LONDON – Both North and South Korea are competing for attention in Uganda, with the North giving direct training and guidance to the Ugandan Police Force, and the South praising Kampala for recent successes in improving domestic security.
Since 1988 North Korea has supported the Ugandan police force in martial arts and the training of highly specialized marine units. Now, for the first time since that cooperation began, a high-level North Korean People’s Security delegation has been dispatched to Kampala for a five day ‘courtesy visit’ with Ugandan police chief, Inspector General Kale Kayihura.
Pictured Tuesday carrying a riot tear-gas gun, North Korea’s Vice Minister for People’s Security Ri Song Chol met with Inspector General Kale Kayihura to learn about Uganda’s appreciation of North Korean domestic security initiatives.
“We have a lot of respect for the people of [the] Democratic People Republic of Korea. We admire your steadfast resilience towards the pressure put on your country for years,” Inspector Gen Kayihura said in comments carried by the Ugandan Daily Monitor.
“We have many experiences in how to defend our nation for a long time consistently. We are ready to share our experiences on how we dealt with those struggles,” Vice Minister Chol told Ugandan reporters after inspecting local police barracks and meeting police officers trained by North Koreans in Taekwondo.
With a day left of the tour remaining, the visiting officials–accompanied by North Korea’s Ambassador to Uganda–have already signed a mutual cooperation agreement with the Ugandan police that will focus in further martial arts training and marine assistance, according to a document seen by NK News. North Korean construction units will also reportedly assist Ugandan police in solving what the Kampala based New Vision term a “housing crisis”.
Furthermore, the North Korean delegation will tomorrow travel to Rwakitura – the country home of Uganda’s President, Yoweri Museveni. A Ugandan source familiar with the issue told NK News that after the meeting the North Korean delegation will travel back to Kampala to sign a join communique with the outgoing Internal Affairs Minister, Mr. Hillary Onek.
Although Uganda witnessed deadly suicide bombing attacks in 2010 and continues to face a terrorist threat from the al-Shabaab movement, there appears little netizen appetite for North Korean policing assistance.
“This cannot get any worse!! Uganda to learn from North Korea??? Did I read it right?? What has the most secluded, authoritarian, closed and alienated country on earth have to offer to Uganda?,” one commenter at the Monitor said.
“Ugandans brace yourselves for the worse Police Brutality now that they are learning from Lucifer,” another commenter added.
The citizens of Uganda might not be wrong.
Though Ugandan President Museveni’s coup army once combated North Korean soldiers dispatched to support former leader Milton Obote, both governments maintained an intimate relation after Museveni came to power, according to a report produced by South Korean Embassy in Uganda and seen by NK News.
In 1987, a year after Museveni’s inauguration, North Korea agreed to provide a military loan worth almost $4 million (USD). Subsequently Pyongyang dispatched 40 military advisors to Kampala and invited 152 Ugandan soldiers to conduct joint exercises. The two countries agreed to trade $4.2 million (USD) worth of weaponry for coffee beans and cotton in 1989.
While military relations between the two states have dwindled in recent years, exclusive images obtained by NK News reveal the internal security areas Uganda and North Korea look set to cooperate in.
What is particularly noteworthy is the equipment on display: tear gas canisters and launchers, used for crowd control and anti-rioting operations.
SOUTH KOREAN BENEFITS
But while local citizens might be worried about North Korea-Ugandan cooperation, one unlikely group benefiting from the friendly relations could be North Korea’s old foe in the South.
Just weeks ago, South Korea’s Ambassador Park Jong-dae to Kamapala made a point of hailing Uganda for rapid progress in ensuring improved security.
In remarks carried by Kampala’s New Vision newspaper, Park thanked his Ugandan hosts for creating a security climate that facilitated peace and economic growth. He also remarked that the number of South Korean citizens living and working in Uganda was growing steadily, thanks to the improving domestic security situation.
South Korean missionaries, aid-workers and business people make up the majority of nationals enjoying improved security in Uganda, Park said.
“The DPRK’s contribution to the Ugandan national security is only partial. The government’s own effort to promote security and the contribution from UN shouldn’t be underrated,” Park told NK News by phone.
“The cooperation between the DPRK and Uganda is nothing new. Since the incumbent President Museveni came in power in 1986, they’ve been cooperating on many things,” Park added.
In late May, Ugandan President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni–who has ruled over Uganda for just over 27 years–returned from a high profile meeting with South Korean President Park Geun-hye in Seoul. At the meeting, President Yoweri greeted Ms. Park using a Korean greeting he had learned from North Korea’s founding leader Kim Il Sung, before praising her father and former dictator Park Chung Hee’s economic ‘New Village’ movement.
“Uganda and Mozambique in particular are exemplary states that show political stability and rapid economic growth,” a Blue House source told the Korea Herald after Uganda’s President Museveni met with Park Geun-hye in late May.
Additional Reporting by Andrew Bagala & Steven Wandera in Uganda // Subin Kim and James Pearson in Seoul. Headline image: Andrew Bagala for NK News.