Saddam, Gaddafi and the Arabs – An African Perspective

arab-revolutionAfter watching the graphic video clips of Saddam hanging in Bagdad in December 2006, on the day Muslims were celebrating the Eid- Adha, this writer was moved by emotion going by the way he was taunted by Iraqi officials at the gallows.

Writing a piece entitled “Saddam Hanging and the Humiliation of Arab World” that year, I clearly stated that: “The Arab world may unconsciously start to dig their own grave by giving tacit support for the invasion of their region, where foreign troops are fully armed and stationed.

It is now easier for their nations to be forced and fall into the so-called western liberalization and democratization, probably like that of Iraqis as we have witnessed so far. Afterall, apart from Egypt, most Arab nations in the region are ruled by kings who own the assets and properties in their kingdoms.”

 Similar incidence repeated itself almost four years after in another Arab country but this time, Libya which is in the African continent. The television viewers including young ones have been treated to disgusting, sickening and barbaric display of how Gaddafi met his death after he was brutalised, slapped, dragged, tortured, sodomized with a knife (gay-like) and shot with bullets, with his body dragged on the road and kicked amid jeering crowd and cheering rebels. Those are Arabs

The unethical practice of the media in publishing and broadcasting the images and the immoral behaviours of the rebel-killers who took delight in those savageries are not only shameful and abominable but acts that were deliberately executed to send wrong signals.

While America was the major arrowhead in the extermination of Saddam and other victims in Iraq, NATO forces comprising, Britain, Italy, France and Germany led and directed the assaults in connivance with the rebels in the name of National Transitional Council (NTC) to maul the longest serving African Leader, Muammar Gaddafi.

The allegation used against Saddam by President Bush of America was that Iraq harboured Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) as the excuse for the invasion which were discovered to be blatant falsehood. In the case of Libya, NATO claimed they were enforcing no-fly-zone mandate of United Nations against Gaddafi forces only for the NATO aircrafts to be flying and using bombs and missiles to destroy many structures in Tripoli, and Sirte, the hometown of Gaddafi. The last attacks on Gaddafi’s convoy were from NATO’s aircrafts.

One could read the hypocrisy and culpability of Arab leaders who had remained silent and nonchalant during the political imbroglios in the Arab countries. On the other hand the gullibility of the Arab citizens of those countries was glaring considering the fact that they had praised their leaders to high heaven when they had held power, only to turn around singing new songs through the influence of western forces and their mainstream media.

The western media and their leaders know how to crucify perceived enemies through orchestrated campaign of calumnies and threat including the arm-twisting of the United Nations. Not only did the leaders of such targeted countries abuse their poor victims as in the case of Iraqi prisoners who were abused in shameful display of arrogance of slave-masters.

While Gaddafi had his weaknesses, a common attribute of ambitious leaders in Africa and Arab countries, his people nevertheless were better off, compare with neighbouring countries in terms of living standard. Information gathered from reliable sources including fortunate returnees from the war-torn country, Gaddafi was reported to rule Libya without debt to the IMF or the World Bank. In fact the country had no external debt and its foreign reserves amount to $150 billion which was globally frozen. There is likelihood the cost of war by NATO and other countries could be defrayed considering the speculation that the U.S. military and NATO’s interventions in Libya have cost over two billion dollars.

As at 2010, Libya ranked 53rd on the Human Development Index (out of 170 UN member states), making it a “high human development” country and one of the richest in the world in terms of GDP per capita – with a living standard higher than that of Japan. His legacies include the right to free education and post-graduate studies, at home and abroad. A quarter of Libyans have a university degree while the adult literacy rate was 87% and 90% of youth were literate. Gross primary school enrolment ratio was 97% for boys and girls in 2009. There is free health care; free electricity for all citizen; interest-free housing loans; and free land for farmers.

The Gaddafi government subsidized the cost of buying cars as well as tractors for its citizens in a country where the price of petrol was $0.14 per litre and 40 loaves of bread in Libya cost $ 0.15.  While newlyweds in Libya receive about US$50,000 from the government for housing, a mother who gave birth received US$5,000. In the government’s oil-profit sharing scheme, every Libyan got $500 in their account every year – from the national income.

He was never perceived as a stooge of any government as he stood charismatically for the defence of his country and African integrity. His country was a major financier of freedom movements in some African countries like South Africa, Zimbabwe and Angola towards their independence and provided financial assistance to other countries like Niger, Chad and Burkina Faso apart from providing refuge and employments for other Africans from Nigeria, Ghana, Benin, Liberia, Senegal and Togo among others. It was not surprising that of grandsons of Nelson Mandela was named Gaddafi. He stood against Western attempts to re-colonise his country and criticized conservative Arab regimes for their ineptitudes in the Middle East sagas.

Col. Gaddafi also carried out the world’s largest irrigation project – known as the great man-made river – to make water available throughout its desert country costing billions of dollars without any external loans. His country also offered Africa its first revolution in modern times when he contributed US$300 million of US$400 required for Africa’s first communications satellite. The action reduced the cost of connecting the entire continent by telephone, television, radio broadcasting and several other technological applications. According to Professor Jean-Paul Pougala “This was a time when phone calls to and from Africa were the most expensive in the world because of the annual US$500 million fee pocketed by Europe for the use of its satellites like Intelsat for phone conversations, including those within the same country. An African satellite only cost a onetime payment of US$400 million and the continent no longer had to pay a US$500 million annual lease to the Europe.”

For the love he had for African, especially the poor blacks from other countries, he put in place a mechanism to absorb African immigrants into the civil service and the armed forces working legitimately to eke out a living. During the crisis majority of these became victims of massacre, rape and abuse by NTC rebels as attested to by survivals and returnees.

We knew that before the invasion of Iraq under Saddam and attacks on Libya under Gaddafi, acts of terrorism were non-existence and those countries as the security forces were disciplined and patriotic and the citizens law-abiding. While one can list the ills perpetrated by the so-called liberators, the Arab leaders should be blamed for the indignity, humiliation and shame on Arab nations that were engulfed in political crises.  Arab leaders collaborated with some developed countries in encouraging the then Saddam Hussein, in the 80’s, to provoke, harass and attack non-Arab M
uslim neighbours in the region like the eight-year senseless war with Iran (Persian) in attempts to tame further Islamic revolution by Ayatollah Khomeini into monarchical kingdoms. The Arabs also ignored Iraq’s attacks in the 1980s on Kurds (non-Arab) who have strong base in Turkey. In the case of Gaddafi of Libya, the Arab leaders ignored him and were funding the rebels.

The word Arab-Sheik, which means a scholar or elderly person, has become synonymous with a wealthy Arab who spends extravagantly on women, expensive alcoholic wine, and entertainment, automobile and delightedly waste huge fortunes on idle pastime and gambling. Unfortunately when confronted by near defeat, Arab leaders who hobnobbed with the so-called infidels would employ religious sentiments to win sympathy of large followers of Islamic faith. At least we have seen the new Libyan leaders now talking of sharia law as it relates to polygamous marriage rather than sharia in relation to human dignity and respect for the rule of law.

Personally, we may dislike some actions of Ghaddafi, as an African, he had made many positive contributions than negative towards socio-political and economic development of the continent of the black race, Africa. He was not a coward who ran away from home when he had the chances, but confronted his enemies to the end in his hometown keeping to his words of “dying in his country than a refugee in another country.”

Let us watch out to see what becomes of Syria, Yemen, Bahrain, Iran and other Arab nations whether they would be able sustain the control they have on their people against the western conspiracy to oust the regional leaders and leave the nations in continuous crises.

Yushau A. Shuaib


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