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Friday, March 14, 2008

Stop rebellions, Museveni tells Great Lakes

KAMPALA - Countries of the Great Lakes region must not support rebels against each other, terrorism or the smuggling of weapons, President Museveni has warned. “We don’t want to hear that any country in this region is smuggling weapons into another country for subversion and terrorism.”

M7 was speaking at the opening of the third extra-ordinary meeting of eastern African defence and security ministers in Kampala. The chiefs were preparing to create a joint defence force, or EASBRIG, that can be deployed to stop trouble in the member states. Participants were drawn from Burundi, the Comoros, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Rwanda, the Seychelles, Somalia, Sudan and Uganda.

M7, who heads the force’s summit of presidents, called for deeper African political and economic integration. “We must not let anyone sabotage our shared defence and security strategies,” he added. He also warned against “the dangers of weak, fragile and failed states”, calling for unity as the continent generates “quantitative growth and qualitative transformation.” He condemned divisive politics and urged the participants to speed up the formation of the force so as to strengthen security in the continent. The brigade will be ready by 2010, said Rwanda’s defence minister, Gen. Marcel Gastonia, who heads the council of ministers. But he urged member states to fulfill their financial obligations. Earlier, Museveni had argued that Africans needed to handle their own security, which was why four other such forces would be created across Africa.

Eastern Africa, according to Museveni, is the most challenging in terms of security. He cited the border of Eritrea and Ethiopia, Somalia, Darfur and the Comoros. “I have been engaging my brothers President Isaias of Eritrea and Prime Minister Zenawi to resolve that issue Those brothers know my views.” Commenting on Darfur, Museveni said Arabs and Africans could live together despite their different cultures if “fundamental issues” were addressed. Citing the violent ethnic riots between Chinese, Indians and Malays that nearly tore Malaysia apart in 1969, Museveni argued: “They sat down and found a win-win formula that has seen all the groups work together to transform their country.”

Turning to other hot spots, Museveni noted that Somalia’s problem was not tribal or religious, but under-development, which he said cut across Africa. “We also need to help Comoros which is being disturbed by mercenaries. We must uphold the comprehensive peace agreement in Sudan. We must cement the achievements in Burundi.” He criticised people such as MPs who, he said, frustrate investment in Africa. “These MPs waste so much time. They don’t know their historical mandate.”
He said the political class treated business people like criminals and yet, according to him, investors bring money and jobs. M7 said civil servants were only famous for going to Washington and other capitals to look for aid. “These people belong to a group I call Uganda Beggars Association,” triggering laughter.

He attacked a concept of sustainable development. “It is fifty years since independence. Can you imagine a woman with a sustainable pregnancy? A child should be born, grow into a teenager and eventually an adult. Why are we not developing to the next stage towards qualitative transformation?” he asked.

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