Former Libya President Col Muammar Gadaffi posthumously awarded the Order of Katonga honouring him for his contribution to the National Resistance Army (NRA) bush struggle that liberated Uganda from dictatorship at Thursday’s Heroes Day celebrations in Buikwe District.
The ‘Order of Katonga’ is awarded very rarely for extraordinary heroism. It is awarded to any officer, national or foreign, who participated in fighting dictatorship between 1971 and 1979.
This is the second time Museveni Uganda’s commander in chief is awarding the Libyan strongman whose legacy in Uganda includes mosques and the propping up of monarchs. He received the the same decoration the first being on 6 April 2004 in Tripoli.
Besides Gaddafi(RIP), Museveni also posthumously awarded former Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere in July 2007 at his hometown of Butiama for his assistance in liberating Africa from colonialism in general and Uganda from Idi Amin’s rule in particular via the Uganda–Tanzania War.
The third statesman to get decorated with the honour also known in Swahili as ‘Nishani ya Katonga’ was Gen. Museveni himself by Chief Justice Bart Katureebe credited for the liberation of Uganda.
President Museveni also decorated Gen. Caleb Akandwanaho alias Salim Saleh with the Kabalega Star, the second highest honour in the country for saving him from an ambush in Kireka in November 1980.
Uganda’s unwavering love for Gaddafi
If Gaddafi had an odd and long-running relationship with Uganda the country, after 2001, he developed an even more curious relationship with a kingdom within Uganda called Tooro in western Uganda.
The relationship between the kingdom and the former Libyan leader started in 2000, when President Yoweri Museveni introduced King Oyo during celebrations to mark Uganda’s Independence at Kololo, on October 9.
Museveni said that Colonel Gaddaffi has always been at the forefront of the liberation of Africa and unification of the continent.
Col Gaddafi played a prominent role in the formation of the African Union (AU) – a body in which he wielded enormous influence because he was one of its major financiers. Museveni is now the defacto leader of the organization.
Col Gaddafi’s position in Africa was paradoxical. Just as he backed pro-democracy causes like Museveni’s NRM government, he also supported infamous dictator Idi Amin.
It was none other than Gaddafi who in March 1972 persuaded President Idi Amin to abandon his close ties with Israel and join the Arab and Palestinian cause. Libya then promised and delivered money to Uganda to compensate revenue lost from severing ties with Israel.
“Muammar Gaddafi, whatever his faults, is a true nationalist. I prefer nationalists to puppets of foreign interests,” President Museveni was quoted by BBC as saying in February 2011.
To Uganda’s Muslim community, the lasting legacy of Gaddafi in Uganda will be the beautiful peach and cream-coloured grand mosque atop Old Kampala Hill, a construction project that started in 1972 but seemed like one of those that would never get completed.
Ugandans too have had their long-running fascination with Gaddafi. His flamboyant fashion sense, the hilarious fights his bodyguards always got into with Museveni’s presidential escort, that relationship/friendship/alliance with Best Kemigisa, all made headlines.