US blames Great Lakes states presidents for ‘power grabs’

US Ambassador cited “a widening disregard for democratic processes” in the Great Lakes region.

Wednesday March 23 2016

Samantha Power, US Ambassador to the United Nations, speaks to the media after attending a briefing in the Security Council on September 16, 2013 at UN headquarters in New York.  She has blamed leaders of Great Lakes states for ‘blatant power grabs’. PHOTO | AFP

Samantha Power, US Ambassador to the United Nations, speaks to the media after attending a briefing in the Security Council on September 16, 2013 at UN headquarters in New York. She has blamed leaders of Great Lakes states for ‘blatant power grabs’. PHOTO | AFP  

By KEVIN J. KELLEY
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New York, Tuesday

The top United States diplomat at the United Nations on Tuesday condemned “increasingly blatant power grabs” by leaders of countries in Central and East Africa.

In remarks to the UN Security Council, US Ambassador Samantha Power cited “a widening disregard for democratic processes” in the Great Lakes region. Repressive rule “threatens to undermine the political, security and developmental progress achieved over the last two decades, and it imperils the progress still to come,” she warned.

The Obama administration cabinet member specifically rebuked the presidents of Rwanda, Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi.

Ambassador Power expanded on previous US statements of opposition to extensions of presidential term limits in Burundi and Rwanda. She also reiterated the Obama administration’s criticisms of the conduct of Uganda’s recent elections, and she urged the DRC to avoid the course taken by the leaders of those three neighbouring countries.

The US envoy prefaced her comments on Rwanda by praising the “remarkable” economic gains the country has made during the tenure of President Paul Kagame. But, she added, Mr Kagame’s “record on protecting and promoting civil and political rights is less impressive.”

STABILITY THREATENED

Rwanda’s stability is threatened by “the continued absence of political space.” Uganda’s elections last month highlighted a lack of “democratic accountability” on the part of its leaders, she said. Opposition figures have been detained “without legal justification,” Ambassador Power charged, adding that “President Museveni’s actions contravene the rule of law.’’

DRC President Joseph Kabila “appears to be considering a similar path,” the US diplomat told the Security Council. “There is no credible reason that DRC election would not occur on schedule,” she said, referring to reports that voting may be postponed beyond November of this year.

Mr Kabila has also not yet indicated whether he will attempt to overturn a constitutional provision barring a president from seeking a third term in office.

On Burundi, Ambassador Power noted embattled President Pierre Nkurunziza’s recently stated commitments to free political prisoners and take other “encouraging” steps, but “rhetoric is not enough,” she pointedly added.

“The United States has historically been a strong partner of all four of these countries,” the envoy said. But, she cautioned, “these partnerships are not tied to any particular leader but to the people in these countries.

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