The struggle to eradicate guinea worms is also proving to be a success
By Anthony Mugeere
Former United States President Jimmy Earl Carter is sitting opposite a group of journalists at the Sheraton Kampala Hotel, arms folded on the table. A photographer fusses around him, correcting the angles for the best shot.
Carter winks at the cameraman, nods as if in acknowledgement of his photography skills. He smiles as the photographer takes three instant shots.
"He seems to be an easy-going man," comments a journalist, visibly impressed by Carter's smile. "You can't believe he was once the powerful man in the world"
Carter arrived in Uganda last weekend to attend a workshop organised by Sasakawa Global 2000 (SG2000) an international agricultural NGO operating in 12 African countries. He also toured various agricultural projects in Iganga district.
Ugandans are well accustomed to Carter's support of various projects in this country. Through the Carter Centre, the former US president has supported the eradication of the guinea worm disease in the north of the country. The centre also played a crucial role in the restoration of diplomatic relations between Uganda and Sudan.
"The Carter Centre is involved in peace efforts all over the world," Carter said at the press conference.
"The struggle to eradicate guinea worms is also proving to be a success. We started with over 120,000 cases of the disease but there is only a handful now. We have almost eradicated the disease," he adds.
In January, 1977, Carter defeated incumbent president Gerald Ford to become the 39th President of the United States of America. During his unsullied tenure, amidst the greatest fight in the history of the Congress, the Panama Canal Treaty was signed. The Camp David Accords signalled a new era of hope in the Middle East.
During his administration, Carter tried to reinforce his image as a man of the people. He adopted an informal style of dress and speech in public appearances, held frequent press conferences and reduced the pomp of the presidency.
Israel and Egypt became partners in peace and the Strategic Arms Limitation treaty (SALT) II was signed with the Soviet Union. The US also established diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China.
During his presidency, Carter was often criticised as an ineffective communicator. In foreign policy, his public criticism of other government's human rights records did not always help US diplomacy.
By late 1979, his administration was under the cloud of the Iranian revolution and the hostage-taking at the US Embassy.
He has since been a very active, international mediator and promoter of democracy and human rights. As a roving ambassador of peace, Carter has visited several hot spots around the world to open dialogue between adversaries.
In December 1999, Carter brokered a peace agreement between presidents Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and Omar el-Bashir of the Sudan. Less than two years down the line, Carter is looking forward to the exchange of diplomats between the two countries.
"President Museveni informed me that within a day or two there will be exchange of diplomats between Uganda and Khartoum," Carter said last Thursday.
"We are very interested in seeing peace. The Carter Centre has been involved in trying to mediate the misunderstanding between Uganda and Sudan," he added.
Carter's active participation in things like the Carter Centre, the Atlanta Project, and Habitat for Humanity prove that he is just as committed to helping the poor and disenfranchised as he is to advancing the cause of global unity.
"You can find him building a house for a family in the inner-city, in the company of the most powerful leaders in the world or back home teaching Sunday School at the Maranatha Baptist Church," wrote one political analyst on the CNN. com website.
It is over two decades since he quit the presidency, but Carter is the son of a former Georgia state legislator-turned-peanut farmer. He studied at Georgia Southwestern College and the Georgia Institute of technology before entering the U.S Naval Academy in 1943.
In 1946, Carter graduated and served in the Navy for seven years, mostly on submarines. After the death of his father in 1953, Carter resigned his commission and returned home to Georgia to take over management of the family business. He quickly proved successful as both a businessman and civic leader.
In 1962, Carter won election to Georgia's state Senate as a democrat and was re-elected two years later.
In 1974, he announced his candidacy for the White House. Three years later, he won the presidency.
Carter married Rosalyn Smith in 1946, immediately after his graduation from the US Naval Academy. They had three sons and a daughter.
As first lady, Rosalyn Carter acted as an advisor to her husband. After he was elected president, she took part in the discussions held to select presidential appointees. She also served as honorary head of the president's commission on Mental Health.
Carter loves farming and is also keenly involved in maintaining human rights around the world. His wife Rosalyn and children share many of his passions.