OPINION: Is Museveni agitating for an African Federation different from that of Muammar Gaddafi?

President Yoweri Museveni and the late Libyan leader Col Muammar Gaddafi; Courtesy Photo

By kamwada Daka Fred

After frustrating Col Muamar Ghadafi’s strong agitation for a United Africa, Gen Museveni is lamenting about Africa’s Center of Gravity

If there is any African who is good at delivering theoretical lectures about African unity with minimal impact in practical terms, then it is none other than President Yoweri Museveni.

During his swearing in ceremony held on 12th May 2021, Museveni lamented that Africa was suffering because it lacked a center of gravity on which to gravitate whenever it’s faced with insurmountable challenges.

The Ugandan president revealed that Henry Kissinger, the then powerful US secretary of state in the 70s, once rebuked Africa by asserting that even if Africans are annoyed they had no capacity to actualize their frustrations by practical means/war. In other words the world leaders had freewill to implement hostile policies on Africa without fear because the Africans couldn’t react in any way.

One would suspect that these are the sentiments the western powers had when they supported the apartheid regime in South Africa for many years despite the lamentations and outcries from the rest of the world.

The Ugandan president who has been in power for the last 35 years then lamented that nobody cares about Africans to the extent that they are being persecuted in America, Europe Asia and in Africa itself because it lacked a center of gravity. He then explained that when Europeans get in trouble, they run to the United States of America for help; when Israel gets into trouble it runs to America, when North Korea feels persecuted they run to Russia, when some Asian countries get persecuted, they run to China etc.

“Who is there for the good of Africa? Where does Africa go when faced with problems? Museveni asked.

All that time, some of us thought that he was delivering one of the best speeches of his time. But just wait a minute. Let’s re-examine m7’s sentiments.

In many respects, it’s true that Africa and Africans in general don’t seem to have a fallback position when faced with attacks from the rest of the world. It is therefore fair to say that Gen Museveni was making a very strong point which no other African leader has ever endeavored to make.

The only African other than Museveni to make such a strong case for a united Africa was the former Ghanaian president the late Kwame Nkrumah.

Although Nkrumah came close to uniting Africa in the 60s, he was faced with the challenges of uniting an African continent which had many of its countries still under colonialism.

Nkrumah’s other undoing was due to the fact that he was not domestically strong enough to lead Ghana itself (and was eventually overthrown in a coup by his own Ghanaian army) and therefore lacked the capacity –logistical and otherwise, to unite the African continent.

But during our contemporary times, it is Col Muammar Gaddafi who was trying his best at African unity! The former Libyan leader was better placed because he had a relatively sound economy and a military base (domestically) to enforce the African federation.

Gaddafi was so passionate about the African federation to extent that he physically financed the African parliament and contributed funds ranging from 15% to 25% of the budget for the African union.
Yet when he came close to convincing the African leaders to embrace the federation, he was faced with resistance from two leaders; South African president Thabo Mbeki and –would you believe it? our own president Yoweri Museveni!

Well, well, well. It’s fair to listen to Museveni’s arguments for opposing Gaddafi’s project.

I, the author of what you are reading now (together with a group of youths) got the opportunity to meet president Museveni at state house Entebbe in 2015. And he curtly told us that the reason why he never felt comfortable and openly opposed Gaddafi’s idea of an African federation was because he was hard-pressed to believe that people with different cultures, morals and values can unite together.

He then convinced us that since Gaddafi was an Arab, there was no way the Arab north could effectively unite with a black Africans of the south. He then suggested that he was of a strong view that it was better for Africa to unite and integrate through regional federations like the ECOWAS, EAC, SADC, COMMESA ETC.

Museveni explained that it was, for instance, easier to integrate as East Africa because those societies have a lot in common. He clarified that when you go to the surrounding countries of Tanzania, Kenya, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Congo, Southern Sudan, Rwanda, Burundi you hear the dialect of some tribes very similar to those of Uganda. So it’s easier for them to integrate with us.

He fortified his argument by saying that even when some people think that the Luo and Bantu are different, they share a lot in terms of history. He explained that when you go to Toro and Bunyoro , you will find Luo names like Oyo (which is name shared by Toro’s king Oyo Nyimba).

He went on to explain that when Omukama Kabalega of Bunyoro was faced with a confrontation from the British, he ran to Lango, where he was actually captured.

In his own estimation, Museveni therefore doesn’t believe that we (sub Saharan Africa) have much in common with the Arab north. Phew! Could that be the reason why there was no invited leader from the Arab north on his swearing in ceremony? That is matter of complete conjecture.

We agree that president Museveni is entitled to all those views as his own. But the problem is for Museveni to go on and contradict himself and speak exactly what Gaddafi was agitating for; the unity of Africa.

Can we say that he is trying to agitate for a different Africa from that of Col Gaddafi?

If he has failed to unite East Africa, (the chairman of the EAC Rwandan president Paul Kagame did not attend the kololo swearing in ceremony) how does president Museveni expect to unite the whole African continent?

The question therefore remains whether president Museveni is agitating for an African federation different from that proposed by the late Col Muamar Gaddafi or not.

The author is a journalist and a blogger.

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