First published: Friday, 25 March 2011; 11:37 GMT
Museveni on Gaddafi and the West
By President Yoweri Museveni, Uganda
BY THE time Muammar Gaddaffi came to power in 1969, I was a third-year university student at Dar-es-Salaam. We welcomed him because he was in the tradition of Col. Gamal Abdul Nasser of Egypt who had a nationalist and pan-Arabist position.
Soon, however, problems cropped up with Col. Gaddafi as far as Uganda and Black Africa were concerned. Idi Amin came to power with the support of Britain and Israel because they thought he was uneducated enough to be used by them. Amin, however, turned against his sponsors when they refused to sell him guns to fight Tanzania.
Unfortunately, Col. Muammar Gaddafi, without getting enough information about Uganda, jumped in to support Idi Amin. This was because Amin was a ‘Moslem’ and Uganda was a ‘Moslem country’ where Moslems were being ‘oppressed’ by Christians. Amin killed a lot of people extra-judicially and Gaddafi was identified with these mistakes.
In 1972 and 1979, Gaddafi sent Libyan troops to defend Idi Amin when we attacked him. I remember a Libyan Tupolev 22 bomber trying to bomb us in Mbarara in 1979. The bomb ended up in Nyarubanga because the pilots were scared. They could not come close to bomb properly. We had already shot-down many Amin MIGs using surface-to-air missiles.
The Tanzanian brothers and sisters were doing much of this fighting. Many Libyan militias were captured and repatriated to Libya by Tanzania. This was a big mistake by Gaddafi and a direct aggression against the people of Uganda and East Africa.
The second big mistake by Gaddafi was his position vis-à-vis the African Union (AU) Continental Government “now”. Since 1999, he has been pushing this position. Black people are always polite. They, normally, do not want to offend other people. This is called ‘obufura’ in Runyankore, mwolo in Luo – handling, especially strangers, with care and respect.
It seems some of the non-African cultures do not have ‘obufura’. You can witness a person talking to a mature person as if he or she is talking to a kindergarten child. “You should do this; you should do that; etc.”
We tried to politely point out to Col. Gaddafi that this was difficult in the short and medium term. We should, instead, aim at the Economic Community of Africa and, where possible, also aim at Regional Federations. Col. Gaddafi would not relent. He would not respect the rules of the AU. Something that has been covered by previous meetings would be resurrected by Gaddafi. He would ‘overrule’ a decision taken by all other African Heads of State. Some of us were forced to come out and oppose his wrong position and, working with others, we repeatedly defeated his illogical position.
The third mistake has been the tendency by Col. Gaddafi to interfere in the internal affairs of many African countries using the little money Libya has compared to those countries. One blatant example was his involvement with cultural leaders of Black Africa – kings, chiefs, etc. Since the political leaders of Africa had refused to back his project of an African Government, Gaddafi, incredibly, thought that he could by-pass them and work with these kings to implement his wishes.
I warned Gaddafi in Addis Ababa that action would be taken against any Ugandan king that involved himself in politics because it was against our Constitution. I moved a motion in Addis Ababa to expunge from the records of the AU all references to kings (cultural leaders) who had made speeches in our forum because they had been invited there illegally by Col. Gaddafi.
The fourth big mistake was by most of the Arab leaders, including Gaddafi to some extent. This was in connection with the long suffering people of Southern Sudan. Many of the Arab leaders either supported or ignored the suffering of the black people in that country. This unfairness always created tension and friction between us and the Arabs, including Gaddafi to some extent.
However, I must salute H.E. Gaddafi and H.E. Hosni Mubarak for travelling to Khartoum just before the Referendum in Sudan and advising H.E. Bashir to respect the results of that exercise.
Sometimes Gaddafi and other Middle Eastern radicals do not distance themselves sufficiently from terrorism even when they are fighting for a just cause. Terrorism is the use of indiscriminate violence – not distinguishing between military and non-military targets. The Middle Eastern radicals, quite different from the revolutionaries of black Africa, seem to say that any means is acceptable as long as you are fighting the enemy. That is why they hijack planes, use assassinations, plant bombs in bars, etc. Why bomb bars? People who go to bars are normally merry-makers, not politically-minded people.
We were together with the Arabs in the anti-colonial struggle. The black African liberation movements, however, developed differently from the Arab ones. Where we used arms, we fought soldiers or sabotaged infrastructure but never targeted non-combatants. These indiscriminate methods tend to isolate the struggles of the Middle East and the Arab world. It would be good if the radicals in these areas could streamline their work methods in this area of using violence indiscriminately.
These five points above are some of the negative points in connection to Col. Gaddafi as far as Uganda’s patriots have been concerned over the years. These positions of Col. Gaddafi have been unfortunate and unnecessary.
Nevertheless, Gaddafi has also had many positive points objectively speaking. These positive points have been in favour of Africa, Libya and the Third World. I will deal with them point by point.
Col. Gaddafi has been having an independent foreign policy and, of course, also independent internal policies. I am not able to understand the position of Western countries which appear to resent independent-minded leaders and seem to prefer puppets. Puppets are not good for any country.
Most of the countries that have transitioned from Third World to First World status since 1945 have had independent-minded leaders: South Korea (Park Chung-hee), Singapore (Lee Kuan Yew), China People’s Republic (Mao Tse Tung, Chou Enlai, Deng Xiaoping, Marshal Yang Shangkun, Li Peng, Jiang Zemin, Hu Jing Tao, etc), Malaysia (Dr. Mahthir Mohamad), Brazil (Lula Da Silva), Iran (the Ayatollahs), etc.
Between the First World War and the Second World War, the Soviet Union transitioned into an Industrial country propelled by the dictatorial but independent-minded Joseph Stalin. In Africa, we have benefited from a number of independent-minded leaders: Col. Nasser of Egypt, Mwalimu Nyerere of Tanzania, Samora Machel of Mozambique, etc. That is how Southern Africa was liberated. That is how we got rid of Idi Amin. The stopping of genocide in Rwanda and the overthrow of Mobutu, etc., were as a result of efforts of independent-minded African leaders.
Muammar Gaddafi, whatever his faults, is a true nationalist. I prefer nationalists to puppets of foreign interests. Where have the puppets caused the transformation of countries? I need some assistance with information on this from those who are familiar with puppetry. Therefore, the independent-minded Gaddafi had some positive contribution to Libya, I believe, as well as Africa and the Third World.
I will take one little example. At the time we were fighting the criminal dictatorships here in Uganda, we had a problem arising of a complication caused by our failure to capture enough guns at Kabamba on February 6, 1981. Gaddafi gave us a small consignment of 96 rifles, 100 anti-tank mines, etc., that was very useful. He did not consult Washington or Moscow before he did this. This was good for Libya, for Africa and for the Middle East. We should also remember as part of that independent-mindedness he expelled British and American military bases from Libya, etc.
Before Gaddafi came to power in 1969, a barrel of oil was 40 American cents. He launched a campaign to withhold Arab oil unless the West paid more for it. I think the price went up to US$20 per barrel. When the Arab-Israel war of 1973 broke out, the barrel of oil went to US$40.
I am, therefore, surprised to hear that many oil producers in the world, including the Gulf countries, do not appreciate the historical role played by Gaddafi on this issue. The huge wealth many of these oil producers are enjoying was, at least in part, due to Gaddafi’s efforts. The Western countries have continued to develop in spite of paying more for oil. It, therefore, means that the pre-Gaddafi oil situation was characterised by super exploitation in favour of the Western countries.
I have never taken time to investigate socio-economic conditions within Libya. When I was last there, I could see good roads even from the air. From the TV pictures, you can even see the rebels zooming up and down in pick-up vehicles on very good roads accompanied by Western journalists. Who built these good roads? Who built the oil refineries in Brega and those other places where the fighting has been taking place recently? Were these facilities built during the time of the king and his American as well as British allies or were they built by Gaddafi?
In Tunisia and Egypt, some youths immolated (burnt) themselves because they had failed to get jobs. Are the Libyans without jobs also? If so, why, then, are there hundreds of thousands of foreign workers? Is Libya’s policy of providing so many jobs to Third World workers bad? Are all the children going to school in Libya? Was that the case in the past – before Gaddafi? Is the conflict in Libya economic or purely political?
Possibly, Libya could have transitioned more if they encouraged the private sector more. However, this is something the Libyans are better placed to judge. As it is, Libya is a middle income country with GDP standing at US$89.03 billion. This is about the same as the GDP of South Africa at the time Mandela took over leadership in 1994 and it is about the current size of GDP of Spain.
Gaddafi is one of the few secular leaders in the Arab world. He does not believe in Islamic fundamentalism that is why women have been able to go to school, to join the army, etc. This is a positive point on Gaddafi’s side.
Coming to the present crisis, therefore, we need to point out some issues. The first issue is to distinguish between demonstrations and insurrections. Peaceful demonstrations should not be fired on with live bullets. Of course, even peaceful demonstrations should coordinate with the police to ensure that they do not interfere with the rights of other citizens.
When rioters are, however, attacking police stations and army barracks with the aim of taking power, then, they are no longer demonstrators; they are insurrectionists. They will have to be treated as such. A responsible government would have to use reasonable force to neutralise them. Of course, the ideal responsible government should also be an elected one by the people at periodic intervals.
If there is a doubt about the legitimacy of a government and the people decide to launch an insurrection, that should be the decision of the internal forces. It should not be for external forces to arrogate themselves that role, often, they do not have enough knowledge to decide rightly. Excessive external involvement always brings terrible distortions. Why should external forces involve themselves? That is a vote of no confidence in the people themselves.
A legitimate internal insurrection, if that is the strategy chosen by the leaders of that effort, can succeed. The Shah of Iran was defeated by an internal insurrection; the Russian Revolution in 1917 was an internal insurrection; the Revolution in Zanzibar in 1964 was an internal insurrection; the changes in Ukraine, Georgia, etc., all were internal insurrections. It should be for the leaders of the Resistance in that country to decide their strategy, not for foreigners to sponsor insurrection groups in sovereign countries.
I am totally allergic to foreign, political and military involvement in sovereign countries, especially the African countries. If foreign intervention is good, then, African countries should be the most prosperous countries in the world because we have had the greatest dosages of that: slave trade, colonialism, neo-colonialism, imperialism, etc.
All those foreign-imposed phenomena have, however, been disastrous. It is only recently that Africa is beginning to come up partly because of rejecting external meddling. External meddling and the acquiescence by Africans into that meddling have been responsible for the stagnation in Africa.
The wrong definition of priorities in many of the African countries is, in many cases, imposed by external groups. Failure to prioritise infrastructure, for instance, especially energy, is, in part, due to some of these pressures. Instead, consumption is promoted.
I have witnessed this wrong definition of priorities even here in Uganda. External interests linked up, for instance, with internal bogus groups to oppose energy projects for false reasons. How will an economy develop without energy? Quislings and their external backers do not care about all this.
If you promote foreign-backed insurrections in small countries like Libya, what will you do with the big ones like China which has got a different system from the Western systems? Are you going to impose a no-fly-zone over China in case of some internal insurrections as happened in Tiananmen Square, in Tibet or in Urumuqi?
The Western countries always use double standards. In Libya, they are very eager to impose a no-fly-zone. In Bahrain and other areas where there are pro-Western regimes, they turn a blind eye to the very same conditions or even worse conditions.
We have been appealing to the UN to impose a no-fly-zone over Somalia so as to impede the free movement of terrorists, linked to Al-Qaeda that killed Americans on September 11; killed Ugandans last July and have caused so much damage to the Somalis, without success. Why? Are there no human beings in Somalia similar to the ones in Benghazi? Or is it because Somalia does not have oil which is not fully controlled by the western oil companies on account of Gaddafi’s nationalist posture?
The Western countries are always very prompt in commenting on every problem in the Third World – Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, etc. Yet, some of these very countries were the ones impeding growth in those countries. There was a military coup d’état that slowly became a Revolution in backward Egypt in 1952. The new leader, Nasser, had ambition to cause transformation in Egypt. He wanted to build a dam not only to generate electricity but also to help with the ancient irrigation system of Egypt. He was denied money by the West because they did not believe that Egyptians needed electricity.
Nasser decided to raise that money by nationalising the Suez Canal. He was attacked by Israel, France and Britain. To be fair to the USA, President Eisenhower opposed that aggression that time. Of course, there was also the firm stand of the Soviet Union at that time. How much electricity was this dam supposed to produce? Just 2,000 mgws for a country like Egypt!! What moral right, then, do such people have to comment on the affairs of these countries?
Another negative point is going to arise out of the by now habit of the Western countries over-using their superiority in technology to impose war on less developed societies without impeachable logic. This will be the igniting of an arms race in the world. The actions of the Western countries in Iraq and now Libya are emphasising that might is “right.” I am quite sure that many countries that are able will scale up their military research, and in a few decades we may have a more armed world.
This weapons science is not magic. A small country like Israel is now a super power in terms of military technology. Yet 60 years ago, Israel had to buy second-hand fouga magister planes from France. There are many countries that can become small Israels if this trend of overusing military means by the Western countries continues.
All this notwithstanding, Col. Gaddafi should be ready to sit down with the opposition, through the mediation of the AU, with the opposition cluster of groups which now includes individuals well known to us – Ambassador Abdalla, Dr. Zubeda, etc.
I know Gaddafi has his system of elected committees that end up in a National People’s Conference. Actually Gaddafi thinks this is superior to our multi-party systems. Of course, I have never had time to know how truly competitive this system is. Anyway, even if it is competitive, there is now, apparently, a significant number of Libyans that think that there is a problem in Libya in terms of governance. Since there has not been internationally observed elections in Libya, not even by the AU, we cannot know what is correct and what is wrong. Therefore, a dialogue is the correct way forward.
The AU mission could not get to Libya because the Western countries started bombing Libya the day before they were supposed to arrive. However, the mission will continue. My opinion is that, in addition, to what the AU mission is doing, it may be important to call an extra-ordinary Summit of the AU in Addis Ababa to discuss this grave situation.
Regarding the Libyan opposition, I would feel embarrassed to be backed by Western war planes because quislings of foreign interests have never helped Africa. We have had a copious supply of them in the last 50 years – Mobutu, Houphout Boigny, Kamuzu Banda, etc. The West made a lot of mistakes in Africa and in the Middle East in the past. Apart from the slave trade and colonialism, they participated in the killing of Lumumba, until recently, the only elected leader of Congo, the killing of Felix Moummie of Cameroon, Bartholomew Boganda of Central African Republic, the support for UNITA in Angola, the support for Idi Amin at the beginning of his regime, the counter-revolution in Iran in 1953, etc.
Recently, there has been some improvement in the arrogant attitudes of some of these Western countries. Certainly, with black Africa and, particularly, Uganda, the relations are good following their fair stand on the black people of Southern Sudan. With the democratisation of South Africa and the freedom of the black people in Southern Sudan, the difference between the patriots of Uganda and the Western governments had disappeared. Unfortunately, these rush actions on Libya are beginning to raise new problems. They should be resolved quickly.
Therefore, if the Libyan opposition groups are patriots, they should fight their war by themselves and conduct their affairs by themselves. After all, they easily captured so much equipment from the Libyan army, why do they need foreign military support? I only had 27 rifles. To be puppets is not good.
The African members of the Security Council voted for this Resolution of the Security Council. This was contrary to what the Africa Peace and Security Council had decided in Addis Ababa recently. This is something that only the extra-ordinary summit can resolve.
It was good that certain big countries in the Security Council abstained on this Resolution. These were: Russia, China, Brazil, India, etc. This shows that there are balanced forces in the world that will, with more consultations, evolve more correct positions.
Being members of the UN, we are bound by the Resolution that was passed, however rash the process. Nevertheless, there is a mechanism for review. The Western countries, which are most active in these rash actions, should look at that route. It may be one way of extricating all of us from possible nasty complications.
What if the Libyans loyal to Gaddafi decide to fight on? Using tanks and planes that are easily targeted by Mr. Sarkozy’s planes is not the only way of fighting. Who will be responsible for such a protracted war? It is high time we did more careful thinking.