KAMPALA (Reuters) - Uganda would consider an asylum application from Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, as it would for anyone seeking refuge in the east African country, a minister said Wednesday.
Al Arabiya television reported that Uganda would welcome Gaddafi after Western and other states suggested the Libyan leader should go into exile to end the conflict in his country.
The television channel did not give further details.
“Those are rumours. I have just been in a cabinet meeting with all the ministers and yes we discussed Libya but there was nothing on asylum that we discussed,” Henry Okello Oryem, junior Minister for Foreign Affairs, told Reuters.
“However, if Gaddafi does apply for asylum in Uganda, we’ll consider his application like we do for all those who seek refuge in Uganda,” he said.
Uganda is a member of the African Union ad hoc committee trying to mediate a resolution of the Libyan conflict after the United Nations authorised air strikes to protect Libyan civilians from forces loyal to Gaddafi.
The United States, Britain and Qatar, which joined others at a meeting on Libya in London Tuesday, suggested Gaddafi and his family could be allowed to go into exile if they took up the offer quickly to end six weeks of bloodshed.
Gaddafi has been a driving force behind the African Union, his largesse has extended Libya’s economic reach throughout sub-Saharan Africa and he has some close friends in power.
But analysts say many African leaders have become frustrated with Gaddafi’s erratic behaviour, some still harbour grudges over past meddling in internal conflicts and others may not want to tarnish their images further by giving him a home.
Gaddafi’s relations with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni have been chequered at best over the years.
Museveni put out a statement on March 20 analysing the Libyan crisis. In the article, Museveni detailed five mistakes Gaddafi had made in his relations with sub-Saharan Africa — and Uganda in particular.
These included Gaddafi’s support for the late Ugandan dictator Idi Amin — Museveni detailed the time a Libyan air force plane had tried to bomb his rebel troops in 1979.
Museveni also criticised Gaddafi’s stance on the African Union, saying African leaders had been forced to oppose the Libyan leader’s “illogical position” on pushing for a United States of Africa.
The Ugandan president did, however, say Gaddafi’s influence had been positive to the extent he maintained an independent foreign policy and resisted outside interference, for example when giving Museveni some weapons in 1981.
He also praised Gaddafi for being one of the few secular leaders in the Arab world and reiterated that the Libyan leader should negotiate with the opposition.
Uganda’s capital Kampala is home to one of sub-Saharan Africa’s largest mosques, named after Gaddafi after the Libyan government funded its construction.
Uganda, which is also a close ally of Washington, said on Tuesday it had taken control of Libya’s majority stake in Uganda Telecom, the latest move to freeze Libyan assets in the east African nation in compliance with U.N. sanctions.
Additional reporting by Dina Zayed in Cairo; Editing by David Clarke