By Cyprian Musoke and Joyce Namutebi
PRESIDENT Yoweri Museveni has blamed the conflicts in the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan on selfish and opportunistic politicians, who take advantage of weak state structures.
He also blamed the problem on meddling by foreigners.
President Museveni was opening the 4th meeting of the 2nd session of the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) in Kampala on Tuesday.
Stressing the need for the region to unite and ease trade among its people, Museveni said politicians who fan tribal and religious acrimony are sabotaging their people’s prosperity since the people depend on each other. He said such opportunists must be exposed through ideological orientation.
“Peace and integration are a sine qua non for development. South Sudan had started settling, but now there are challenges, so is Congo, Central African Republic and Somalia. These are fuelled mainly by ideological mistakes,” he said.
He urged the EALA to organise seminars to “dissect this rubbish of so-called conflicts based on tribes and religion”.
“They are based on that ideological mistake. When there was conflict in South Sudan, so many Ugandans, Kenyans, Ethiopians and Eritreans were there. If tribe is important, what were they doing there because their tribes are not there? They were looking for wealth. So, this thing should be exposed ideologically,” he added.
He castigated western diplomats, who interfere by taking sides, thus creating confusion.
“Even these foreigners invite them at their embassies and give them tea. Tell them to go away because they have nothing useful to add,” he said.
Another cause of instability, he said, is indiscipline on part of some of the political actors.
“Even if you are fighting a war, why should you rape women? Whether you are a rebel or in government, raping women, looting, killing noncombatants is wrong. These are crimes against humanity. I am glad that in East Africa we have strong structures. We wish those structures can also extend to Congo, South Sudan and Somalia,” he said.
On the development of infrastructure in the region, Museveni said Tanzania’s President Jakaya Kikwete will be spearheading the drive for infrastructure development for the central corridor and that they had agreed on reducing the cost of doing business between the Port of Dar-esalaam and Lake Victoria.
He outlined the decisions and gains made in the northern corridor, including implementing the non-tariff barriers that have reduced the number of days for moving goods from Mombasa to Kampala from 18 to between three and four and for Kigali from 22 to six days.
He also said the single tourist visa had been implemented and will cost $100 a ticket, to be shared among the region.
Museveni also said plans are underway to start the construction of the standard railway gauge line from Mombasa to Malaba, Malaba to Nimule and from Malaba–Kampala-Kabale to Katuna in Rwanda.
Responding to issues raised by the EALA speaker Margaret Zziwa, the President said civil servants had sabotaged the Soroti Flying School by underpaying instructors.
He said he had directed that their pay be raised to that of private airlines. He welcomed the idea of the school being taken over by the EAC.
In her remarks, Zziwa acknowledged President Museveni’s contribution towards ensuring that peace and security are maintained at the EAC and the ICGLR regions.
“We fully support all your initiatives to deploy forces to conflict-prone zones to ensure peace is maintained. The recent deployment of UPDF in Juba, South Sudan is timely since this was part of the agreement during the Nairobi IGAD talks, but more fundamentally because Uganda has an obligation to stop the conflict from degenerating any further,” she said.