President Museveni yesterday exhorted Africans to unite and build capacity and, where necessary, confront the West’s meddling and aggression on the continent militarily.
Speaking behind bullet-proof glass frames, the Ugandan leader revealed for the first time publicly that he and the then South African President Jacob Zuma clandestinely schemed to counter the invaders of Libya in 2011.
“When some actors started attacking Libya against the decision of the African Union, I contacted H.E. Jacob Zuma of South Africa for African armies, that so decided, to intervene in Libya and confront and teach a lesson to those aggressors,” he said, reading from a prepared speech.
He added: “We were let down by Muammar Gaddafi who abandoned Tripoli (the Libyan capital) without a fight. Although, at that time, I did not have direct link with Muammar Gaddafi, I advised his envoy who came to see me, to turn Tripoli into a Stalingrad.”
Stalingrad is a town southwest of Russia where an estimated three million people perished in a fierce and protracted battle between Russians and Nazi Germany forces during World War II.
Mr Museveni, in yesterday’s speech in Kampala, said, without providing specifics, that he and President Zuma, worked out a “solution for the air-craft and cruise missiles that attack defenceless people from far away, so that if the aggressors so wished, [they] could come on the ground and we fight man to man”.
France and the United Kingdom, without the United Nations express authorisation, led a bombing campaign to oust Gaddafi against African Union’s proposal for dialogue.
Former United States President Barack Obama, who said they led the operation from the rear, regretted toward the end of his tenure that they had no post-Gaddafi plan for Libya now in the throes of unending conflict.
The country has had no stable central government in a decade, with parts under rebel factions while a UN-installed administration has limited control in a way that exposes the limits of military might in resolving political questions.
At the start of the onslaught, President Museveni was among AU High-Level Panel members mandated to mediate in the conflict, but a plane carrying them to Tripoli was turned away by western allies enforcing a no-fly zone over the north African country.
In accounts offered yesterday, Mr Museveni, who has a record of deploying Ugandan militaries on tasking operations such as against al-Shabaab in Somalia, said they were poised for a counter-offensive only if Gaddafi had a stranglehold over Libya for some days.
“Unfortunately, the Libyans collapsed quickly … I can reveal to you now, that those actors, had a narrow escape,” he said, adding, “By-passing the African Union, is not acceptable when it comes to dangerous strategic African issues.”
Mr Museveni yesterday blamed the aggressors for the current mayhem, “concomitant suffering” and “haemorrhage” in Libya and its neighbours on the “arrogant and irresponsible actions of some actors that took actions that were against the express position of the African Union”.
Gaddafi, who had ruled for 42 years, was bombed out by the West following localised demonstrations during the Arab Spring.
The President said unlike actors, who are constantly looking for enemies to fight, including arbitrary proclamation and targeting as enemies of people they disagree with, Africans do not frame others but will fight to defend itself.
Mr Museveni, who won a re-election in January with 58 per cent, a victory that places him on course to rule for 40 years, spoke extensively about Africa and its defence, rather than Uganda, at what was largely a domestic function.
He emphasised that Africa must find a “centre of gravity”, as the US is to the West or Russia to the Balkans, in order to insure its future and generations.
“We have no interest in fighting anybody except poverty and under-development in Africa, starting with Uganda,” he added.
Turning to domestic issues, Mr Museveni declared the elections, whose results his closest challenger, Mr Robert Kyagulanyi, alias Bobi Wine, has rejected, “over” and chaperoned Ugandans to return to work.
He said in the new financial year, starting July 1, the government has allocated Shs464 billion to help hotels, performing arts, boda bodas, and sportsmen most wrecked by the pandemic.
The recapitalised Uganda Development Bank (UDB), according to the President, will offer low-interest loans for manufacturers, agricultural entrepreneurs among other enterprises. He pointed out that money is in ICT, commercial agriculture and service sectors.
The residual lockdown measures, such as ban on discotheques, will be removed only after 4.8 million people receive Covid-19 jabs, Mr Museveni said, a tall order considering that only 375,283 people in Uganda have to-date been inoculated since official launch of nationwide vaccination on March 10.
The country’s scientists, Mr Museveni said, had discovered some treatment for the pandemic and are on course to find a vaccine for all Covid-19 variants and the government plans to build a factory ahead of possible production.
According to the President, his government will in the new term skirt bureaucrats and channel a constellation of poverty alleviation funds – youth, women, Emyooga and Operation Wealth Creation – directly to communities (under the Parish Model) who will set guidelines for access and pick beneficiaries.
At the function, about 5,000 guests were treated to scintillating military ground parade and air parade, alternatively called fly past, during which MI-17, MI-24, Cessna-172 and Cessna Cravan (208) as well as Russian-made Sukhoi Su-30 multirole interdiction jets of Uganda People’s Defence Forces Airforce flew over the crown in diamond formations.
The highlight of the sky manoeuvres was when an MI-24, principally an attack chopper, also used for air interdiction and combat air patrol, hovered over Kololo Ceremonial Grounds to sling insert Special Forces commandos in an enactment of war scenario in which commandos have to be dropped in enemy territory for sting operation.
The aircraft displayed yesterday perform varied battle functions, from VIP and cargo transportation to surveillance and combat functions, including defence and attack capabilities.
State Minister of Finance for investment Evelyn Anite: I congratulate my President because this has been a long journey. We started this journey not from election day but from amending the Constitution. If the Constitution was not amended, we were not going to have the President sworn in today. The reason we were fighting to amend the Constitution is what he said exactly today. We are searching for the central gravity of Africa. He is the only leader who fights for African integration.
Misa Kabanda, clinical officer and politician: The ideas are good but key players are not there. If he had key players, they would act on his behalf. Everybody is there for themselves. To reach the extent that the President talked about, someone committed must be there. If you do not know a minister to connect you, you will not get where to take those materials. It means you have to get a middleman who is going to charge you highly.
Finance Minister Matia Kasaija: Once we are integrated, we are now a surplus country, we shall get the markets. We have so many things especially from agriculture which we can’t consume alone in Uganda. Continental integration will help a lot. We are organising farmers in saccos and cooperatives so that when they produce the primary product, we facilitate them to add value and sell it.
Trade Minister Amelia Kyambadde: We have negotiated regional market. The continental market is where we are going to focus on this kisanja. We are going to improve the quality.”
Lands Minister Beti Kamya: The President talked about the weaknesses as Africa that we are vulnerable so people do not take us seriously because we are vulnerable. The only solution is to get together as Africa.
He promised to support bibanja holders to have security on the land. We are in the process of strengthening land laws to ensure more security of tenure of small land owners who are victimised.