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Wednesday,September 30,2020 06:29 AM

Who is Uganda’s best diplomat?

By Vision Reporter

Added 14th April 2009 03:00 AM

By Kintu Nyago

Andrew Mwenda exaggerated by asserting that Olara Otunnu was “the most prominent diplomat Uganda has ever produced” , in the article “Rugunda Rising or Falling” published in the local media in December.

By Kintu Nyago

Andrew Mwenda exaggerated by asserting that Olara Otunnu was “the most prominent diplomat Uganda has ever produced” , in the article “Rugunda Rising or Falling” published in the local media in December.

By Kintu Nyago

Andrew Mwenda exaggerated by asserting that Olara Otunnu was “the most prominent diplomat Uganda has ever produced” , in the article “Rugunda Rising or Falling” published in the local media in December.

Although Otunnu is a fine orator, charismatic and a celebrated individual, he was never Uganda’s “most prominent diplomat”. In my view, our most prominent diplomat has been President Yoweri Museveni followed by Milton Obote.

Otunnu, on two occasions, had the opportunity to display his diplomatic skills, while serving Uganda (he is now an Ivorian). That is under the Obote II regime, as Uganda’s permanent representative to the United Nations, and as foreign minister during the military reign of the two Okello’s (Tito and Bazilio), in 1985. Actually, Gen. Tito Okello was Otunnu’s uncle.

On both occasions, he operated under constraining circumstances. For following Idi Amin’s misrule and removal, Uganda under Obote II and the Okellos operated at the very margins of global influence. Moreover Otunnu lacked the required political clout within the Obote II regime, unlike say Sarfiq Arian, to significantly influence events. Arian, an old Obote ally, was concurrently cabinet minister and ambassador to both London and the EU and he reported directly to the president.

Otunnu’s diplomatic legacy at the UN will most likely be remembered for failing the candidature of Tanzania’s Salim Ahmed Salim for the post of UN Secretary General.

Obote ordered him to do so. Salim, a developing world’s lead diplomat, symbolised Mwalimu Nyerere’s foreign policy, informed by political morality.

Without Nyerere’s resolve to topple Amin, Obote and Otunnu would never have assumed leadership roles in Uganda in 1980.

As foreign minister during the Okellos junta, Otuunu supported an incoherent military dictatorship. He was a key actor in the failed Nairobi Peace Talks, between the junta and the NRM/A, hosted by Kenya’s President Moi. During these talks, Otunnu was regularly publicly contradicted, embarrassed and occasionally slapped by less suave senior military members of his delegation.

Obote understood the centrality of international relations in connection to his regime’s survival. Indeed he offered himself the foreign policy related foreign and finance ministerial portfolios during his second rule.

However, his diplomatic skills got best displayed during the period leading to his second coming. For then Obote managed to convince both Nyerere and Britian that he was Uganda’s only hope, following the political incoherence associated with the UNLF.

Do recall that internally, Obote’s UPC and Kikosi Maluum functionaries notably Paulo Muwanga, Oyite Ojok and Chris Rwakasisi, pivotally contributed to the violent instability that culminated into the fall of the Lule and Binaisa administrations. Hence Tanzania guaranteed Obote’s second coming, while Britain ensured this regime’s acceptance by Western governments and multilateral funding institutions, the IMF and World Bank. This explains why the Commonwealth elections observer mission legitimised the UPC massive rigging of the 1980 elections.

President Museveni has had numerous occasions to display his superb diplomatic skills. For instance after the Cold War, he charmed over America’s Ronald Reagan to appreciate that although he was a young African revolutionary, informed by the 10- Point Programme, he was an ally.

Earlier, at Kidepo, Museveni had similarly convinced conservative British minister, Linda Chalker. Both had been highly skeptical towards the NRM. Soon after Labour’s Clare Short became responsive, it resulted into generous USAID and DFID support.

At a confrontational level, Museveni faced Britain’s Tony Blair during the Malta debate. Blair had opposed Uganda’s hosting the 2007 CHOGM, based on flimsy biases. Fortunately, Museveni won this debate and Uganda hosted CHOGM.

The writer is a political analyst

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Who is Uganda’s best diplomat?

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