I have never met Libya's Colonel Muammar Gaddafi but unlike some, I remember very clearly the first time I heard his name. It was not during his dramatic visit to Ghana for an African Union summit in 2007 when he led a convoy of 109 cars across the Sahara desert and set up a tent camp in Accra for the duration of the summit. No. The first time I heard his name was when I was 8 years old and my family (then resident in Southern Africa) were on holiday in Ghana for Christmas. In the sweltering December heat, we found ourselves stuck in traffic for a few hours all because a certain "Colonel Muammar Gaddafi" was visiting Ghana. It seemed like an eternity in hell. To this day, I'm still not sure why a state visit by Colonel Gaddafi had halted traffic but at the time, the seeds of bitterness and suspicion were firmly implanted in my 8 year old mind.
Over the years since, I caught glimpses of the eccentric and mercurial Gaddafi as he has drifted through the international news for:
- The Pam Am Flight 103 / Lockerbie Bombing in 1988
- The Bulgarian nurses and Palestinian doctor incident in which foreign medical personnel were accused of spreading HIV in a Benghazi hospital
- The (in)famous female crack bodyguards
- His aptly-named son Hannibal's brushes with the law in Switzerland
- The release of the 'Lockerbie Bomber' and the ensuing controversy
Curiously, in recent years, Gaddafi has taken a more than active role in African politics. As chairman of the AU, he led a clarion call for a united Africa.To me his real agenda remained unclear. Was he thinking of a fortified and strengthened Africa? Did he have our interests at heart? Did he envisage himself as the leader of this united Africa? Perhaps a King of Africa?
|Gaddafi and Berlusconi in 2010: Both making negative headlines in 2011|
Last year, Colonel Gaddafi true feelings about Africa became more transparent. In a state visit to Italy, he called for 6.3 billion dollars a year to stop illegal African immigrants. He was sure to make his case by pandering to base racist elements by calling for a prevention of a “Black Europe”. He tore the last shred of African dignity left by painting a bleak picture of invading and barbaric black hordes assembled outside the pearly gates of Europe. Interestingly, Gaddafi asked for the money not to reduce push factors within African countries that lead to migration but for money to beef up Libyan security.
But that was last year. In 2011, the world has watched in awe as the once-strong Gaddafi is unraveling before our eyes. His very sudden decline would be more than comical if it was not having such tragic consequences.
|Final Stand: Gaddafi in February 2011|
Gaddafi is currently waging war against his own people and blaming his current woes on everything from the youth fueled by drugs from the West and now even Al-Qaeda has been fingered. After almost 42 years in power it appears that Gaddafi is confused as to where he ends and Libya begins. He appears to see attacks on Libya as attacks on him. He is promising to go down fighting and wants to take Libya down with him. The world is watching horrified but hopeful. Are we going to bid farewell to the regime of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi? Can I finally cross off the current occupant of the Number 1 spot on the list of African-leaders-still-in-power-when-I-was-in primary-school?