Submitted September 21, 2001.
Ssempala pledges Uganda’s full support
By Carl Bialik
Edith Ssempala, Uganda’s ambassador to the United States, pledges full cooperation and collaboration with the U.S. in its hunt for the perpetrators of the September 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, she told The Monitor Wednesday. "Uganda will do everything necessary," Ssempala said. "Uganda has been a victim of terrorism. The United States has been helping us with our local terrorism, and we have been collaborating. We will continue to collaborate, because this is a threat to all of us."
Ssempala did not think the attacks, and the retaliation President George W. Bush has pledged, would cause the U.S. to turn away from African affairs, because she sees a united war against terrorism around the world. "I think that the U.S. realizes that terrorism is a world phenomenon," she said. "It is not just eliminating bin Laden. Terrorists are tough, like drugs. They pass through almost everywhere. That is how they spread their terrorism. The U.S. cannot do intelligence alone. Some of our countries can contribute to really sharing whatever we know in that regard."
In fact, Ssempala has long felt the U.S. did not give sufficient attention to terrorism in East Africa. "When I talk to friends here in the U.S., even at the State Department, sometimes I feel like we have been fighting a lonely war against terrorism, especially terrorism from Sudan," Ssempala said.
Ssempala admires the U.S. for its unity in the aftermath of the It is a reaction she would have liked to see in Uganda following terrorist attacks by the Lord’s Resistance Army and the Allied Democratic Forces.
"We have had terrorists in northern Uganda abducting children, and mutilating people, so we’ve been at it, fighting against it," Ssempala said. "In the case of Uganda, when that happens, it becomes like politics. People are telling us, ‘Negotiate with Kony.’ But they have no political cause."
"It is wrong to make terrorism a political issue, because it is not," added Ssempala, who has been ambassador to the U.S. since 1996. "That is why I have tremendous respect for the American people and the way they have handled this tragedy, in unison. It has united the United States like I have not seen since I have come here. I would like to see the same thing in Uganda, all of us fighting terrorism in a united fashion. That is a big lesson for us to learn."
Ssempala added that she still did not know of any Ugandans who had been harmed in the attacks. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan announced Tuesday that nationals from 62 countries were reported missing at the site of the destroyed World Trade Center. Uganda is apparently not one of them.
Still, Ssempala was shaken up. "I have a number of American friends in the New York area," she said. "I have not been able to reach some of them. I really still, I’m praying."
"This has been a shock, really, for us, because I go to the Pentagon from time to time to visit officials there, and you never feel like you could ever be insecure," she added. "Even when I come to New York, it’s safe. Really, even if it wasn’t safe, the insecurity you would be talking about is not like what we have seen."Copyright © 2002 Carl Bialik
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