Ugandan diplomats are working round-the-clock to assess the damage from an exchange on Friday between the country’s envoy to Washington, D.C., Ambassador Sebujja Mull Katende and one of US President Donald Trump’s key advisers.
Mr Jared Kushner, who is President Trump’s son-in-law and special adviser, met African diplomats at the State Department in the US capital to brief them on a new Israel-Palestinian peace plan, which has sparked widespread controversy.
Sources at the briefing told this newspaper that as Mr Kushner spoke, ambassador Katende interjected to correct what he considered a wrong impression.
“Katende stood up and told Jared, ‘I want to correct you…Africans aren’t terrorists, terrorism is not an African-grown problem,” said a source at the meeting, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.
Mr Kushner then shot back: “I get it, it’s easier to go with the flow and not pick a fight. But that’s not the message we’re getting from you. The message we are getting is that you don’t care about our efforts. That’s your right of course. But then don’t be surprised if we react very negatively to your condoning of negative behaviour.” He added: “The Palestinians do what they always do. They go crazy, scream, burn down their own businesses.”
Then turning to look at ambassador Katende, Mr Trump’s adviser continued: “They get people like some of you to say foolish things. Choosing the Palestinians over America is not a smart bet.”
Mr Kushner, a 39-year-old businessman with no diplomatic experience before his appointment, is married to Mr Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, and widely regarded as one of the American President’s right-hand-men.
Ambassador Katende is one of Uganda’s longest-serving career diplomats. His move to Washington in September 2017 was the culmination of a four-decade career that has seen him represent the country in Sudan, Ethiopia and at the African Union in Addis Ababa, among others.
He appears to have caught the attention of the Trump inner circle on Friday, with Mr Kushner appearing to single him out for criticism.