By Stephen Twinoburyo
When reading President Yoweri Museveni’s 6-page statement regarding the bombing of Libya by allied forces, I never stopped marvelling at the double-standards, contradictions and seeming sense of panic (http://www.newvision.co.ug/D/8/12/749765). Museveni can be planted in Gaddafi’s position and he matches the picture. There is little to separate the two men, whether in ambition, mode of leadership, self-importance, arrogance, selfishness or unfortunate choice of words. The whole statement is the case of the kettle calling the pot black. I doubt the west will read this statement and lose sleep. I am not bothered myself.
I will tackle the different points as he raises them:
- I agree Gaddafi’s support of Amin was wrong. Also his support of Museveni, telling him that revolutionaries never retire and Museveni looking on approvingly and seemingly heeding the call, even though the term revolutionary is self-dressed for both men, was equally bad.
I quote Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s statement on Libya last week: “The scenes of brutality being meted out with sophisticated weaponry by Libyan security forces against their own civilian population make God weep. With every blow they strike, each human rights abuse they perpetrate, they bring shame on Africa. If Africa’s leaders held their peers to account there would be no need for the people of Libya to suffer human rights violations. And there would be no need for United Nations sanctioned military interventions in Libya Instead, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi has for more than 40 years honed his skills in the art of resource management to win friends and influence people. And as a result, Africa seems powerless to stop him..” . The archbishop added that the international community must act to protect the people of Libya. I find that Museveni falls in the part of ‘resource management’ that Archbishop Tutu talks about. He’s now able to afford some criticism of Gaddafi because Gaddafi is on the rocks.
- Museveni says in the AU, Gaddafi used to talk to other leaders like he was talking to kindergarten children. This really makes me laugh. Let Museveni replay his speeches and listen to how he addresses other people. One of the reasons he is disliked is because of the way he addresses and treats other Ugandans. He seems to take Uganda as his own house and all his addresses have been full of orders. Museveni does not seem to have the word request in his vocabulary. For more on this, scroll down on this blog and read the article “Why is Uganda run like a spaza shop?”
- Museveni accuses Gaddafi of overruling other leaders in the AU but Museveni himself is the king of overruling technocrats and his ministers to institute his own thinking, and as a result he has rendered useless all institutional processes in Uganda.
- Museveni accuses Gaddafi of involving himself in the internal matters of other countries. Apart from Tanzania, there is none of Uganda’s neighbours that Museveni hasn’t involved himself in. Courtesy of his self-interest incursion in DRC, Uganda has a huge bill to pay and the lives of countless Congolese people were lost or wrecked irreparably. The scars will linger for generations.
- As Museveni accuses Gaddafi of not differentiating between military and civilian targets, he forgets that his own soldiers have fired on and killed unarmed civilians during civil activities and no action has been taken. Museveni himself has used language to encourage or warn of such actions by his soldiers. Recently when asked on Al-Jazeera why his soldiers fired on civilians in a market in Mogadishu he replied by asking why the insurgents had hidden themselves among civilians. Museveni also forgets that during his bush war, he planted landmines on civilian roads and recruited underage children in his rebel army.
- Museveni says the west hates independent-thinking leaders and instead prefers puppets. What I think are dictators are what Museveni refers to as independent-minded thinkers or nationalists. Museveni and Gaddafi fall in this category and if there is one person that is used at will by the west and ‘brief-case’ foreign investors, I think it’s Museveni. Museveni has been in power this long largely due to the support of the west. Of course now he is beginning to behave expectedly like Mugabe, Gbagbo or Gaddafi that he sees that the west are no longer excited about non-retiring leaders and cosmetic democracy. African leaders are good at criticising governments in the west but are very quiet about excesses of their own African peers. Museveni should remember that in the 25 years he has been president, America now has the fourth president. In that time undoubtedly foreign policy changes and subsequent leaders have different views on foreign leaders. I don’t think Obama is interested in promoting African autocracy in exchange for interests. Soon or later, Museveni too will be discarded and I think he is aware of this.
- Yes Nyerere, Nkrumah and others he mentioned were nationalists. Museveni and Gaddafi are not. In fact Gaddafi may have some nationalism but this gets lost in his self-aggrandisement. There is purely nothing about Museveni to show nationalism. And yes Gaddafi transformed his country using oil resources. But if in the 41 years he’s been in power, he has allowed transitions producing 5 other leaders, maybe Libya would be far ahead. We used to be fed this lie that everybody in Libya is given a free modern house on turning into an adult. Now we are seeing slums on Al-Jazeera. We used to be told that everybody in Libya loves Gaddfi as their god and he himself claims people love him but in a matter of two weeks, ordinary citizens had taken over more than 90% of the country until he employed his murderous ways against his own people.
- I find Museveni’s analysis of pre-Gaddafi-era oil price viz-a-viz western development very simplistic. Western countries have developed simply because they have worked hard. Countries in the far east too have developed greatly in the last 40 years.
- On Gaddafi’s positive points, Museveni talks of the good roads he sees when flying over Libya. I wish he could say the same of Uganda, the country he has ruled for 25 years. That makes the difference between him and the other leaders that have truly worked for their countries. Can he please tell us what he sees when he flies over Uganda?
- Museveni talks of peaceful demonstarions but these are not allowed in his own country. True, in all countries where they take place, they are coordinated with police permission and supervision. In Uganda’s case, Museveni himself declared recently that he won’t allow demonstrations to take place. Though I was particularly not excited about the groups that were organising these demonstrations, the people nevertheless had the right to hold them. Museveni’s periodic window-dressing exercise of elections hardly makes his regime more legitimate than that of Gaddafi or Mubbarak. If a person like Gaddafi or Museveni decides to sit on a population indefinitely doesn’t it then make the case for foreign intervention justifiable? Why is Museveni finding fault with the no-fly zone over Libya? Gaddafi himself invited that no-fly zone when he started using his military planes over his own people. It should be remembered that it’s Libyans themselves that rose up against Gaddafi, not the western powers. The western powers have simply taken on the moral obligation to defend the Libyans that Gaddafi had promised to decimate. If Africans leaders treat countries like their bedrooms, let them be crushed mercilessly.
- Museveni says Gaddafi should sit down and negotiate with the opposition. Let Museveni show this example in his own country.
The time for African despots to use criticism of the west to suppress their people and loot their countries is way over. Gaddafi’s achievements are not an excuse for the way he treats his people. True there are double standards. Some of these western concerns are coupled with their interests. For instance, nothing has ever been done about Myanmar. However, we are glad when we are one despot less. Even Uganda was driven by their self-interest in their incursion into DRC. Even right now, Museveni is defending Gaddafi out of self-interest. It is expected that interests will greatly determine America’s engagement. In fact now that Museveni is stepping on oil, his ground has become more slippery. If American interests can help rid us of dictators and non-ending rulers, I am glad.
It is possible Libya may be engulfed in post-Gaddafi confusion but this is expected where despots have wielded absolute control without regard for institutionalised leadership. Of course blame number one for the confusion that will engulf Libya falls squarely on the shoulders of Gaddafi and stale African leaders. Where strongmen have held absolute power without regard for other citizens, it’s inevitable that confusion will follow them. It happened in Uganda after Amin and the resulting confusion is what brought Museveni to power. Amin was removed by Tanzanians and we don’t regret that action. Gaddafi too needs to go at all costs whatever the consequences. Libya will eventually stabilise. Even that oil he’s promising to offer to friendly countries will go nowhere. Gaddafi’s defenders, including Museveni, say that the west is driven by oil. If oil is the fuel that smokes him out, so be it!