Unbelievably, the time for me to depart the Pearl of Africa has arrived. In the last year of my tour, it has been a delight to reflect on the 60 years of partnership between the United States and the Ugandan people.
Over nearly three years, I travelled throughout the country, taking in its natural beauty and meeting many Ugandans with whom we work and who benefit from the numerous projects and programs we support.
I was inspired by the resilience and innovation of Ugandans in the face of many challenges, especially among the country’s many youth. I noted Uganda’s efforts to combat security threats on its borders and in the neighbourhood, and I appreciated Uganda’s determination to be a stabilizing influence in the region.
I have also enjoyed supporting, often through U.S. government-sponsored programs and sometimes (often!) my own pocketbook, the incredible artists and entrepreneurs who create and showcase wonderful Ugandan art, fashion, and crafts.
As we reflected on the 60 years of our partnership with the Ugandan people, we focused on the impact of our engagement. I am proud of the Ugandans we sent to the United States on exchange programs who returned to strengthen institutions in education, academia, public management, health, civil society, and business.
I am proud of the significant strides we have made with Ugandans to combat the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the country. I am proud of the capacity we have built in the agriculture sector to make crops more resilient to the effects of climate change. I am proud that U.S. contributions bolstered Uganda in continuing to welcome refugees into the country. I am proud of my support for Uganda’s commitment to fighting terrorism and creating peace in the region.
I am proud of the contributions we have made to stem the tide of disease outbreaks and increase Ugandans’ access to quality healthcare, increasing the number of healthy babies born, people treated for TB, children vaccinated against preventable illness, and more.
As we started to emerge from the lockdowns into more normalcy, Uganda faced a Sudan Ebola virus outbreak. We supported the government and many health partners to contain the virus. Uganda has faced drought in some parts of the country, flooding in others, and cholera and hunger and many other challenges. The good news is that the country is full of intelligent, creative, and innovative young people eager to contribute to the development of their country.
This country of diverse individuals, the vast majority of them under the age of 35, offers promise for the future if it provides all its people with the space to question, explore, invent, create, participate fully, and live free of fear and if it stems the tide of corruption and holds officials accountable for mismanaged resources.
There are, of course, issues we disagree about.
My tour started just prior to the presidential elections when 54 people were killed by security forces. To this day, there has been no accountability for their deaths. Over the past year, my government has raised concerns about corruption and clearly stated our concern that the Anti-homosexuality Act not only infringes on the human rights of individuals but encourages others do to the same.
I’m told there’s a Buganda proverb that says “Ab’Oluganda bita bikoonagana naye tebyatika. Brothers/Sisters are like gourds, they clash against each other but do not break.” We have been with Ugandans for more than six decades, and we continue to share the hopes and dreams of the Ugandan people.
As I leave this beautiful country, I feel inspired by the many young people I met doing extraordinary things in challenging times, and I hope conditions prevail so those dreams can be realized.