By Ofwono Opondo
You have to pity the outgoing US Ambassador to Uganda Natalie E. Brown. Completely – out of lock and step. Goodbye Madam. The embassy issued a negative advisory to US citizens – perhaps considering traveling to Uganda by hyping crime threats, terrorism, and alleged harassment or murder to LGBTQ+ people. In the absence of credible and provable facts on these accusations, the US embassy seems to have resorted to screaming louder.
It’s a hoax laced with blackmail mostly because some phony people in our parliament, religious and cultural institutions have built a mountain from an anthill for a yet non-widespread, if not non-existent practice here thereby maligning Uganda and creating undeserved publicity for the LGBTQ+ movement. Otherwise, homosexuality shouldn’t be dignified with public discussion. It’s akin to the moribund Buganda Lukiiko that banned squeeze dance and women wearing trousers in the 1950s, or Idi Amin banning mini-skirts and sell of pork in public places.
Despite the noise, so far, US and allies have not shown a single proven case of harassment, evictions, and denial of employment or medical treatment to the LGBTQ+, but could be inadvertently helping spurious people access travel and perhaps resident visas to the rumoured easy life in US, Canada, and Europe on the cheap. Uganda wouldn’t be hosting 1.5 million refugees all of them just crossing the borders without visa if it was harassing its citizens.
The advisory read; “Uganda Travel Advisory: The United States has updated its travel advisory for Uganda to reflect the recently enacted anti-LGBTQ+ legislation. Reconsider travel to Uganda due to crime, terrorism and anti-LGBTQ+ legislation.” SURELY even by US standard that has fallen recently; this must be the JOKE of the Decade. Hundreds of US citizens including embassy staff in Uganda travel unrestricted throughout Uganda, yet their embassy is busy advising those outside to reconsider their itinerary.
According to the Global Peace Index (July 2022), the US is number 128 out of 163 countries with frequent headlines of hate crimes, drug abuse, gang activity, gun violence, mass shootings, financial fraud, homicide, robbery, rape, aggravated assault, natural disasters and terrorism, and is a “potentially dangerous place.”
The FBI Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) 2023 program says that the five most hazardous states in the US are Louisiana (537/100,000 people), Mississippi at 413/100,000, Alaska 386/100,000, Arkansas 385/100,000, and New Mexico 369/100,000. From these statistics it’s evident that crime rate in the US is far higher than Uganda. Now, put that in your pipe and smoke it.
Probably African governments too should consider issuing travel advisory due to the malignancy of racism and high gun violence including in kindergartens. Nineteen US States have anti-LGBTQ+ legislations in varying degrees of severity, yet Madam Natalie is so silent. The US embassy in Nsambya is being expanded, and you have to wonder how that truly squares with the alleged high and widespread insecurity.
Ambassador Natalie will be fine when she returns home at the end of tour of duty like E. Michael Southwick, Scott H. DeLisi, Jimmy J. Kolker, and recently Deborah R. Malac who all tried being troublesome and probably most Ugandans no longer remember them. The good thing is no one can shift Uganda from Africa.
During the 19th century, American ships sailed oceans with military expeditions smuggling gold, slaves and other merchandise. Nothing weak or strong deterred them. Those were real American adventurers. Today, a negative advisory over minor issues based mostly on falsehoods by the mightiest nation on earth sounds truly silly.
One wonders why if it’s so bad in Uganda, the US embassy hasn’t closed shop. But Ugandans should travel first within Africa, then China, Russia, Asia, Middle East and Latin America which would save our hard-earned money. Most Ugandans, Africans, and indeed the rest of the world are no longer afraid of US blackmail. Africa is on its long match to freedom and prosperity on its own supported by other non-meddling partners.
Before you advise American citizens still elsewhere to reconsider coming to Uganda, the first option should actually be to evacuate those here to the safety in America so that no harm visits them. Unfortunately you cannot do that because they will not accept as they know that Uganda is safe, secure, welcoming, and enjoyable with good weather, people, coffee, beers, banana, and other foods. And as you may know, some of US citizens have refused to return to America.
Of course much of the blackmail is coming entirely from the faults of our leaders who for a long time now have abused resources and made Africa a poor continent moving with begging bowls in hand. Many Ugandans should be glad you are revoking travel visas of high-profile government figures and you should do more after all much of their errands are wasteful, and for self-validation. Even if the US was God, Africans, especially Ugandans should not ask for sympathy, favour or pity, but just ask it to leave us mostly alone to make mistakes as we build our respective countries into prosperity.
The writer is the Director –Uganda Media Centre