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KAMPALA, Uganda – President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda gave a state banquet late Thursday in honor of North Korea's ceremonial head of state, praising Pyongyang for what he said was its prominent role in fighting imperialism.
Kim Yong Nam, the president of the country's parliament, is in Uganda as part of a rare tour of Africa, where North Korea has actively tried to cultivate potential allies like the long-serving, increasingly anti-West Museveni.
The North Koreans are training Ugandan police in martial arts and Museveni hailed North Korea for helping to mechanize Uganda's military over the years. North Korea is also training Ugandan military pilots, he said.
Kim visited Sudan and the Republic of Congo before arriving in Uganda for "an official goodwill visit," according to the Korean Central News Agency.
A statement from Uganda's presidency described North Korea as "friends who have helped Uganda for a long time."
Critics in this East African country see the presence — and honoring — of a delegation from North Korea as another sign of Museveni's diminished commitment to democracy leader after spending nearly three decades in power.
Museveni, who is widely expected to seek re-election next year, has recently been railing against the West for what he calls its imperialist policies in developing countries. He has urged Africa, Asia and Russia "to resist renewed hegemonic efforts by the declining former imperialist powers."
At home, however, many Ugandans see Museveni, 70, as intolerant of dissent and increasingly authoritarian. Opposition rallies in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, have been virtually banned. He recently fired his prime minister, Amama Mbabazi, a former ally who had been frequently mentioned within Uganda's ruling party as a potential successor to Museveni.
Museveni has long been accused of trying to groom his son, a brigadier who commands the country's special forces, to become Uganda's next president. Museveni denies the allegations.