Friday, March 25, 2011



By Jerry Okungu

Nairobi, Kenya

March 23, 2011

When Nelson Mandela went to prison in 1964 for fighting apartheid, Col Kaddafi waited for five years before he overthrew the Libyan King. The same year that he carried the coupe, Barack Obama, the current American president was just eight years old.

Between 1969 when Kaddafi took power and now, a lot of water has passed under the bridge. Children born the year he took power are now grandparents. It means three generations of Libyans have never known any other leader. During the same period, the United States has had nine presidents alternating between Democrats and Republicans.

Here in Africa, Mandela served his 27 year jail, came out and reconciled with his jailers, got reelected the first black South African president, served one term and became the greatest statesman Africa has ever produced.

Isn’t it ironical that the boy who was hardly 8 years old in America when Kaddafi took power, the son of a Kenyan immigrant, is the one now leading an onslaught to remove Kaddafi after the Libyan leader had started bombing his own people?

In the past one week when the Libyan bombing by Western allies has been in progress, debate on the same from the Kremlin, Beijing, Italy and Africa has been equally diverse. Some pro Kaddafi sympathizers saw it as the usual Western aggression against the Third World. The original reason the UN passed a resolution on Libya got lost in partisan global politics. Suddenly, nobody wanted to remember that before the Allied forces’ bombings, it was Kaddafi’s fire power that was sending Libyans to their early graves simply because they had asked him to leave power after four decades.

In the years when Kaddafi was a warlord; when he was a self confessed father of terrorism against Israel and the West; something happened that the West would not forget even if they appeared to forgive him a few years later. He bombed Pan Am Airline an American airline over Scotland’s airspace at a place called Lockerbie. For years the Americans tried to retaliate for the deaths of mainly Americans that were on this aircraft. At one time the Americans bombed his tent in Tripoli and killed one of his children but missed him.

As Kaddafi continued with his wayward ways, the UN passed a resolution that literally made Libya a pariah state. Most members of the United Nations cut off trade and diplomatic links with Kaddafi’s Libya. He, however, continued to enjoy the support of the Arab states as well as a few poor Muslim countries that depended on him for handouts.

When finally Kaddafi chose to make amends with America, he paid billions of dollars in compensation to the families that lost their loved ones in the Lockerbie bombing.

For this gesture, the international community readmitted Kaddafi into the Community of Nations. What he forgot to remember was that the West had not and would not forget his years of terrorism sponsorship and especially the Lockerbie bombing. They would punish him at an appropriate time.

For Kaddafi to defy a UN resolution and open up Libyan armory to his Libyan supporters in order to fight against the Allied forces of the US, France, Britain and Canada was foolhardy to say the least when recent historical events involving Iraq , Bosnia and Afghanistan are still very fresh in our memory. When the late Saddam Hussein promised the American forces the mother of all battles when Saddam invaded and annexed Kuwait, the American forces led by General Collin Powell bombed Iraq to smithereens then went ahead to impose an no-fly zone on most of Iraq’s airspace.

The reason why the US led invasions against Iraq twice in a decade was because Saddam Hussein’s abrasiveness and violence against his own people was getting out of control. However, the most important reason these invasions took place was because both Kuwait and Iraq were oil producing countries; commodities that are still very important to the survival of Western economies. It was therefore a miscalculation on the part of Kaddafi to imagine that being an oil producing country, he could be allowed to cause chaos in his own country, disrupt the flow of oil in to the world market and distort world oil prices.

Col Kaddafi may have been a great African leader, flashy and a big spender when dealing with poor African states. He may have dreamed of a United States of Africa and even gone ahead to declare himself the King of kings using a bunch of African traditional chiefs that supported him more for his handouts than genuine belief in him as a king. However, as a statesman that had ruled his country for four decades, he should have realized how far these theatrics could take him. His advisors, if he had any, should have advised him that such theatrics must have made him look more like a clown than a serious international player in world politics.

When eventually these theatrics turned into real violence against his people, someone had to act. The world was not ready for another Rwanda or Bosnia.