Ambassador William Burns

The US deputy Secretary of State, Ambassador William Burns, is expected in the country today to engage with President Museveni on a range of bilateral issues, including regional security and good governance.

In a statement released by the Department of State, the guests and Mr Museveni will also discuss human rights issues as well.

“In Uganda, deputy Secretary Burns’ discussions with President Museveni and members of Uganda’s civil society will highlight the strength of the bilateral partnership on a range of issues, including regional security and on helping Uganda strengthen its commitment to good governance and respect for human rights,” reads the statement announcing the four-nation Africa tour by the team.

The planned talks partly to focus on human rights come months after the US warned, particularly during the walk-to-work protests, that government got it wrong to prohibit peaceful demonstrations.

Last November, Department of State Spokesperson, Ms Victoria Nuland, issued a statement highlighting Washington’s unease over “Uganda’s deteriorating human rights record”. She at the time highlighted police’s decision to confine FDC party leader, Dr Kizza Besigye, to his Kasangati home under colonial-era ‘preventive arrest’ legislation.

The November 2 press statement urged Uganda government to “protect the rights of all of its citizens, including minority groups”.

President Obama’s administration has condemned the MP David Bahati-initiated anti-gay bill that, among other things, proposes death sentence for homosexuals who deliberately infect others with HIV.

It is understood that on the Deputy Secretary’s team will be other powerful Washington politicians, among them top US diplomat for Africa, Amb. Johnnie Carson.

The team, while on the Ugandan leg of the four-nation tour, plans to visit a medical clinic in Entebbe that officials say is “advancing integrated health service delivery, a key part of the US Global Health Initiative”.

Ambassador Burns is the top most Obama administration official to visit Uganda after Ms Maria Otero, the under-secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights as well as Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Ambassador Carson.

According to the itinerary, Burns’ team will be in Africa from today up to Monday and attend the weekend African Union summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia but after stopovers in Ghana and South Sudan.

The South Sudan trip and a meeting its Vice President, Dr Riek Machar, will focus on encouraging “expeditious resolution to outstanding post-Comprehensive Peace Agreement issues”, alongside promoting reconciliation and break the cycle of inter-ethnic violence.

He serves as the principal deputy, adviser, and alter ego to the Secretary of State; serves as acting Secretary of State when called upon; and assists the Secretary in the formulation and conduct of US foreign policy and in giving general supervision and direction to all elements of the Department.

By Tabu Butagira, Daily Monitor

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