This eleventh day of the eleventh month of the eleventh year after year 2000, let’s give a thought to our brothers and sisters up North. After raising our hopes with their successful ouster of dinosaurian despots, will their Arab spring progress into an Arab summer? Or will their revolutions degenerate into what cynics like to call the laughable déjà-vu of Africa?
There may yet be hope for Tunisia and Egypt, with their citizens still pressing for real change. However, I fear for Libya, if for nothing else, for the fact that the people were not the exact begetters of their change. It is only normal for anyone to solicit a helping hand, and any help to dislodge a monster that is killing his people should be lauded, but it is reason for apprehension when the helped begin to trade in the very same currency as that of their killer.
The spectacle alone of the obscene humiliation and disgrace that Gaddafi was subjected to after capture pointed to an unruly militia that revelled in revenge killing. And, to-date, talk persists of an unknown number of militias having access to arms; hundreds of armed brigades patrolling the country; some people who worked under Gaddafi still being “filtered”; Blacks being abducted; and on.
When this disheartening honeymoon is over, will the National Transitional Council live up to the dream of the people of Libya and fill up the current political void by putting in place a strong leadership that will restore order fast and firmly?
Only such a leadership can effect a radical change and chart out a path for the future of Libya, rather than settle in the same driving seat of the same old system.
Which would not mean doing away with everything Gaddafi because there is no denying that some of his projects were positive for Libya and, even, for Africa.
Take the example of the Great Man-Made River. It was a massive project whose aim was to transform the Sahara Desert and reverse the desertification of North Africa. With its irrigation plans, it was intended to support the agricultural sector of Libya as well as that of neighbouring countries. Yet, it was the military target of NATO bombings.
Then there were The Libyan Investment Authority and The Libyan Foreign Bank. Through these institutions, Gaddafi was instrumental in setting up Africa’s first satellite network, thus reducing African dependence on external powers. Here in Rwanda, we know how before this satellite network you could not make a telephone call to Kinshasa, for example, without going through some switchboard in Brussels. Think of the costs Africa was incurring.
Of course, we know that some of the projects he thought up tended to be rather megalomaniacal but imagine if he had been able to set up the African Investment Bank, the African Monetary Fund and the African Central Bank. With the success of the man-made river project, we have no reason to disbelieve that this project would have been successful. But imagine what that would have meant for World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF).
However, Gaddafi did not always dream up projects that were going to benefit Africa. At one time he talked of a project to distribute oil revenues to his citizens on a monthly basis. Every country talks of empowering its citizens but imagine a citizenry directly managing all their country’s national revenue individually, in co-operation or through committees. I don’t know about the practicability of that but I know that, as an example, it would have spelt chaos for the traditional state, on all continents!
While we may not talk ill of the dead, then, we have to admit that, for the extravagant life he led, Gaddafi was destined to meet a mean end.
Even if that end, when it came, revolted us out of our spectator impotence. As fellow Africans, was there completely nothing that we could do to give a fellow African Union (AU) member an honourable send-off and save ourselves the shame of appearing like savages to a civilised world? Brutally killing a man who is already fallen and going ahead to sodomize his dead body? What picture do we give of ourselves?
For, however fiercely we may profess not to have been involved, there is no escaping the snide remark: “Africans? What did you expect?”
We know, of course, that those NATO members making such remarks were not unleashing death from the skies of Libya purely for the altruistic defence of innocent civilians. We know that that death, when it descended, did not selectively pick on Gaddafi’s lieutenants. But we also know that however thorough it may have been, it was not going to harm the oil that lay beneath the sands of Sahara.
And for sure, that death issuing from the skies of Libya was not going to touch the plague of poverty that will forever keep Africa beholden to the trickle-generosity of the NATO countries.
Yes, we know all that. But the value we attach to our honour is such that we cannot say what we know to the face of anybody. Otherwise the behaviour of Gaddafi’s killers, rather than being the exception, would be the norm.