Ghaddafi: A Terrorist Turned Africanist?

by SOC Okenwa

Libya is a rich beautiful country where majority are living above poverty line and relatively happy with the socio-political system. Though I have not been there a friend from Rivers State who sojourned in Tripoli for about two years told me in Paris France last September that the country is prosperous with the minority of the population complaining silently about the monarchical rulership of Ghaddafi. He said the leader is held in high esteem and if you are overheard on the street discussing him or criticising him then some secret security agents on the prowl would pick you up for detention.

The name Muammar Ghaddafi evokes different memories in different people. For some he was a terrorist whose agents bombed the British air-borne plane over Lockerbie in Scotland. For others he is a repented supporter of Islamic fundamentalism. And for yet others he is a pan-Africanist who is not afraid to defend the interest of the poor continent. And to another school of thought Ghaddafi is a hypocrite who hates blacks but pretend to ‘love’ Africans. Smarting from a pariah status things are improving and diplomatic relations are improving also.

Ghaddafi is a unique leader in the sense that he has successfully used the oil wealth in his country to positively effect massive empowerment and impact on the lives of his compatriots. He is a patriot no doubt, an achiever who has placed his country on an economic pedestal many sub-Saharan African countries only dream of. The dictatorial pro-terrorist garb with which Western critics dress him is lost at home because he has personalised power with no room for political competition or opposition.

Muammar Ghaddafi is a Maghrebian “mafian” who believes in Arabic power and influence. Presiding over a nation colonised by Italy for decades and still going strong with little threat to his hold on power the Libyan leader is an embodiment of arrogance and braggadocio. Visiting foreign countries with his hordes of well-trained female body guards (some say mostly made sterile) Ghaddafi is basking in the euphoria of new-found amity with the West and sub-Saharan Africa. Having been marketing internationally a new image and profile of himself as a pan-Africanist concerned about the African gloom and doom Ghaddafi has cut the public image of a leader desperate to clean up his terrorist past and terrorism links.

>From Lisbon Portugal where he participated in the EU/Africa Summit Ghaddafi flew into Paris to start a week-long state visit. Before his arrival opposition and human rights forces had mounted serious campaign denouncing the Libyan leader’s poor human rights records and ugly murderous past. Even President Sarkozy had to defend the visit appealing to his people for understanding. In the Parliament the opposition legislators abandoned their seats in protest as Ghaddafi addressed them. Some victims of his repressive regime exiled in France protested his presence and the families of some French victims of his terrorism support joined forces to demand for justice.

While Sarkozy harped on the economic benefits of the visit resulting in deals worth more than 10 billion Euros he insisted that Ghaddafi has abandoned sponsorship of terrorism and development of illegal weapons, hence the need for France to encourage her. But the former Socialist presidential candidate Ms Segolene Royal declared that Sarkozy “must realise that he has fallen into the trap of an unscrupulous dictator”. And for the obviously elated Ghaddafi: “Things have changed. The circumstances that prevented me from coming have disappeared; from now on… I can visit Europe when I want, any country, and even the United States“.

“King” Muammar Ghaddafi visited and addressed some black Africans resident in France. He hypocritically asked them to return to Africa if they are not wanted or welcomed by their hosts in Europe. He enjoined them not to see themselves as “beggars” or “destitutes” since Africa is in need of their experience, professionalism and expertise. Good talk but when one recalls that Libya under the same Ghaddafi constantly deports many blacks from Libyan territory yearly then the manifest hypocrisy in his statement becomes obvious.

The man the French call “Le guide de la Jammariyah” is a phenomenon of some sort. He had toured many East African countries down to West Africa in a convoy of specially-made Mercedes cars! His entourage provoked a mild controversy in Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport during a short state visit during the Obasanjo era. The bodyguards insisted on taking their arsenal of weapons along with them into the Abuja city, something diplomatically wrong; official protocol demanded otherwise but the Libyan leader and his fiercely loyal boys and girls refused to see reason. And the Nigerian security authorities stood their ground refusing them passage! It took the personal intervention of Obasanjo after minutes of a standoff before the matter was resolved amicably.

In the final analysis Moammar Ghaddafi is seen generally by his Libyan people and Arab brothers and sisters beyond the Libyan borders as a hero and liberator. But to millions out there he stands a villain. Beyond acquiescing with the civilised world he fought for years through subtle application of terrorism principles — an international crime that nearly cost him his life during the Reagan presidency when a barrage of bombs fell on Tripoli and Benghazi — Ghaddafi strikes an impartial international observer as a repented terrorist using rhetorics of African unity and potentials to reach out to his enemies and friends alike.

Before casting his wide diplomatic net in search of Western friends and African audience I think he should reform the polity in his homeland allowing free enterprise, freedom of speech and democracy to prevail in Libya. His obnoxious human rights records should be looked into as well. And he should do less with hordes of “castrated” female minders whose sovereignty-violating presence in sovereign territories tend to act as an intimidating reminder of this dictator’s bloody and intolerant credentials.

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