flashed the party’s thumbs-up sign.
Cash crop economy
The President hammered away at his pet promise of transforming Uganda from the low income country of a per capita income of $590 into a middle income economy with per capita income of at least $1,045, in less than four years by 2020.
To achieve this by all means ambitious dream, Mr Museveni said that the government, under Operation Wealth Creation led by his brother Gen Salim Saleh, will encourage the distribution of coffee, tea and fruit seedlings to encourage cash crop growing. Mr Museveni decried the low rate of commercialisation in Uganda’s households, saying that only 32 per cent of Ugandan households produce for the market.
Reassurance of peace
Mr Museveni assured the country about peace, saying that during the past 500 years, it was only under him that all parts of Uganda experienced total peace. Here Mr Museveni was drawn into talking about the Opposition, a topic he had largely avoided all day.
“They have no capacity to disturb this peace however hard they try,” Mr Museveni said in a tacit reference to his principal challenger Dr Kizza Besigye’s “defiance campaign”.
Dr Besigye, who had vowed to prevent Mr Museveni from taking oath because he says Mr Museveni lost the election to him, released a video where he was himself “sworn in” as president on Wednesday, May 11, 2016.
Before the video surfaced on social media, Dr Besigye had beaten the security around his house and shown up in Kampala city centre, after which he was arrested and incarcerated in Moroto, in the Karamoja region of north-eastern Uganda.
Karamoja region is where the colonial government in the 1950s “deported” natives and independence activists who opposed colonialists.