Dear America – Friendship and Mutual Respect

To my dear friend, America,

We’ve been through so much over the years, yet we’ve always remained good, loyal and trusted friends. Lately, however, our friendship seems to be  — how shall we put it politely – rather strained.  Our friendship towards you remains strong, but can you honestly say you are still the same loyal partner?

On the eve of our President’s inauguration and start of a new term, perhaps it is a good time to clear the air.

Our friendship has always been based on mutual respect and shared values. This has been the base of a cooperation that through the years has benefitted us both. Among those shared values are democracy and development. Our only difference is that our way of realizing these values differs from yours. But shouldn’t friends respect each other’s differences?

We have appreciated through the years that you have always been there for us. When we struggled with the Lord’s Resistance Army, you sent troops and helped us root out Joseph Kony’s despicable forces. Your economic support has been invaluable and always deeply appreciated.

When you’ve needed us, we’ve always been there for you. When you went to war in Iraq, more than 10,000 Ugandans went to fight by your side. We were proud to show the world that your friends in Africa were with you. Many of them were injured or paid the ultimate sacrifice, but we still stood by you.

We were the first to deploy troops under AMISOM into Somalia and remain the largest contingent in Somalia. And when things went badly in South Sudan, we were there as well.  Those countries are in our neighborhood, so of course we wanted to do anything within our power to help, but dear friend, you might remember that in our globalized world, what happens here can suddenly cause havoc anywhere. Terrorist attacks against Americans have been staged in Somalia as well as Sudan, the country that South Sudan was part of until recently.

In fact, Sudan is where in 1998 Al Qaeda launched its deadly plan to bomb the US Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. The American Embassy in Uganda could have been included in that list if not for the vigilance of Ugandan intelligence. We arrested 20 suspects, including the ringleaders, and foiled a repeat of those horrific attacks.

Do you remember when we first became friends? How you adored our President! You loved to have him come to the White House and give speeches in Washington. You heralded him as one of the great African Renaissance leaders, marveled at how proactive we were in the fight against AIDS, congratulated us on controlling each outbreak of Ebola, and constantly held us up as the shining example when it came to trade and investment. As the World Bank and the entire donor community held us up as shining example, we were proud to have you as one of our champions.

And we loved you back. You always had a friend you could count on in the United Nations, Security Council, and other governing bodies.

So where did it all go wrong? Like so many relationships, you became threatened when we began to branch out and go our own way. Unlike you, we believe democracy doesn’t require term limits, and we think that in a true democracy, choices like these should be left to the people. In Uganda, the people voted, and their desire to eliminate term limits was clear. This past February, the people voted again, and by a clear majority they made their wishes known – they wanted the president to remain.

We don’t complain about your system of democracy, and despite surprising developments and rather pointed attacks against us, we rarely even comment on the current state of your politics. We respect your sovereignty and the right to guide your own democracy and internal affairs. All we ask is that you do the same.

Of course, it’s no secret that others seek our friendship, and some quite aggressively. China, India, Europe, and South Africa are just a few of our friends who love to get together over a friendly meal and some foreign direct investment (FDI). Of course, it’s not hard to make friends when you are a stable democracy, have taken so many steps to create an ease of doing business, and are then ranked the most entrepreneurial country in the world.

No matter how many others stop by, we still value our deep friendship with you, our dear friend, America. All we ask of you is that you respect us and not take our friendship for granted. We’ve had a beautiful and mutually beneficial friendship for 30 years. Isn’t it in all our interests that we continue that friendship for another 30 and beyond?

With respect,

Your friend, Uganda

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