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U.S.-Africa Summit: President Obama Should Dis-Invite Uganda Dictator Gen. Museveni

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Dear President Obama:

I commend you for launching the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit which you'll host from August 4 to 6, bringing dozens of African presidents together to Washington for the first time to meet top American officials and business executives.

The summit gives the African continent the high-level visibility it deserves and highlight business and investment opportunities. It allows U.S. and African executives to explore and even conclude mutually beneficial deals. The gathering also shows the world that the African story shouldn't always be about conflicts and disasters.

After all, six of the world's 10 fastest-growing economies in the past decade have been in Africa.

What you're launching should become an annual summit emulated by future U.S. presidents even after you depart from office.

At the same time, Mr. President, as you know, the major impediment to economic and social development in many African countries is lack of good governance; many countries are governed by dictators or presidents-for-life who have presided over ruinous regimes for decades. The presence of some notorious ones distracts from this major event.

Indeed, when you visited Ghana in 2009, one of the most memorable lines from your Accra speech to the Parliament, meant for the entire continent, was: "Africa doesn't need strong men; it needs strong institutions."

The August Summit is an excellent moment in history to change the narrative of U.S. engagement with Africa: to recognize leaders of African countries that are democratically governed, or those that have embarked on building the critical institutions you referred to while in Ghana.

These countries include: South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Mozambique, Ghana, Senegal, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Tanzania and others. Even Kenya, where President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Deputy President William Ruto are both being tried by the ICC on connection with violence connected to the 2007 vote, has come a long way from the days when it was a one-party autocracy.

Sadly, many of the autocrats who have held on too long to power and caused much death and destruction are also coming. The two individuals who epitomize destructive autocracy who will be in town are Rwanda's Gen. Paul Kagame and Uganda's Gen. Yoweri Museveni.

Kagame has been in power for 20 years now and exploits Western guilt over the 1994 genocide to get away with tyranny and human rights abuses.

Museveni has been in power for 28, several of them through rigged elections and intimidation of voters by his armed forces.

Mr. President, both these leaders still deserve to be dis-invited even at this late hour.

As a result of the numerous invasions of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) by Gen. Kagame's and Gen. Museveni's respective armies, primarily to plunder the country's resources, estimates of Congolese who perished from the wars, diseases, and displacements range from five million to seven million.

For its army's role in the atrocities, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in 2005 found Uganda liable for war crimes in Congo and awarded $6 billion to $10 billion in reparations; not a dime has been paid.

Following the ICJ's ruling, Gen. Museveni was concerned about possible criminal indictment when the International Criminal Court (ICC) launched its own inquiry into the Uganda army's role in Congo's calamity. The Wall Street Journal reported on June 8, 2006, that Gen. Museveni personally contacted then-U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan and asked him to block the investigation. Essentially, Museveni is an un-indicted war criminal.

More recently, Gen. Museveni and Gen. Kagame trained, armed, and commanded the notorious M23, a brutal proxy army that caused much destruction in the Congo, committed massacres and mass rapes and seized the City of Goma in November 2012; the army was accompanied by Rwanda's regular army.

Mr. President, the tide began to change after you personally telephoned Gen. Kagame in December 2012 and asked that he halt his support of M23. Even then, M23 had to be defeated by a special UN intervention brigade made mostly of Tanzanian and South African troops.

Gen. Kagame was soon in the international news headlines again when his government was implicated in the December 31, 2013 assassination of an exiled political opposition leader, Col. Patrick Karegeya, who was strangled in a South African hotel room. Most recently Kagame declared that people suspected of being regime opponents should be shot on sight.

Meanwhile prominent opposition leader Ms. Victoire ingabire Umuhoza remains imprisoned, convicted on what her supporters maintain are trumped up "terrorism" and "genocide denial" charges.

Gen. Kagame is creating the kind of political combustibility that some observers believe may spark another ethnic conflagration in Rwanda.

In Uganda, Gen. Museveni has once again mounted a campaign to demonize the LGBT community, hoping this will win him votes in the 2016 presidential election; whipping up hatred towards Gays by relatively conservative voters in Uganda.

He signed an anti-LGBT law on February 24 that includes a penalty of life-in-prison for members of the LGBT community, now that the original call for death by hanging has been eliminated. While it was being debated in Uganda's Parliament, you referred to it as "odious."

The new law also includes prison sentences of up to seven years for people, including landlords and employers, who don't report gay people whom they know to the police or security forces. When a reporter asked Gen. Museveni about whether journalists in the course of doing stories were also obligated to expose members of the LGBT community, Museveni told the reporter not doing so would be like witnessing a murder and not reporting it.

Gen. Museveni made several offensive and disparaging comments against the LGBT community during the same February 24 press conference.

He claimed Ugandan scientists, in consultation with unnamed Western experts, had determined that while there were genetic factors, homosexuality was primarily "triggered" by how people were "nurtured."

"Yes, genetically he may have some small-small things which are not in good order," he said, of homosexuals, "but if he's not nurtured in that way -- if he's not encouraged in that way he would be normal, in spite of whatever little" genetic abnormality.

"Can somebody be homosexual purely by nature without nurture? The answer is 'no,'" Gen. Museveni said.

"No study has shown that you can be homosexual purely by nature," he also said. "Since nurture is the main cause of homosexuality then society can do something about it to discourage the trends. That is why I have agreed to sign the Bill."

He added:

So why don't we remove this nurture. The society removes this nurture. Instead of the way the Western societies they are presenting it that there are two options. It's like a menu. You go to a hotel, you can choose -- either this or that...

"Even now I have not fully understood it," Museveni said, of homosexuality. "That you can fail to be attracted to all these beautiful women here and elsewhere, and you are attracted to a man," Museveni said.

Museveni claimed in Uganda most people who engaged in same-sex activity were "prostitutes for money."

"They are normal people. They are just recruited because of economic hardship they go into that."

One of the most chilling response Gen. Museveni gave was when a reporter asked if he would be willing to meet with members of the LGBT community.

"We shall discuss it among ourselves and see the best. Because somebody must meet them to rehabilitate them and to study them," Gen. Museveni said, laughing. "Yes, and also to study them," he added. "Scientists should meet them, study them, take their blood, look at their genetics. So definitely we need to meet them."

Not surprisingly, the hostile political environment promoted by Gen. Museveni has had adverse consequences.

The Guardian (U.K.) has reported that between December 2013 when the law was enacted by Parliament, and May 2014, attacks against LGBT community were 162, compared to only eight in almost all of 2013. This represents a 20-fold increase, although The Guardian's headline says 10-fold. The Guardian reported suicides, attempted lynchings, homes burned down, evictions, dismissals from jobs and other harassment.

Mr. President, this isn't the first time Gen. Museveni has scapegoated the gay community for politics. In 2009, two years before the 2011 presidential election, the hate-campaign was carried out mainly by acolytes like Member of Parliament David Bahati. Tabloid publications such as Uganda's Rolling Stone printed photos of allegedly-gay Ugandans on its front page under the headline "hang them." It's believed that this incitement led to the January 26, 2011 murder of David Kato, a leading Ugandan gay rights advocate.

Mr. President, Gen. Museveni is a master of using bigotry and manipulation for political ends.

In the mid 1990s, aiming to ingratiate himself with certain elements in the U.S., here's what he told a writer in an interview published in The Atlantic Monthly Magazine's September 1994 edition (Vol. 274 Issue 3 page 22): "I have never blamed the whites for colonizing Africa: I have never blamed these whites for taking slaves. If you are stupid, you should be taken a slave."

He has never apologized for these extremely ugly comments. Yet he has the audacity to come here next week as your guest and to be hosted by many other prominent African Americans, including members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC).

A few years after his perverted comments about slavery, Gen. Museveni had praise for Hitler, as reported in a Ugandan weekly newspaper, The Shariat (Vol. II No.15, April 15-21, 1998), where he's quoted saying: "As Hitler did to bring Germany together, we should also do it here. Hitler was a smart guy, but I think he went a bit too far by wanting to conquer the world."

So in addition to ruinous domestic and regional tyranny and militarism: Gen. Museveni has also insulted African Americans and Africans in general; Jews; as well as members of the LGBT community.

The U.S.-Africa Summit is a great opportunity to dramatically transform and elevate American engagement with Africa.

Mr. President, an odious autocrat like Gen. Museveni does not deserve to attend.

Note: Readers who believe President Obama should disinvite Gen. Museveni can sign a Petition on Change.org.