Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni feared Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi would attack his plane because the two had fallen out over African integration plans, according to a US diplomatic cable from 2008.
The long-serving leaders — two of the continent’s famed “strongmen” — have been at loggerheads over Gaddafi’s vision of a “United States of Africa”.
“Museveni noted that tensions with Qadhafi are growing and as a result, he worries that Qadhafi will attack his plane while flying over international airspace,” a US diplomat wrote in a June 2008 cable obtained by Wikileaks.
“Museveni requested that (the US) and (Uganda) coordinate to provide additional air radar information when he flies over international waters.”
The cable gave details of a meeting in the United States between Museveni and the State Department’s then top diplomat for Africa, Jendayi Frazer, Reuters reports.
Gaddafi — who often calls himself Africa’s “King of Kings” — has irritated some other leaders at African Union (AU) summits with his plan for a politically and economically united continent with one president. Some opponents say the Libyan, once a champion of Arab unity, wants the potential presidential post for himself. Others call it a plot to spread Islam.
A mass fistfight broke out between Gaddafi’s and Museveni’s presidential guards as leaders arrived for the opening of an AU summit in Kampala in July. The two heads of state later argued in full view of delegates and reporters.
According to the cable, Museveni said Gaddafi “is a problem” for the continent and intimidates small West African countries, stopping them from speaking out against his plans and winning their support with bribes.
Many of Gaddafi’s initiatives at AU summits, including political unity, have been vetoed by an opposing bloc often led by South Africa, Ethiopia and Uganda.
“Museveni thought (the United States of Africa) neither feasible nor desirable, given cultural and linguistic differences across the continent” the cable said.
Gaddafi was not the only leader who drew fire from the outspoken Ugandan President in meetings with US diplomats. Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe and Eritrea’s Isaias Afewerki were also singled out for criticism.
“Museveni thought Zimbabwe’s faltering economy and Mugabe’s poor understanding of the private sector were at the root of Zimbabwe’s political problems,” the dispatch revealed.
Mugabe was “embarrassing” Africa’s liberation leaders, Museveni said. A separate 2007 cable said Museveni thought Eritrea’s Isaias armed Somali rebels, was “preoccupied” with ousting Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, and should be talked to by the UN Security Council, “who carry a big stick.”