How to deal with the next ‘Gadaffi’

A MEMBER of the Libyan Transitional Council was asked if it was right to kill Muammar Gadaffi and not to bring him to trial for his crimes.

His reply amounted to this: if they could have killed him for a thousand times, they would have done so. Unfortunately, they could kill him only once.

About 70 000 people had died on his orders.

The debate will probably rage for some time to come: should this man, the dictator of his country for more than 40 years, during which he killed thousands of his people, have been arrested and his rights read to him in full?

Libyans queued to view his corpse. Some took pictures.

They said they did this to confirm that he was indeed dead.

Most said they felt no sensation of shame or disgust at the way Gadaffi had been killed.

If someone had suggested this was an uncivilised way to dispense justice, they probably would have retorted with: Was Gadaffi civilised?

Among African leaders who publicly rebuked Libyans for the summary justice meted out against Gadaffi was the South African president, Jacob Zuma. He was very close to the dictator to the extent some people decided they shared the same principles.

All South Africans must pray that this is not so. Gadaffi, though not the “mad dog” that George Bush Senior once called him, was a raving megalomaniac.

Many Africans, since 1957, have displayed the same obsession with power that he did: some of them ended the way he did, dying an inglorious death.

I have written of my own personal experience on a visit to Tripoli in 2007. Gadaffi was unabashed about what he wanted from the journalists he had invited to his country: he wanted them to endorse his United States of Africa campaign, of
which he intended to be the first president.

It is not inconceivable that many African leaders were disgusted with Gadaffi’s naked hunger for power.

If those who, today, condemn the manner of his death at the hands of his own people fail to accept that this man was almost drunk with power, then we Africans are in much bigger trouble than we ever imagined.

It is being claimed that Gadaffi wanted to stand up to the imperialists who are alleged to have incited his people to rise against him.

Again, we have African leaders believing that their own people are so stupid that only the white imperialists could rouse them to protest against the misrule of their own leaders.

They forget that the fight against colonialism was not incited by white people.

Africans themselves, some of them now in power, rose to right the injustice of the white people.

The Africans who are rising up against the injustice of their own people are not being incited by anything other than the diabolical injustice of their rulers.

Some of it is worse than any yokes the colonialists hung around our necks, Africans were willing to shed blood in the fight against colonialism.

Today, like the people of Libya, they are willing to shed more blood to defend their rights against the new colonialists – their own people.

I have always thought that if Julius Nyerere had been alive today, there would have been no “Gadaffis” rising to power in Africa today.

The decisive manner in which he dealt with Idi Amin demonstrated a willingness to risk everything — including his reputation — for the sake of a good cause.

Let us not forget that one of the people who came to Amin’s aid was Gadaffi himself.

The African Union today has no “Nyerere” to guide it. Gadaffi has been touted as a great pan-Africanist. He is most certainly not in the mould of the people who launched the OAU.

In Tripoli in 2007, we African journalists had a taste of the real Gadaffi: the theatricals, the gaudy adornments of the conference venues and the shameless subservience demanded of his own people, as if they were before a god.

You could imagine how such people would feel when an even more powerful force got rid of Gadaffi, on their behalf.

It was enough to convince them that Allah is Great.


Bill Saidi is a veteran journalist based in Harare

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