By GABBY MGAYA, 21st November 2011 @ 01:48, Total Comments: 1, Hits: 1496
WHEN I heard that former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi has been killed by anti-government forces that had waged a war to topple him after several months of hiding, I felt really sad.
Not that I really liked him very much but felt for him as a fellow human being and a head of state of his beloved country for more than four decades. Whether one likes it or not, the late leader had many attributes that his countrymen and the world will remember him for.
He made sure that the country’s oil wealth benefitted a majority of Libyans. He put in place a semblance of a welfare state in which all the people were assured of food. He endeared himself among the youth as the state funded marriage expenses for them as well as ensuring they got state accommodation.
As a Tanzanian (forget about the Libyan forces that fought alongside Ugandan troops during the Idi Amin War of Aggression of 1978/79), I have fond memories of his generosity to Tanzanians that saw him coming to the country’s rescue at the height of several oil crises and the construction of houses of worship.
The so-named Gaddafi Mosque in Dodoma stands testimony to this. I hear the ‘Leader’ also financed the construction of a mosque at Butiama, Mwalimu Nyerere’s birthplace.
According to Ikulu’s inner circles, Gaddafi is an admirer of President Jakaya Kikwete whom he fondly referred to at the OAU Summit in Khartoum in 2009 as ‘’my son’’.
The brutal manner in which his captors tortured him before firing the final shot that finished him off was utterly disgusting and worth condemnation by all upright citizens of this world. The TV footages I saw in his final hours showed that The Leader, as he preferred to be called, met his death in a much undignified way.
Mine, as I have indicated above, were not crocodile tears for I really felt for the man, who in 1969 as a young Libyan army officer led a group of fellow revolutionaries to topple King Idris, abolished feudal rule and set up a people’s (Libyan Arab Jamahiriya) government. Not that I supported or liked everything Gaddafi did or condoned.
I did not like the part the Libyan leader played in the New York-bound Pan Am jet crash onto Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988 in which 258 innocent passengers, including schoolchildren returning home for their Christmas holidays, perished.
I did not like the torture and deaths, his political opponents suffered in his detention camps and his support to various terrorism cells across the world. I also did not like the detention, torture and deaths of political detainees, the so-perceived ‘enemies of the revolution’.
But despite all his eccentric behaviour, Gaddafi had a human streak in him. The act of pardoning five Bulgarian nurses and a doctor who were convicted and condemned to death on accusation of having deliberately infected hundreds of Libyan children with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, was one his generous and human gestures that won him accolades around the globe.
Gaddafi was also a progressive and revolutionary leader who abhorred imperialism and foreign domination and influence, especially Western influence. He stood for true independence, total liberation from foreign domination and a unified Africa; we all remember his principled stand on the creation of a United States of Africa.
I visited Libya in 2009. I was one of the local journalists who accompanied President Jakaya Kikwete in his tour of the North African country in 2009. With its oil riches, I had expected its capital, Tripoli, to be a booming city worth the country’s wealth, the same way as Dubai,Abu Dhabi, Bahrain and Doha and or an even more magnificent and breath-taking megalopolis.
It did not turn out like that. Despite clusters of state-of-the art residential neighbourhoods, hundreds of other impressive modern and innovative architectural structures, including four and five-star hotels, and good palm-lined wide roads, Tripoli looked in comparison a very ordinary Arab-influenced city.
As our Alitalia jetliner was on descent gear that late afternoon, I looked through the window below to have a glimpse of Tripoli. With the gigantic Mediterranean Sea glittering under the setting sun several thousands feet below; there was not much to compare with Dubai, Doha or other oil-rich cities of the world. The airport was a not a big deal either.
Though decent, it looked very ordinary in comparison with the ones in Dubai, Amsterdam, Gatwick (London) or better still, Doha. The about one-hour drive to Tripoli city centre was picturesque as stateof- the-art residential buildings lined each side of the street; off course without the Dubai glitter.
The palm-tree lined Mediterranean Sea-side boulevards were magnificent and provided the cool shades that could prove useful in hot weather. The sea-side streets serve Tripoli residents very well as ideal places for leisure strolls. The city has well-stocked supermarkets and traditional souks to suit all tastes and pockets.
I had a taste of Bab al-Aziziya, one of Gaddafi’s residences, a fortified place that showed the Leader’s taste for traditional Arabian life, which explained his Berber origins. The complex had one modern building, which looked abandoned.
Most activities seemed confined to a Bedouin tent at the middle of the compound where the Leader resided, including using it to receive his guests. At the Leader’s residence, I also got a taste of Libyan food as I served myself to a plate of mouth-watering snacks including samosa and kebabs.
I am not very sure whether it was beef or camel meat! Before I left the compound I got my share of Libyan traditional robe, which Gaddafi presented to the Tanzania delegation. I still have the robe, which I have not worn to date. Lest I forget, Gaddafi was a very stylish leader what with all those free-flowing traditional Libyan robes and his all-female bodyguard troop.
While in Libya I had a glimpse of the bodyguards who, it seems, must have passed some beauty test. Well, Gaddafi is gone. But his United Africa ideal will continue to guide the continent in its aspiration for greater unity.
He erred like any human being, sometimes going overboard in his zeal to impress or reach his goals, warped or straight. Let Africa remember Gaddafi for his good deeds and measure him accordingly.
Total Comments on the above stories (1)
nice piece Gabby..It exudes compassion and more knowledge for some of us who have never been to Libya...
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