New Vision (Kampala)

29 January 2013

Uganda: U.S. Envoy Tells Military to Back Democracy

The US envoy to Uganda has urged regional armies to support democratic institutions, warning that the recent strides towards peace can easily unravel if the military threatens these institutions.

Ambassador Scott Delisi contends that strong armies needed to maintain security through keeping a lid on emerging threats like terrorism, illegal small arms sales and child trafficking can become a threat themselves "if they do not support the democratic institutions they are meant to uphold."

"Strong, professional militaries are essential to regional security. Security, in turn, is essential to development as it allows economies to prosper and democratic institutions to grow.

"If however, those militaries threaten that prosperity, if they do not support the democratic institutions they are meant to uphold, then the foundation of our efforts crumbles."

He says the consequence of this is that East Africa risks falling into the "bloody cycle of revolution and counter-revolution."

Delisi said this on Monday at the opening of a four-day workshop tailored to improve regional response to transnational and irregular threats to the region.

"We don't want to see any nation descend into the morass of problems generated by poverty, infectious disease, and unchecked conflict," said the envoy.

He lauded Uganda's commitment to regional stability, especially its peace-keeping mission in Somalia as "commendable."

Held under the auspices of the African Center for Strategic Studies in tandem with U.S Department of Defense, the workshop has attracted a host of regional security chiefs, governments, regional and international organizations.

Delisi's remarks come in the wake of recent media reports by minister of defense, Dr. Crispus Kiyonga and Chief of Defense Forces (CDF) Gen. Aronda Nyakairima cautioning politicians against unnecessarily fomenting tension in the country, lest the army intervenes.

Deputy CDF, Lieutenant Gen. Ivan Koreta, who was in attendance, declined to comment about Delisi's remarks, although state minister in charge of regional cooperation, Asuman Kiyingi scoffed at talk of the military staging a coup.

"We have entrenched democracy and constitutionalism in Uganda and talk of a military coup is unfounded," Kiyingi said when asked about Delisi's caution.

While opening the workshop, Kiyingi defended Uganda's recent interventionist foreign policy, saying the nature of security threats and other current challenges warrant Uganda to take a keen interest in the security of its neighbors.

The minister pointed out ADF and LRA rebels currently operating in 'lawless' areas outside Ugandan borders to justify government's pronounced efforts at maintaining regional stability.

"It is noteworthy that situations where the state remains weak, such countries tend to succumb to all sorts of external threats including becoming a haven for terror and insurgents groups which in turn destabilize their neighbors," Kiyingi said.

Uganda is currently hosting peace talks between M23 rebels and the DRC government under the auspices of the International Conference on Great Lakes Region.

The east African nation is also contributing soldiers to a UN-backed regional force aimed at stumping out LRA remnants in pockets of DRC, Chad and Central African Republic.

The workshop comes hot on the heels of a recent workshop in Rwanda's capital Kigali about designing policies aimed at preventing radicalization of east African youths.

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