Uganda leader blames developed world for IGAD drought

KAMPALA – Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has lashed out at developed countries, blaming them for the droughts plaguing Africa and calling for funding for the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), a regional trade bloc.

"This is a new form of aggression by the developed countries, which we should resist very, very fiercely," he told an IGAD drought conference held in Kampala on Thursday.

"This is due to uncontrolled industrial policies. But to a great extent, developed nations are the major polluters and should take responsibility and cut their emissions," Museveni said.

"We should collectively demand justice," he added.

The Ugandan leader said periodic droughts had been increasing – both in severity and frequency – in the IGAD region, adding that the impact had been exacerbated by desertification, land degradation, global warming and climate change.

This, he went on, had caused recurrent drought cycles in arid and semi-arid areas and increased the likelihood of drought in areas that never used to be prone to the phenomenon.

Museveni cited Uganda, which is currently recovering from drought that hit most parts of the country, as an example.

"Uganda used to be one of the wettest countries on earth, with some parts having 2500 millimeters of rain per annum," he noted.

The IGAD region – which covers Uganda, Kenya, South Sudan, Djibouti, Somalia, Eritrea and Sudan – boasts a combined population of some 214 million people.

In 2013, IGAD launched the Drought, Disaster and Sustainability Initiative, a 15-year strategy aimed at fighting drought through increased investment and by linking humanitarian aid with development assistance.

It is being funded by IGAD member countries under the auspices of several donors, including the World Bank, the African Development Bank and Germany.

Africa's last devastating drought occurred in 2010/11.

-Funding-

The Ugandan leader partially blamed IGAD countries, including Uganda, for having made "strategic mistakes."

He pointed to delays in industrialization, inadequate electrification, primitive agriculture, land fragmentation and destruction of wetlands and forests.

President Museveni also took issue with the peasantry.

"They want more agricultural land – and in so doing, they encroach on the forests and wetlands," he said. "I know Africa is known for conservation, but conserving peasants is not a good idea."

He stressed the need to find a solution to the ongoing destruction of wetlands, which he described as a "real danger."

"A win-win way to get people out of the wetlands and forest must be found through adequate funding," Museveni said. "We need to find a way of bribing the peasants so they get out of these wetlands."

Recently, the World Bank's board of directors earmarked $122 million to strengthen the resilience of pastoralists in Kenya and Uganda.

According to Mustapha Ndiaye, World Bank Country Representative in Uganda, Ethiopia, South Sudan and Somalia will be included in the initiative's second phase.

Ndiaye noted that the $122 million included a $5-million grant to IGAD to strengthen the trading bloc's mandate to coordinate drought-resilience in the Horn of Africa.

"This contribution is to finance a number of activities that will contribute to ending emergencies in the IGAD region," he said.

"We underscore the need to work on a long-term and systematic approach to building the resilience of vulnerable countries and populations and creating additional economic opportunities for them," he added.

-Bad conflicts-

U.N. Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator Kyung-wha Kang said armed conflict in the IGAD region posed an obstacle to fighting drought.

"Insecurity and active conflict in some parts of the region are undermining progress in all areas, including the resilience agenda," Kang told summit participants.

The U.N. official noted that IGAD states were collectively hosting some 1.7 million refugees.

"More than 3.5 million people are displaced within their own countries," she said.

In South Sudan, the U.N. and its partners have embarked on a three-year strategy aimed at addressing immediate humanitarian needs, building resilience and development services.

"All this was put on hold when violence broke out in mid-December 2013," said Kang. "Conflict must end for resilience to take off."

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