Reports that over 85% of Libya’s 165 diplomatic missions around the globe have dumped the country’s longest-serving dictator Muammar Gaddafi and shifted their allegiance to the National Transitional Council (NTC), speaks volumes about the iron-fisted ruler’s waning popularity.
It goes without saying that when your trusted friends turn out not to be friends in deed, it’s time for self-introspection and to do the most honourable thing, quit. Diplomats by the very nature of their jobs are a leader’s closest political confidantes.
But, when they ditch you en-masse, it just goes to show an immeasurable degree of mistrust. Even if Gaddafi decides to defy the significance of the latest defections, one then wonders whose interests he will be serving. What credibility will he gain by continuously shedding innocent blood?
“It’s game over!” shouted Libyan consul in the Philippines Faraj Zarroug recently. “It’s game over for Mr Gaddafi! Probably in a few days, everything will be over, hopefully. I’m very happy.”
Libyan diplomats abroad have been pledging allegiance to the revolutionaries in a gradual, months-long trend, but there appeared to be an upsurge in defections this week with envoys in Zimbabwe, Ethiopia and Dubai joining the long list.
The missions to Switzerland and Bangladesh, for example, switched early after the crisis erupted nearly six months ago, and Libyan embassy officials in Japan and Ethiopia replaced the government flag with the NTC’s.
On Wednesday afternoon, Harare residents watched in awe as Libyan Ambassador to Zimbabwe Taher Elmagrahi joined his fellow countrymen in hoisting the NTC flag at the embassy offices in downtown Harare.
His brief remarks summed it all: “When I came here, I was here to represent the Libyan people and I follow them.
When they decide to change things, we will follow them. The embassy represents Libyan people.”
In Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the Libyan ambassador to the African Union, Ali Awidan, said he raised the new revolutionary flag on Monday, changing sides in the last moments.
“I was not serving Gaddafi, I have been serving Libya,” he said.
Unlike their former leader, the envoys realised they could not go against the wishes of the people and winds of change. Dictators should better take a leaf or two from events in Libya and quit while the sun still shines as it were. It’s no use remaining defiant when all support pillars have been withdrawn. It is needless to mention, the notion of equal participation is unprecedented in Libya or rather was eliminated during the past four decades despite Gaddafi’s claim of Al Jamahiriya (rule of the people).
For nearly half a century, with exceptional skill, Gaddafi had marginalised Libyans to various degrees and therefore restricted their political and civic participation which consequently depleted their sense of patriotism.
They had been to follow and fear, confined into their own daily challenges, bureaucratic red tape, and mere eagerness to get by.
They had been conditioned to accept or rather be grateful to be alive and out of prison. In addition, money, power, and fear regrettably distorted reality in Libya and misled an entire nation of more than 6 million where corruption had become the prevailing business culture.
Accordingly, recent events will ensure political power flows from the people to leaders of government and not vice versa.
Needless to mention, democracy is a means for the people to choose their leaders and to hold their leaders accountable for their policies and their conduct in office.
Other leaders must learn a thing or two!