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June 17, 2013

Uganda Warns ‘Meddling’ Envoys

by Peter Clottey

Uganda’s foreign minister has warned foreign envoys in the country not to interfere in the East African nation’s internal affairs.

Henry Okello Oryem says he has told the envoys to use regular diplomatic channels with President Yoweri Museveni’s government to resolve their concerns about governance issues.

“Ambassadors and other diplomatic missions come with clear terms of reference by which we accept them to be diplomats in Uganda, amongst which [it] is very clear that if you have any views or any concerns both personal and official regarding anything, there are diplomatic channels which they should use,” Oryem said. “They should under no circumstances use any other channels except those, which are very clearly charted.”  

Last week, Oryem summoned the head of the European Union delegation, Ambassador Roberto Ridolfi, after the envoy criticized Mr. Museveni’s State-of-the-Nation address.

The EU envoy said Museveni failed in his speech to address the controversy surrounding an army general’s letter, which called for an inquiry into the president’s alleged succession plan. The ambassador noted the president’s did not mention the closure of the Daily monitor newspaper, which published the general’s letter.

Oryem said there is need for diplomats to “strictly” adhere to rules they agreed to with the government in Kampala.

“Now to operate outside what we have accredited you as an ambassador in Uganda is in breach of faith and in breach of what we had agreed upon for you to operate in Uganda,” said Oryem.

But critics say the government has become intolerant of dissent. They argue that the administration should be capable of accepting constructive criticisms.

“We welcome criticisms from anybody, including ambassadors,” said Oryem.

He said that the government will not impede the work of foreign envoys in the country.

“I made it very clear that the ambassadors are free to meet any groups of individuals in Uganda, church leaders, NGOs, civil societies, opposition groups and so on and so forth,” said Oryem.

Opposition groups say President Museveni has yet to define measures to decisively deal with alleged corruption in his administration. Oryem disagreed.

 “The president made it very clear during his speech during the budget address that the government of Uganda and the NRM [National Resistance Movement] government is doing everything possible and will fight corruption day and night …” said Oryem.
Clottey interview with Henry Okello Oryem, Uganda’s foreign minister