Last month, and to much fanfare across East Africa, French multinational Total signed a $5 billion (€4.1 billion) oil extraction and pipeline agreement with the Government of Uganda. Along with multi-million financing for refining and hydropower by Italian and Austrian conglomerates, EU companies recognize our development opportunities and are fast becoming the world leaders of foreign direct investment in Uganda today.

Yet contrast this definitive vote of confidence with the smoke emanating from the European parliament. According to a letter written to EU High Representative Josep Borrell from a handful of parliamentarians, Uganda is not a place that should be helped - but rather punished. It’s: "Yes a day of history for Uganda, for Tanzania, for East Africa, for Total. Very proud of all our teams" — and optimism when it’s business leaders. Then: “Ugandan authorities must be held accountable for their actions by all means necessary” – and negativity when the politicians are speaking. You’d think they were talking about completely different countries.

The parliamentarians aggressively worded letter concerns itself with the aftermath of our recent election, where the incumbent president was reelected by a margin of over 2.4 million votes. The election loser first petitioned the courts to overturn the election and then changed his mind, doubtless realizing the futility of attempting to cancel such a wide and definitive result – though this is not mentioned. Instead, what we hear is repetition by rote of opposition postings full of fire and fury on social media: accusations that individuals charged with post-election violence before open courts in full public view are in some way abducted and missing.

This is simply not the case.

What we need is not angry letters drafted without first asking for the Ugandan government’s input, but dialogue. It does not help mutual understanding that the United Kingdom, the European nation which maintains the deepest ties of all with Uganda, has quit the European Union. Britain’s view on the election result seems more than clear. It is unfortunate the misunderstanding between my country and the EU appears to be suffering so suddenly due to their absence. With the British now forging their own path, we must re-double our efforts to build links with Europe that are currently lessened without them.

As a country, we wish to see political relations with the European political community as fruitful as those with its leading businesses. For our part, Uganda will seek to address any questions and concerns frankly and in the spirit of openness. We in return ask only that Europeans do not believe everything they read on Twitter or are told by opposition representatives seeking levels of support abroad they have failed to muster at home.

This can start in simple ways. First, by appreciating that Uganda is not some sort of towering inferno as described in the letter but a stable democracy, with its challenges – not least the need to boost employment and opportunity for a population where over 75% of our 44 million citizens are under 25 years old.

Second, through understanding that Uganda is a country where the judicial system works, and jealously guards its independence from politicians of all stripes. In recent months its beneficiaries include the leader of the opposition who in one case successfully petitioned the courts to quash an attempt to de-register his political party - and forced the police to remove themselves from his property in another.

Neither is favor shown to governing party politicians who, rightly, have been prosecuted for wrongly breaking covid restrictions during our recent election campaign. And these are the same courts which seven years ago unanimously annulled anti-LGBTQI laws, wiping from the statue book legislation voted near-unanimously through parliament  – with the support of our pop-singing opposition leader - who even released an anti-gay song in the law’s favor (earning himself a visa ban from Britain).

Third, is European interlocutors appreciating that not everything they hear from those who are politically opposed to the government is the Gospel truth. All countrymen are entitled to their views. They too are free to whisper in the ears of foreign politicians that all is not well in Uganda. But there is a difference between opinion and fact.

It’s clear both European businesses and Europe’s political classes see Uganda as important. We’re glad they do. Our connections should be nurtured for the benefit of all our citizens. So, let’s not damage EU-Uganda relations for lack of understanding.

Henry Oryem Okello is minister of state for foreign affairs of the Republic of Uganda