Burns (L) and Amb. Jerry Lanier visit Wagagai health centre in Entebbe, partly funded by USAID. PHOTO BY YUSUF MUZIRANSA

A top US diplomat yesterday described President Museveni as an “important partner” on security issues and dismissed as “untrue” allegations that Washington is working through the opposition to remove him.

Internal Affairs Minister Hillary Onek recently publicly accused the Obama administration and UK government of being behind the walk-to-work demonstrations to instigate regime change like it happened in North Africa last year. “That allegation is simply not true,” said deputy Secretary of State, Ambassador William Burns.

He added: “Our view is that President Museveni is the democratically-elected President of this country; he has been an important partner on a range of regional security issues; we think that area of cooperation is something we wanna strengthen.”

The official stressed the need to correct what he called “flaws” of the February 18, 2011, elections during future ballots, noting, however, that the past vote was an improvement over previous ones – at least according to international observers’ reports.

Ambassador Burns, who is leading a six-man delegation of powerful Washington politicians, including Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Amb. Johnnie Carson, meets President Museveni today to discuss regional security, good governance and government’s obligation to respect of citizens’ fundamental rights.

The United States, he said, whether in Uganda or anywhere in the world will continue to “stand up strongly for respect of human rights, in particular the right to assembly and association”.

Upholding fundamental freedoms
“It is extremely important in any healthy democratic society for people to be able to express themselves and their views peacefully,” he told a press conference for selected journalists at Wagagai Health Centre in Entebbe.

“We are unapologetic about our support for human rights, for rule of law, for good governance which is deeply in the interest of Uganda and a stable democratic system that seeks to build and is in the best interest of its people.”

The government’s acquiescence in the rule of law and the existence of a vibrant media that ably holds government to account are requisite ingredients for strong democratic institutions which insures the future of any country, he said.

Amb. Burns emphasised the importance of institutions over individual leaders and praised Uganda’s “constructive and extra-ordinary” role in helping stabilise Somalia.

By TABU BUTAGIRA, Daily Monitor

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