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Ugandan president praises Trump in likely play for U.S. support

Ugandan President Museveni at lectern at UN Assembly
Uganda's President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni addresses the UN General Assembly in New York on September 19, 2017. Photo: Jewel Samad / AFP / Getty Images

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has hailed President Trump as "one of the best presidents ever," saying he "speaks to Africans frankly" and even adding, "I love Trump."

These statements may seem surprising after Trump reportedly called African countries "shitholes." But Museveni — who allegedly rigged the 2016 elections and then had the presidential age limit in the Ugandan constitution removed to allow himself to run again — may be hoping that flattery will help secure U.S. support for his increasingly illegitimate administration.

As opposition groups gear up for the 2021 elections, some Ugandan lawmakers are already trying to reinstate the age limit. Any U.S. diplomatic support that bolsters Museveni’s legitimacy and downplays criticism of his anti-democratic actions could smooth his path to re-election.

Why it matters: Museveni's comments give Trump cover (however flimsy) against charges of racism, and he may be hoping Trump will repay the favor. Other leaders with poor records on human rights and democracy, such as President Joseph Kabila in the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo, will likely watch closely to see how Trump responds.

Aditi Gorur is the director of the Protecting Civilians in Conflict program at the Stimson Center.