KAMPALA- The United Kingdom Foreign Secretary, Mr Boris Johnson, is expected in the country today for talks with President Museveni on regional security and humanitarian crises ahead of a planned May conference on Somalia in London.
Top on the agenda for tonight’s meeting at State House Entebbe, Foreign Minister Sam Kutesa said, will be the volatile situation in South Sudan and Somalia.
“He (Johnson) will arrive at 7pm (today) and hold a meeting with the President and myself and fly out the next day,” Mr Kutesa said last night, adding that the UK Foreign Minister’s maiden trip aims to strengthen the Commonwealth family.
Uganda is one of the 52 Commonwealth member nations and in 2007 hosted the group’s heads of government meeting, better known by the acronym Chogm, which the Queen attended.
Before his July 13, 2016 appointment as UK government’s chief diplomat, Mr Johnson had unfavourable views about the Commonwealth of Nations, and wrote in a 2002 article published by UK’s Daily Telegraph newspaper that: “It is said that the Queen has come to love the Commonwealth, partly because it supplies her with regular cheering crowds of flag-waving piccaninnies; and one can imagine that [former British Prime Minister Tony] Blair, twice victor abroad but enmired at home, is similarly seduced by foreign politeness.”
While running for Mayor of London in 2008, Mr Johnson apologised for those uncharitable characterisations that some of his critics said bordered on racial slur.
“I am sorry for what was previously written as it does not reflect what is in my heart,” he said, according to the UK Guardian newspaper.
Two days to today’s Uganda visit, the Foreign Secretary in a statement published on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website, announced that he “looks forward to a strengthened partnership with the Commonwealth to deliver prosperity and economic growth”.
The theme of this year’s Commonwealth Day, celebrated every March 13, was ‘A Peace-Building Commonwealth’ in what London said demonstrated the “relevance of the network in tackling the shared challenges we face”.
“It is an organisation dedicated to developing free and democratic societies, and to promoting peace and prosperity,” Mr Johnson was quoted to have said in the Monday statement.
Last night, Mr Kutesa said the visiting Foreign Secretary is working with individual member countries through the Commonwealth fraternity, a grouping of former British colonies and protectorates, to complement African Union efforts in addressing regional challenges.
The duo will exchange ideas on how to bolster the new government in Somalia where Uganda has the largest troop numbers under the AU-led peace-keeping mission to stabilise the Horn of Africa country.
This newspaper understands that their discussions will also touch on the fate of foreign militaries in the country, officials familiar with the programme said.
Another item for Mr Johnson and President Museveni to discuss is possible solutions to the restive South Sudan situation pushing thousands of refugees to Uganda, which is now the largest refugee-hosting country in Africa and third overall in the world.
The Foreign Secretary’s trip today comes a month after Baroness Anelay, the UK minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, praised Uganda’s progressive refugee policy during a two-day visit.
Since 2014, the UK says it has provided £48.5m to the refugee response in Uganda, making the UK the second largest bilateral donor in this area.
Much of the support enabled refugees get food, clean water, vaccination, shelter, and non-food items for sufficiency.