Museveni slams West after US removes Uganda from economic program

Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni in Belgrade, Serbia, on July 30, 2023.  [AP photo]

Days after the United States removed Uganda from an economic assistance program due to human rights concerns, Uganda's president harshly criticized the West.

In a speech Thursday, President Yoweri Museveni urged lawmakers from the Commonwealth of Nations to reject what he called the evil tendencies of Western countries toward societies different from them.

Museveni told the 33 parliament speakers from Commonwealth countries meeting in Kampala that the West’s oppression takes the form of aggression, looting, enslavement, displacement, ethnic cleansing, colonization and indirect domination without occupying one’s territory.

“If you want freedom, if you value freedom, then you should value the freedom of everybody,” he said. “If you value independence, if you value dignity, then you must respect the dignity of everybody. Stop manipulations and lectures to the societies that are different from yours.”

Museveni accused “some countries” of using technological progress to hold down other countries that have different values.

“Instead of using this human progress for the benefit of all, some actors out of greed and philosophical, ideological and strategic shallowness, miscalculate and seek to monopolize knowledge and also use knowledge to oppress others,” he said.

Since Ugandan lawmakers passed an anti-homosexuality law in May 2023, the East African country has come under pressure for the abuse of human rights.

The World Bank withdrew funding from the nation, and just this week, Uganda lost its eligibility for the U.S. African Growth and Opportunity Act, or AGOA.

Through AGOA, some countries in sub-Saharan Africa, including Uganda, had duty-free access to the U.S. market for close to 6,000 products.

Asuman Basalirwa, the member of Uganda’s parliament who introduced the anti-gay legislation that has been described as the world’s harshest law against the LGBTQ community, said he is not surprised that Uganda is facing consequences.

“I am really disappointed about their preferential treatment of rights,” Basalirwa said. “And that makes them lose the moral authority to attack the country over the anti-homosexuality law.”

Regardless, he said, “nobody should tell you that the country will not suffer as a result of closure of AGOA.”

Uganda’s earnings through AGOA grew from $4 million to about $8 million in the 12 months up to June 2023.

Museveni said Uganda could still take advantage of its access to the 2.4 billion people who live in Commonwealth nations, made up mostly of former British colonies, to grow its economy.

Basalirwa said Uganda also needs to find paths to markets in East Asia and get a foothold in the U.S. market.