Politics – Day 19

Posted on March 25, 2012


Don’t ask me how we got onto the subject, but Libya became the focus of our after dinner chat. Two subjects I always try to avoid are politics and religion. But there was no getting away from it. Nancy went to bed straight after eating. She’d got caught in the afternoon downpour and was feeling unwell as she came back soaking wet and freezing cold. So that left me with the boys.

Isaac, Herbert and myself will usually chew the fat for a good hour or so before saying goodnight. But tonight I had a feeling I was going to head to my room earlier than usual as the tone of the conversation changed.

Few in the west shed a tear when Muammar Gaddafi was captured and killed. And in fact many exiled Libyans as well as those in their own country rejoiced. The images broadcast around the world were as clear as day. So it was with surprise and disbelief to hear young Herbert say that if he had a son he would want him to grow up to be like Col Gaddafi – a strong and great leader who died a terrible death.

Herbert disputes the fact that Gaddafi tortured and killed his own people; he says it’s propaganda driven by whites and that America instigated the spring across the Arab world by paying organizers to rally people together to demonstrate. He said Gaddaffi’s death was a huge blow to Africans and that he did much for the continent and was well-loved especially in Uganda. Gaddafi was well-respected by a number of African countries, they called him “Brother Africa”, but it doesn’t change the fact that he ruled with an iron fist and showed little compassion towards those opposed to his regime.

Isaac too was shocked to hear Herbert’s views, and did his best to challenge his friend’s ideas. But the debate was really between me and Herbert.

When Gaddafi came to power he was a young man with great aspirations for his country. But like many dictators before him, his intentions at the start of his rule may have been good but his ego ran amok and his manifesto was about power and control no matter what the cost. By the time of his death, Libya was littered with many casualties across generations after years of tyranny. The West has a lot to answer for too. UK and America were culpable for helping to create a monster by funding and signing deals in the name of oil.

“What about democracy, don’t you believe in that? You’re living the privilege now, why shouldn’t other people be able to enjoy the same freedom?” I said.

“If people disobey a leader then it is his right to use force to punish them.”

“So killing and torturing people is acceptable is it? Do you support Mugabe too?”

“No Mugabe is different.”

“Why?” I questioned.

“Gaddafi was sending out a message to his opponents that he should not be questioned. What he was doing was for the good of Libya. He helped to build palaces here and inject wealth into Uganda. I can only wish we had another Gaddafi. Libyans are suffering more now.”

“Yes Libya is still in turmoil, but that happens when a dictatorship crumbles. It takes time for a country to find equilibrium, but at least people don’t have to live in fear of their lives anymore, “ I added.

The debate became heated and went on. I’m on the wagon for the three months, which is just as well, because if I had a drink in me, boy would that argument have been cranked up a notch and continued into the night.

“Herbert, we’ll agree to disagree, that’s democracy,” I said pushing my chair away from the table. “Thank your lucky stars you can engage in a difference of opinion without being persecuted. I’m going to bed. Lala saalam.”

I took my cup of water and headed across the grass to house 4, still in shock. Herbert is only 25 but he is the future of Uganda and if an educated young man like him has this opinion, then there’s probably plenty more people just like him.