While some EU and US leaders seem to be paying attention to National Unity Platform NUP leader Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine’s calls for sanctions against President Yoweri Kaguta Tibuhaburwa Museveni administration, French President Emmanuel Macron is clearly seeking to strengthen economic ties with Kampala.
When the US recently announced travel restrictions against top security and government officials for reportedly undermining democracy, Bobi Wine urged more international powers to pile pressure on Museveni.
Kampala insists the visa ban is baseless, and so far, no official is known to have been blocked from traveling to the US since secretary of state Antony Blinken’s announcement.
As top US lobbyists continue to read from Bobi Wine’s script of wishes, France’s Macron seems to be putting economics ahead of politics.
In the political chain of things, Macron is looking to use the relative stability under the Museveni government to achieve French economic interests.
Already, Macron is the first high profile world leader to send his good wishes and express France’s readiness to work with the 76-year-old leader in his newest five-year term at the end of which he will have ruled Uganda for four decades.
Museveni will take oath of office on May 12.
“Following your re-election as the President of the Republic of Uganda, I would like to wish you and all Ugandans every success in your new term,” Macron wrote to Museveni.
“I know how much you have cherished the ideal of a modern and independent Uganda since assuming the office of the Head of State in Uganda. I also know to what extent, under your impetus, Uganda has been transformed and has experienced unprecedented economic and human development.”
In his letter, Macron emphasized the role Museveni and Uganda have played in ensuring regional peace.
While Bobi Wine has severally urged the EU and US to review aid geared towards Uganda’s efforts in peace keeping in Somalia, and the South Sudan peace process, among other security interventions, Macron is looking forward to bolster Kampala’s role.
France has for years supported the training of UPDF officers, including those on the Amisom assignment in Somalia.
“I sincerely hope that your new term of office will be an opportunity to deepen the friendship between our two countries, and to develop a relationship of trust in all areas of mutual interest, both political and economic,” Macron continued.
“I, therefore, hope that the coming years will allow us to cultivate our bilateral dialogue on strategic issues for both countries, especially in supporting the peace process in South Sudan, the stabilization of Somalia and the easing of tensions in the great Lakes region.”
OIL: THE CATCH?
At the heart of Macron’s friendship with Museveni is Uganda’s oil.
French oil giant Total is a key player in the sector.
With the first commercial barrel expected to hit the market towards the end of Museveni’s sixth term that begins this month, Macron has promised French expertise and investment in the sector.
“You can count on me to mobilize French expertise and investors to increase the French economic presence in Uganda and thus give substance to this relationship,” Macron pledged.
The French leader has encouraged his Ugandan counterpart and Tanzania’s Samia Hassan Suluhu to fasttrack the construction of the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (Eacop).
The longest electrically heated pipeline in the world, once completed, Eacop will stretch from Hoima to the Tanzanian seaport of Tanga, about 1,440km.
The pipeline will see at least 230,000 barrels of crude oil transported daily.
With the signing of three major agreements between Presidents Museveni and Suluhu in April 2021, the construction of the $3.5bn pipeline is expected to start in coming months.
Eyeing opportunities for French investors and government, Macron has committed to ensure mutual respect between Kampala as opposed to the US which Ugandan officials keeps accusing of making open ‘imperialist’ statements that disregard the ‘sovereignty’ of the impoverished East African nation.
“The spirit of dialogue, mutual esteem and respect will enable us to strengthen our bilateral relationship,” Macron told Museveni.
For Bobi Wine and his supporters, France is clearly off the list of powers they hope will pile pressure on Museveni through sanctions.