Though Libya's beleaguered leader, Colonel Muammar Al Gathafi, made mistakes during his 42 years in power, excessive external involvement in any country brings terrible distortions. A legitimate internal insurrection, if that is the strategy chosen by the Libyan "rebels", can succeed. It should be for the leaders of the "rebels" 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 in Africa," writes President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda.
BY THE TIME MUAMMAR AL Gathafi 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 panArabist position. Soon, however, problems cropped up with Col. Gathafi 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, Gathafi, 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 Gathafi was identified with these mistakes. In 1972 and 1979, Gathafi sent Libyan troops to defend 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 Gathafi and a direct aggression against the people of Uganda and East Africa.
The second big mistake by Gathafii was his position vis-a-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/she is talking to a kindergarten child. "You should do this; you should do that; etc." We tried to politely point out to Col. Gathafi that this goal 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.
Gathafi would not relent. He would not respect the rules of the AU. Something that had been covered by previous meetings would be resurrected by Gathafi. 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 Gathafi 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, Gathafi, incredibly, thought that he could bypass them and work with these kings to implement his wishes.
I warned Gathafi 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 Gathafi.
The fourth big mistake was by most of the Arab leaders, including Gathafi to some extent. This was in connection with the long-suffering people of Southern Sudan. Many of the Arab leaders either...