Uganda, Iran and the Security-Democracy Trade Space?

Secretary of State Clinton noted this week to the African Chiefs of Mission the Africa Bureau’s efforts on wrangling votes for Iran sanctions:

The bureau was enormously helpful in rounding up votes for the sanctions resolution on Iran – Gabon, Nigeria, Uganda, thank you, because it wasn’t easy. I think I talked to President Museveni three times and Johnnie visited him several times. But – end result was we got strong African support for the international sanctions regime. We are building, and in some – many cases, rebuilding collaboration not only along bilateral lines, but multilateral alliances, most especially in our collaboration and engagement with the African Union, because it’s very important that we do more to build up the African Union and other regional entities like the East African Community, which has a real potential for being an engine of economic prosperity. [emphasis added]

Secretary Clinton’s Remarks at African Chiefs of Mission Conference

Tensions continue building over Uganda’s February 2011 elections–see yesterday’s news about opposition plans for a parallel electronic vote count and the Ugandan government’s strident reaction.

Carl LeVan has an excellent discussion of "Democratization and Securitization in Uganda" that I would highly recommend.

The ruling NRM has cleverly adopted the Global War on Terrorism as a political resource. Even before the terrorist bombing in the capital in July 2010, the government began closing political space in the name of national security while it successfully obtained aid commitments from the United States to fight counter-insurgency wars, one of which is against the brutal Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in the north.

. . . .

Looking beyond the Pentagon, Washington is clearly aware of Uganda’s governance drift. For example the US announced that will not renew 10 million dollars committed through Millennium Challenge Corporation to help Uganda move from “threshold” status to a full compact (ie, an agreement) for aid. USAID’s plans call for strengthening democratic institutions, enhancing political competition, and improving parliamentary capacity for oversight through partnerships with civil society. Unfortunately USAID faces an uphill battle, with no increases in the lines funding for either for civil society programs or for its good governance in Uganda, and cuts are planned for programs relating to “political competition and consensus building.” Even aid to fight transnational crime is slated for cuts.

In addition to all the regional security issues involving Somalia, Sudan, Congo and the Lord’s Resistance Army, the Iran sanctions issue adds another interesting twist. I noted back in May that Assistant Secretary Carson and AFRICOM Commander General Ward were seeking Museveni’s support on Iran sanctions during a visit to Kampala, as well as pushing for Museveni to relinquish unilateral control of the Electoral Commission. The U.S. succeeded in persuading Uganda to support sanctions, but did not secure action on the Electoral Commission. Both worthy goals, but is there a trade off?

It is also interesting to note a report that Uganda has now been working with Iran to create a joint bank as a mechanism to allow Uganda to obtain access to $46M in pledged Iranian credits that have impeded by the sanctions:

[A] memo prepared by the ministry for Parliament’s public accounts committee, in response to an audit query, said that sanctions had complicated the money transfer. "The ministry has followed up the implementation of this line of credit. However, it has faced challenges, especially following the imposition of sanctions on Iran," said the memo.

"In a bid to overcome the difficulty in transferring funds to and from Iran because of sanctions and to promote investment and trade, the two countries agreed on the establishment of a bank as a joint venture as the best way forward," it said.

4 thoughts on “Uganda, Iran and the Security-Democracy Trade Space?

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