There were real tense moments and a near stand-off between Belgian government officials and President Museveni’s security detail during his visit to Brussels a fortnight ago, presidential aides have revealed.
Museveni was in Brussels to attend the fourth EU-Africa summit but ended up skipping all scheduled meetings. The Observer has learnt that Belgian police officials drew the first blood when they curtly refused Uganda’s Special Forces Command personnel to check the official car President Museveni was supposed to use during the visit.
Briefed later on the incident, Museveni reportedly refused to use the unchecked cars. Belgian police authorities claimed they trusted their officials to ensure Museveni’s security. Angry President Museveni, instead, chose to stay in his hotel room from the time he arrived on Tuesday, April 1, till Wednesday, April 2, when he left, cutting short his visit by two days.
During that time, Museveni met Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame and Nigeria’s Goodluck Jonathan in his hotel room. The Observer has also learnt that Museveni used the hotel car instead of the official car on his return journey to the airport. By Thursday, April 3, Museveni was back in Uganda as the summit continued, ending on April 4.
All the president’s scheduled meetings while in Belgium were attended by Foreign Affairs minister Sam Kutesa. Upon the president’s return, Kutesa reportedly summoned the Belgian ambassador to Uganda to explain the Brussels fiasco.
Special Forces Command Spokesman Captain Chris Magezi refused to comment on the matter when approached today.
“It is a diplomatic matter being handled at a higher level,” Magezi told The Observer.
On his part, the Foreign Affairs Spokesman Fred Opolot said: “That is true there was an incident where Belgian police did not want our security to check his [president’s] car. The Belgian ambassador was summoned and a meeting was held and a few issues were discussed.
The Belgian ambassador wrote an apology to the president [and] the issue was resolved,” Opolot said. One of the meetings Museveni skipped was hosted by Belgium’s openly gay Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo.
We understand that Museveni was initially bent on boycotting the Belgium meeting after it was reported that his Kenyan counterpart, Uhuru Kenyatta, who is indicted by the International Criminal Court, would not obtain a visa to travel.
When Museveni learnt that Kenyatta had been denied a visa, he reportedly contacted Rwanda’s Paul Kagame and urged him to join him in boycotting the summit as a sign of protest. The Belgians, however, acted fast and issued a visa to Kenyatta, averting a possible mass boycott by some African leaders.
Nevertheless it was also reported that South African President Jacob Zuma had boycotted the same summit after the wife of Zimbabwean counterpart Robert Mugabe was denied a visa. The summit went ahead anyway, and top of the agenda was a discussion on ways to strengthen relations between the European Union and Africa.
Belgian Prime Minister Di Rupo urged at least 80 European and African leaders attending the summit to respect the rights of minorities, including those victimised for their sexual orientation. Di Rupo cited anti-gay legislation recently enacted in Uganda and Nigeria, describing it as abuse of human rights.
“We cannot tolerate that some [people] are denied their rights and persecuted for their origins, their sexual orientation, their religion and their convictions,” the BBC quoted Di Rupo as having said.
Di Rupo is the second openly gay prime minister in Europe after Iceland’s Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir. In February, President Museveni assented to the Anti-Homosexuality Act (AHA), which prescribes life imprisonment for people convicted of the most extreme homosexual offences. The law is hugely popular among Uganda’s largely anti-gay population, although Western nations and human rights activists condemn it.
Many African countries have retained anti-gay laws, many bequeathed to them by their European colonial masters. Contacted for a comment last weekend, Museveni’s Press Secretary Tamale Mirundi said the president preferred to use his time in Brussels to aance Uganda’s interest by organising meetings with other world leaders.
“When the president goes for an international conference, he has other bilateral meetings on the sideline. What I am telling you is that the president cannot attend two meetings at the same time and so he had to miss some meetings,” Mirundi said.
The London Evening Post reported that gay rights remained off the agenda at the two-day EU-Africa summit.
Source : The Observer