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Ugandan President Accuses International Donors of Meddling

Uganda's president says "meddling" by Western aid donors has helped prolong the nation's civil war. President Yoweri Museveni says donor pressure to cut military spending has made it harder for the government to defeat the rebel Lord's Resistance Army. During his speech today, Mr. Museveni pledged to make the nation financially independent of international aid, which makes up about half of Uganda's annual budget.

Mr. Museveni's criticism follows Britain's announcement last week that it would cancel some 10 million dollars in aid. Uganda's colonial-era ruler cited concern about the government's slow pace of political reforms. Uganda has been under pressure to allow multiparty politics ahead of next year's elections.

Lawrence Bategeka is a researcher with the Economic Policy Research Center in Kampala. He told English to Africa reporter William Eagle that policymakers could make the budget more efficient and less dependent on foreign aid. But he says, at this point, government agencies have become accustomed to donors’ financial support. “It takes time,” says Mr. Bategeka, “for institutions to change.”

The budget is also strained by the need to finance the war against the rebels in the north. However, Mr. Bategeka says those demands may be modified by peace talks between the two sides. The Ugandan economist says relations between the government and foreign donors should improve once a constitutionally mandated referendum determines whether the country will introduce a multiparty system, rather than the current “no party” system led by the President’s ruling political “movement.” Mr. Bategeka believes voters will not support the initiative for a multi-party system