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Open letter: Ugandan petitions Obama over Whitaker

Published date:
Thursday, 16 April 2009

The White House

Washington D.C.

Mr. President,

The world has noticed your administration’s outrage at corporations that have continued to abuse public trust by engaging in financial impropriety in arrogant disregard of public sentiments during difficult economic times. Your government’s swift response to corporate greed and irresponsibility has forced companies like Citigroup to pare down its fleet of five jets to two and to back away from purchasing a new $50 million jet.

In Africa, where we like to remember that you have strong family roots, the Uganda Government which cannot finance its own annual budget without the help of donors, purchased the latest model Gulf Stream jet for its chief executive to replace the last generation model. The older jet is currently stuck in the hangars of our small national airport awaiting a buyer in this very slow international market.

Meantime, impoverished Ugandan taxpayers must fund the maintenance of two Gulf Stream jets for its ruler of 23 years, President Yoweri Museveni. Unfortunately Mr. President, the country is not blessed with a leader such as yourself who acts to assuage public outrage. Instead, it is the President who fuels outrage by engaging in blatant financial impropriety like encouraging the purchase of the aforementioned jets at the expense of important social development programmes. He currently presides over a government that is patently corrupt and iniquitous.

The reason that this becomes a matter for your attention, Mr. President, is that US corporate greed enables Africa’s strongmen to continue impoverishing their populations. It is the work of influential US lobbyists to ensure that responsible governments such as yours are kept from learning the truth or are kept too busy to do anything about the truth.

We realise, Mr. President, that it is difficult to compare our two countries at any level but the comparison here is required to highlight the absurdities and lack of prioritisation of the Uganda Government in exercising its executive function. While the USA has a per capita income of approximately US$37,500, Uganda with an estimated population of 30 million people has an average per capita income of US$300. In 2006 the World Bank reported that 31% of Ugandans live below the national poverty line.

This past January, Mr. President, you imposed new ethical rules designed to diminish the influence of lobbyists. This included the decision that barred top White House aides who leave government from lobbying. A lobbyist that joins your administration also is forbidden from working on issues they previously were involved with. Any person who leaves the administration will be barred from lobbying the government for two years. You stated that “We need to close the revolving door that lets lobbyists come into government freely and lets them use their time in public service to promote their own interests when they leave.”

In that regard we strongly protest the brazen manner in which Ms. Rosa Whitaker of The Whitaker Group has used her former position in the US Government to successfully solicit consulting contracts from African dictators like Yoweri Museveni of Uganda. Rosa Whitaker, CEO of The Whitaker Group, a Washington, DC-based consultancy that specialises in trade and investment in Africa, previously served as the first Assistant US Trade Representative for Africa in the administrations of Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton. In that capacity, she developed and implemented the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) and other trade policy initiatives towards Africa.

Upon leaving the Department of Trade, she promptly formed a consulting firm that offers lobbying services to African presidents seeking to get access to US markets and the favour of US Government. Her contract in Uganda, which was never approved by Parliament, has remained active for half a decade and her prime role is to build an agreeable political image for Uganda’s corrupt government in Washington DC.

Uganda’s Parliament is currently investigating why government paid The Whitaker Group US $300,000 to arrange various deals, including compiling of a dossier on your administration. Press reports indicate that the group’s priority assignments for 2009, include creating a bond between President Museveni’s government and your administration and delivering a report on your policy strategy, including basic details like your key staff and advisors. Ms. Whitaker is also tasked to publish an article on ‘Uganda’s success and visionary leadership’ in influential magazines such as Foreign Policy, Newsweek or Time.

Mr. President, the impoverished Ugandan taxpayer supports two fully staffed foreign missions in the United States at an annual cost of millions of dollars, yet Ms. Whitaker is paid handsomely to duplicate their role by exploiting her former position within the US Government.

Ms. Whitaker and the Whitaker Group represent the face of Washington that you campaigned to change. Our humble prayer Mr. President, is that you will extend the policies of corporate responsibility and political lobbying beyond the borders of the United States to the actions of US lobbyists and corporations that have exported greed and irresponsibility to alleviate the suffering of people living in poor nations like Uganda. You will find many allies among African populations within and outside the USA for this cause.

By Anne Mugisha,

Deputy Secretary, International and Regional Affairs, Forum for Democratic Change, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

“ Latest AGOA Trade Data currently available on

Click here to view a sector profile of Uganda's bilateral trade with the United States, disaggregated by total exports and imports, AGOA exports and GSP exports.

Other regularly updated trade statistics on include: (click each link to view)

  • AGOA-Beneficiary Countries’ AGOA and GSP Trade Aggregates

  • AGOA Trade by Industry Sector

  • Apparel Trade under AGOA’s Wearing Apparel Provisions

  • Latest Apparel Quotas under AGOA

  • Bilateral Trade Data for all AGOA-eligible countries individually.

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