Arthur Asiimwe’s opinion “Kagame’s stand on Libya likely to enrage African peers but boldly spot on” - published in The New Times yesterday - made some strong points.
Indeed, President Kagame’s current stand is characteristically bold and consistent with his view that saving lives is always a priority.
This stance didn’t start with the infamous Iraq declaration in Paris, it goes way back to his youth when he refused to accept the injustice and inhumanness of statelessness and refugee life, and found a response in the RPF liberation struggle.
Where Asiimwe and I diverge is on the likely reaction of Kagame’s African peers. I happen to think that the majority of leaders on our continent will actually have been relieved to hear one of their own dare to articulate an opinion that they share, but perhaps would not easily voice themselves.
The fact is three members of the African Union on the UN Security Council voted for Resolution 1973 in favour of intervention in Libya, none of these countries has since retracted their support.
At the very most, South Africa and Nigeria are reported to have made statements that appear to contradict their previously stated support for intervention, but this doesn’t take away from their principled stand to support the protection of civilians under attack from their own government.
It is clear that the AU moved too slowly and was overtaken by events on the ground, missing the opportunity to be more decisive in regards to the crisis. I would have loved to be a fly on the wall in the AU debate on Libya in Addis Ababa last week, I bet that while there was unanimity among members in decrying the atrocities visited on innocent Libyans, there was no unanimity against military action.
Only a handful of countries would have been fighting against the no-fly zone and urging dialogue in the midst of government-directed carnage.
The majority would have recognised what was really happening and would have wanted stronger action, which fortunately the Security Council decision provided for.
I mean, let’s be serious, which African Head of State hasn’t cringed at Colonel Gaddafi’s posturing and interference around the continent? In addition to raining hell on his own people, the Libyan leader has for years used his country’s wealth to manipulate the affairs of other African countries.
The year that he held the chairmanship of the AU, Africans all over held their collective breaths whenever Colonel Gaddafi appeared at a continental meeting.
I see no contradiction in Kagame’s vocal support for current action in Libya, with his unwavering support for African Unity and advocacy for more active involvement of Africans in the continent’s affairs as well as in important global collaboration.
In fact he decries the absence of consultation by the international community with the AU, which may not have provided military might we are now witnessing, but “offered something more valuable – political support and moral authority for the coalition’s actions on the ground”.
No one knows better than African leaders how important it is for the continent to be doing the right thing; beyond the imperative of protecting lives, our elected leaders have the critical task of changing the undeserved image of Africa as a place of chaos, to a safe and sane place to live and do business. In this case, even though the international community has failed in other places at different times, it is doing absolutely the right thing in Libya – and in this, most of Kagame’s peers stand together.