DEPUTY SECRETARY BURNS: Thank you very much and good afternoon. It's a pleasure to see all of you and I'm certainly very pleased to be here in Uganda. This, as you may know, is part of a week-long trip across Africa that my colleagues and I are taking, and during which I'll also lead the U.S. delegation to the African Union summit in Addis Ababa this weekend.
As Secretary Clinton did in her visit to Africa earlier this month, my trip reaffirms the high priority that the Obama Administration attaches to Africa, and our continuing strong commitment to doing everything that we can to help Africans realize the enormous promise that lies ahead in economics and democratic development, as well as doing everything that we can to help Africans deal with the very real challenges that remain.
We seek relationships built on mutual respect and mutual interest. We approach the partnerships that we want to build and to strengthen with a view toward genuine partnerships; not partnerships of senior partners and junior partners, but of equal partners.
I'm especially pleased to have a chance to visit Uganda. I look forward to meeting President Museveni, as well as civil society and human rights leaders. I look forward to the opportunity to highlight the strength of our bilateral relations on a range of issues, including our strong common interest in promoting regional security. I also look forward to highlighting the American commitment to help Ugandans in their efforts to strengthen respect for human rights, the rule of law, and good governance, which are so deeply in the interests of this country and of this country's future. We have a long history of cooperation and we look forward very much to building on it.
I'm very grateful for the chance this afternoon to visit this health clinic here at Wagagai. Health, as you know, is one of our most important priorities across Africa and especially here in Uganda. Our support for this clinic is part of $400 million in assistance to the health sector in Uganda this past year alone. Our program of health assistance in Uganda is one of the biggest such programs we have anywhere in the world today.
We seek to deepen cooperation with Ugandans in the fight against HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases, and in improving maternal and child health care. This clinic demonstrates the potential of public-private partnerships. It is one of the more than 100 clinics, as the Ambassador was telling me earlier, around the country that we're proud to support, and it helps Ugandans to deal with some very real problems. Right now, for example, 16 Ugandan women die in childbirth across this country each day. That's a devastating statistic. We share the determination of Ugandans to reduce that statistic dramatically. Clinics like this one are an essential part of the solution, and an essential part of a more hopeful future for Uganda.
With that, I'd be glad to take your questions.
QUESTION: I'm Gloria from Capital Radio, Kampala. Since the last elections in February 2011, there's been an increase in demonstrations and protests in Uganda. As a result, you've seen the government and security agencies respond with a lot of force and brutality to the demonstrators. And in spite of the continued advice to Uganda by the U.S. and observers of human rights and freedom, government actually has failed to take heed. What would be your comment on that? And in relation to that, Uganda's Minister for Internal Affairs recently was quoted as saying that the U.S. and the United Kingdom are behind these uprisings that we are seeing in Uganda, with the walk-to-work demonstrations to signal uprisings like we saw in the Arab world. Your comment?
DEPUTY SECRETARY BURNS: First, the allegation that you mentioned is simply not true. The United States, whether it's in Uganda or any place in the world, will continue to stand up strongly for respect for human rights, in particular the right to freedom of assembly and freedom of association. It's extremely important in any healthy democratic society for people to be able to express themselves peacefully and to express their views peacefully. Where there are cases of abuse, it's very important that they be investigated thoroughly and that those responsible be brought to justice. I know that there's been some consideration by civil society groups and by the Government of Uganda's human rights commission to pursue new legislation about freedom of assembly and it would be our strong hope that any such legislation be consistent with international standards and international practice. So we're unapologetic about our support for human rights, for rule of law, for good governance, which is deeply, as I said before, in the interests of Uganda and the stable democratic system that it seeks to build and that serves the best interests of its people.
QUESTION: There was another question in line with that, on the U.S. role in the uprisings.
DEPUTY SECRETARY BURNS: No, that's what I tried to address first. That allegation is simply not true, as I said at the start. The United States will continue to stand up for human rights and democratic freedoms, as we do every place in the world, and we will continue to offer the benefits of our experience to those who are seeking to build those kind of democratic systems. But political choices in Uganda are the business of Ugandans, not Americans or any other outsider.
QUESTION: My name is Candia Steven from The New Vision newspaper. My questions are about regional security. The first part is about the U.S. mission in Somalia. Under this administration there has been a spike of attacks in Mogadishu, an al-Shabab initiative. President Museveni is proposing a no-fly zone over Mogadishu in Somalia. I'm wondering, what is the take of the Obama administration on that? And lastly, just about two days ago there was an intervention by the U.S. Navy Seals in Somalia carrying out a rescue mission. I'm wondering, are we going to see more solid intervention by the U.S. Army in Somalia?
DEPUTY SECRETARY BURNS: Let me try to address your questions. What I would say in general is that the United States both admires and strongly supports the constructive role that Uganda has played in seeking to help Somalians deal with the very serious challenges that they face. Uganda's leadership role in AMISOM, for example, has been extraordinarily important and we will continue to do everything we can to support that role materially as well as diplomatically. I don't have a particular comment on the issue of a no-fly zone, except to once again reinforce our strong commitment to the international efforts, the efforts of AMISOM and in particular the leadership of Uganda in helping Somalians to deal with those problems. And I don’t have much to add to what's already been said about the recent operation that helped free two hostages. Obviously the United States takes very seriously its responsibility to American citizens any place in the world, and we're proud of the capability of our armed forces to help deal with those kind of challenges.
QUESTION: I'm Sudhir Byaruhanga, NTV. My question is about gay rights in Uganda. Although they have been pushing, still gay people cannot live freely in Uganda. What would be your comment on that?
DEPUTY SECRETARY BURNS: The United States strongly supports human rights around the world, and that means rights that apply universally to any human being--to LGBT individuals, as Secretary Clinton said very clearly in her recent speech--just as to any other human being. I think it's important to note that the Ugandan government's own human rights commission has spoken out clearly about what it believes to be the unconstitutionality of the draft legislation that's been proposed, and the fact that it runs counter to international law. So we will continue to express strong support for human rights for every human being, whether it's LGBT individuals or others. That's important in any society.
QUESTION: My name is Tabu, with the Daily Monitor newspaper. It's exactly 107 days since the U.S. Special Forces were dispatched to Uganda to track Kony. Do you know what the activities record of their operations has been since October last year? And, just as a last part, what is the honest view of the Obama administration about President Museveni, who has been in power now for 26 years, who has removed constitutional term limits and continued to win elections that some argue are rigged?
DEPUTY SECRETARY BURNS: First on the question you asked about the LRA. The United States continues to strongly support regional efforts--efforts led by countries in the region to deal with the scourge that Joseph Kony and the LRA represent. As you know very well, this is a group that has caused enormous damage and for far too long has threatened far too many people across large parts of this continent. Our President recently decided to provide limited military advice because we think that will help our partners--those in the region who are leading this effort--to be more effective and to pursue more effectively the LRA. That's a very important challenge and it's an effort that has won support from the UN Security Council as well as the African Union.
With regard to your question about President Museveni, our view is that the president is the democratically elected president of this country, and he's been an important partner on a range of regional security issues and other questions, as I mentioned before. We think that area of cooperation is something that we want to strengthen. We note that the most recent elections were, in the judgment of many outside observers, an improvement on the previous elections, but there were also flaws that a number of observers took note of and that are very important to address. And we believe that it's extremely important, as I said before, to build greater respect for human rights, for the rule of law, and to build stronger democratic institutions, which certainly includes an independent media that is able to hold officials accountable and ensure that there is transparency. It's extremely important to continue to build and strengthen those kind of institutions in the years ahead, because those are the real building blocks, I think, for a stable democratic society of the sort that is most likely to realize the full potential of Ugandans.
QUESTION: Tabu again--one more question on Sudan. With everything going on in the region, from violence in Kenya to the elections in the DRC, plus South Sudan maybe imploding, how will you raise the issue of South Sudan with President Museveni?
DEPUTY SECRETARY BURNS: South Sudan is a very important issue, not just for President Museveni and Uganda, but for the African Union, whose leaders will be meeting in a couple of days, as well as for the international community. The United States has been proud to contribute in the past toward a road map that has produced the independence of South Sudan, but we remain quite focused on the importance of follow-through now on the remaining issues that have to be sorted out between Khartoum and Juba. As I said before, regional leaders, particularly with the African Union leaders about to meet, have an extraordinarily important role to play in helping the parties to get back on a path that is going to produce the kind of stability that both of those countries--the Republic of Sudan and South Sudan--need and deserve. The United States will continue to play a very active role, but I think there's also an extremely important role for the African Union to play as well, and for important leaders in the region like President Museveni.
Thank you all very much.