By the time Muammar Gaddafi came to power in 1969, I was a third-year university student in Dar-es-Salaam. We welcomed him because he followed in the tradition of Col. Gamal Abdul Nasser of Egypt, who had a nationalist and pan-Arabist position.

Soon, however, problems cropped up with 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, Gaddafi jumped in to support Amin without getting enough information about Uganda. This was because Amin was a Muslim and Uganda was a Muslim country, where Muslims were being “oppressed” by Christians. Amin killed a lot of people by extra-judiciary means, and Gaddafi was identified with these mistakes. In 1972 and 1979, Gaddafi 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 and could not come close enough to bomb properly. We had already shot down many of Amin’s MIGs using surface-to-air missiles. Our 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–vis the African Union Continental Government that he has been pushing since 1999.

Black people are always polite. They normally do not want to offend other people. This is called obufura in Runyankore, mwolo in Luo; handling others, especially strangers, with care and respect. It seems that some of the non-African cultures do not have obufura. You can witness someone 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 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. Gaddafi would not relent. He would not respect the rules of the AU. Something that had 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 positions and, by working with others, we repeatedly defeated his illogical positions.

*The third mistake is his tendency to interfere in the internal affairs of many African countries using the little money Libya has compared to those countries.

One blatant example is his involvement with the 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 bypass them and work with these kings to implement his wishes.

I warned him in Addis Ababa that action would be taken against any Ugandan king that involved him in politics because it was against our Constitution. I put forward a motion in Addis Ababa to expunge from the AU’s records all references to kings or cultural leaders who had made speeches in our forum, because Gaddafi had invited them there illegally.

*The fourth big mistake was made by most of the Arab leaders, including Gaddafi to some extent, 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 had always created tension and friction between us and the Arabs, including, to some extent, Gaddafi. However, I must salute Gaddafi and Hosni Mubarak for travelling to Khartoum just before the referendum in Sudan to advise Omar al-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.

Middle Eastern radicals, quite differently 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 merrymakers, 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 negatives in connection to Gaddafi as far as Uganda’s patriots have been concerned over the years. These positions have been unfortunate and unnecessary. Nevertheless, Gaddafi has also had many positive points, objectively speaking, in favor of Africa, Libya and the Third World. I will deal with them point by point.

*Gaddafi has an independent foreign policy and, of course, independent internal policies. I am not able to understand the position of Western countries that 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, including South Korea (Park Chung-hee), Singapore (Lee Kuan Yew), The People’s Republic of China (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) and Iran (the Ayatollahs).

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: 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 Amin.

The stopping of genocide in Rwanda and the overthrow of Mobutu, etc., were the result of efforts of independent-minded African leaders. Gaddafi, whatever his faults, is a true nationalist.

I prefer nationalists to puppets of foreign interests. Where have 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 show one little example.

At the time we were fighting criminal dictatorships here in Uganda, a problem arose from 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 and 100 anti-tank mines, among others, 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 that, as part of that independent-mindedness, he expelled British and American military bases from Libya.

*Before Gaddafi came to power in 1969, a barrel of oil cost 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, a 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 that many of these oil producers are now enjoying is due, at least in part, to Gaddafi’s efforts. The Western countries have continued to develop in spite of paying more for oil, which means that the pre-Gaddafi oil situation was characterised by super-exploitation in favor 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 pickup trucks 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 themselves because they 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? It is possible that Libya could have transitioned more if they had encouraged the private sector more. However, this is something the Libyans are better placed to judge.

Read the second part of this commentary at

As it is, Libya is a middle-income country with a 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 about the same as the current 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, peaceful demonstrations should also 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, 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 insurrectionists. Of course, the ideal responsible government should also be one that is elected 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 those internal forces.

It should not be for external forces to arrogate themselves that role–they often 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 sovereign countries to decide to sponsor insurrection groups in that country. 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: the 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 they are rejecting external meddling.

External meddling and the acquiescence by Africans to that meddling has been responsible for the stagnation in Africa. The wrongful setting of priorities in many of the African countries is, in many cases, imposed by external groups. Failure to prioritize infrastructure, for instance, especially energy, is in part due to some of these pressures. Instead, consumption is promoted.

I have witnessed this wrongful definition of priorities even here in Uganda. For instance, external interests linked up with bogus internal 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 have a different system from the West? Are you going to impose a no-fly zone over China in the case of an internal insurrection, 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 or even worse conditions.

We have been appealing without success to the UN to impose a no-fly zone over Somalia to impede the free movement of terrorists linked to Al-Qaeda who killed Americans on September 11th, killed Ugandans last July and have caused so much damage to the Somalis. Why? Are there no human beings in Somalia similar to the ones in Benghazi? Or is it because Somalia has oil that is fully controlled by the Western oil companies, unlike Libya on account of Gaddafi’s nationalist posture?

*The Western countries are always very quick to comment on every problem in the Third World–Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, etc. Yet some of these very same Western countries were the ones impeding growth in those countries.

A military coup d’etat slowly became a revolution in backward Egypt in 1952. The new leader, Nasser, had the 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, so Nasser decided to raise that money by nationalising the Suez Canal. He was attacked by Israel, France and Britain.

To be fair to the U.S., President Eisenhower opposed that aggression. 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 2000 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 arises out of the by-now habit of the Western countries of overusing their superiority in technology to wage war on less developed societies without unimpeachable logic. This will lead to 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 to will scale up their military research, and in a few decades we may have a more heavily armed world. This weapons science is not magic. A small country like Israel is now a super power in terms of military technology, while 60 years ago it had to buy second-hand fouga magister planes from France. There are many countries that can become small Israels if this trend of the Western countries overusing military means continues.

All this notwithstanding, Gaddafi should be ready to sit down, through the mediation of the AU, with the cluster of opposition groups that now includes individuals well known to us–Ambassador Abdalla, Dr. Zubeda, etc.

Now 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 system. Of course, I have never had time to know how truly competitive this system is. Even if it is competitive, there is now, apparently, a significant number of Libyans who think that there is a problem in Libya in terms of governance. Since there have 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, our mission will continue. My opinion is that, in addition to what the AU mission is doing, it may be important to call an extraordinary 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 the 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 has made a lot of mistakes in Africa and in the Middle East. Apart from the slave trade and colonialism, they participated in the killing of Lumumba, who was until recently the only elected leader of Congo, the killing of Felix Moummie of Cameroon, Bartholomew Boganda of Central African Republic; they supported UNITA in Angola, Amin at the beginning of his regime, and the counter-revolution in Iran in 1953.

Recently there has been some improvement in the arrogant attitude of some of these Western countries. Certainly with Black Africa and in particular Uganda, 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 rushed actions against Libya are beginning to raise new problems. They should be resolved quickly.

If the Libyan opposition groups are patriots they should fight their war by themselves and conduct their affairs by themselves. After all, if 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 UN Security Council voted for Resolution 1973. This was contrary to what the Africa Peace and Security Council had decided in Addis Ababa recently. This is something that only an extraordinary summit can resolve.

It was good that certain big countries in the Security Council abstained on this resolution, including Russia, China, Brazil and India. This shows that there are balanced forces in the world that will, with more consultations, evolve more correct positions.

As members of the UN we are bound by the resolution that was passed, however rushed the process. Nevertheless, there is a mechanism for review. The Western countries, which were most active in these rushed actions, should look at that route. It may be one way of extricating all of us from possible nasty complications. What if the Libyans who are loyal to Gaddafi decide to fight on?

Using tanks and planes that are easily targeted by 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.