Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni said on Sunday that the United States was "overestimating" its importance after Washington announced that it was withdrawing Uganda from a major trade agreement because of human rights violations.
Last week, Washington announced that Uganda, along with the Central African Republic, Gabon and Niger, would be excluded from the list of sub-Saharan African countries benefiting from the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) from January 2024.
The African Growth and Opportunity Act, which dates back to 2000, allows African countries to export a wide range of products to the United States duty-free. This preferential trade treatment is, however, subject to a series of conditions in terms of political pluralism, respect for human rights and the rule of law, and the fight against corruption.
In a letter to Congress, US President Joe Biden accused the Ugandan government of human rights violations, which has been the focus of fierce criticism from human rights groups, the UN and Western countries since the adoption in May of a law dubbed the "Anti-Homosexuality Act 2023".
But Yoweri Museveni told Ugandans on Sunday "not to be too worried about the recent actions of the US government to discourage their companies from investing in Uganda and the removal of Uganda from the AGOA list".
"Some of these actors in the Western world overestimate themselves and underestimate the freedom fighters in Africa", he continued on X (ex-Twitter).
"In Uganda, we can succeed in our growth and our transformation objectives, even if some players do not support us", the President said. One of his senior advisers, Odrek Rwabwogo, said on Wednesday that the government remained open to discussions with Washington, but felt that this exclusion would hurt "Ugandan farmers and small business owners".
"Even if Ugandan trade via AGOA was insignificant, the growth of our exports to the United States and other partners was an important pillar of our economic strategy", stressed Odrek Rwabwogo.
As soon as the "anti-homosexuality law" was passed, Joe Biden called for its immediate repeal and threatened to reduce US aid and investment in Uganda.
The law provides for heavy penalties for people who have homosexual relations or "promote" homosexuality. In August, the World Bank announced the suspension of new loans to Uganda.