Browsing the web today I came across this article by Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni. He wrote a piece in March about Libya’s President, Col. Muammar Gaddafi, from the perspective of his personal relationship with Gaddafi. It is interesting to see Gaddafi through Museveni’s eyes. I have always considered the two to be in cahoots due to their close relationship.
I find it amazing that Museveni is able to point out some mistakes that Gaddafi made in the past, such as backing Idi Amin in the 70s (when Museveni was a rebel leader fighting against Amin’s government), his involvement in terrorism, ignoring the plight of southern Sudan, relentlessly pushing for a United States of Africa and then proclaiming himself king of kings when he realized the African Union wouldn’t back him in the immediate unification of the African countries. Museveni conveniently (or perhaps diplomatically) did not mention that many have, for years, considered Gaddafi to be at least partially out of his mind for these actions.
In the second part of his article, Museveni writes about qualities he admires in Gaddafi, which I think also give us a glimpse into Museveni’s modi operandi. Museveni praises Gaddafi for being a nationalist (rather than a puppet of foreign powers), for playing a big part in raising the price of oil in the 70s (thus breaking off the super exploitation of oil producing nations by Western powers), for building Libya’s infrastructure and for being a moderate (i.e. a secular leader in the Arab world). While these are praiseworthy things, they are only half the story. Combined with the “mistakes” he made, the net effect has been years of oppression for Libyans, with only a few honchos reaping the fruits of prosperity.
While Museveni’s claim that only nationalists can bring transformation to a nation has some truth to it, it also reveals his belief (and that of most African leaders) that the person at the helm of the nation is the one who knows what’s best for his country, regardless of what the citizens views. Ironically, in this article published on March 24, 2011, Museveni decried firing live bullets on peaceful demonstrators and then turned around and did just that as Ugandans staged initially peaceful demonstrations against his regime a little over a month later. Museveni talked about dialogue being the way forward for Gaddafi and the opposition, yet Museveni himself has been unwilling to have dialogue with those who oppose him.
I also think that because Museveni extensively uses China’s rulers and their political system as positive examples in two separate paragraphs in his article, he has probably adopted some leadership methods from China. Given the autocratic nature of Chinese government (and some of the other “independent-minded” leaders that Museveni names), I think we can safely say that Museveni subscribe to an autocratic leadership style and has aligned himself with like-minded people, who generally have trouble relinquishing power. Museveni’s handling of the recently concluded and disputed Ugandan presidential elections as well as the current popular uprising in his country all point to a man loathe to step away from the helm of the country.
While Museveni makes a case for limiting foreign (not just Western) powers’ intervention in African countries, he does not go far enough in criticizing Gaddafi’s too-long rule in Libya, nor does he bring to light the negative consequences of that rule for the citizens of Libya. Since he is using Idi Amin as his benchmark for leadership skills and democracy, I guess we can’t expect too much of him. When Ugandans’ voice is finally heard, I hope that it will lead to true freedom for them.