HomeOpinion & AnalysisColumnistsEchoes: ‘Brother Leader’ chose rigidity over reform

Echoes: ‘Brother Leader’ chose rigidity over reform


“The absence of wisdom and foresight is what brought us here,” said Libyan strongman Muammar “Brother Leader” Gaddafi’s eldest son Muhammad this week as the rebels stormed his residence in Tripoli this week.

Life is multi-layered. Many factors are always at play at any one time, not just a single one. As a result, various, often competing issues, must be tackled simultaneously.

This is how the Libya situation should be viewed. It has been far from a neat affair; it’s a complex one.

Said a Russian Foreign Affairs parliamentary committee member this week: “I am absolutely certain that the economic reasons, particularly those which concern energy resources, played a crucial role in forming the position of the Western countries and Nato on Libya.”

Westerners themselves have admitted to this; that’s why the term “Scramble for Africa” is in their history books.

Says Wikipedia about the Scramble for Africa: “Sub-Saharan Africa, one of the last regions of the world largely untouched by ‘informal imperialism’, was also attractive to Europe’s ruling elites for economic and racial reasons.

During a time when Britain’s balance of trade showed a growing deficit, with shrinking and increasingly protectionist continental markets due to the Long Depression (1873–1896), Africa offered Britain, Germany, France, and other countries an open market that would garner them a trade surplus: a market that bought more from the colonial power than it sold overall.

“Britain, like most other industrial countries, had long since begun to run an unfavourable balance of trade (which was increasingly offset, however, by the income from overseas investments) . . . Another inducement for imperialism arose from the demand for raw materials unavailable in Europe, especially copper, cotton, rubber, palm oil, cocoa, diamonds, tea, and tin, to which European consumers had grown accustomed and upon which European industry had grown dependent.”

So Nato’s aid to the Libyan rebels is not exactly based on friendship, but prevailing interests. In State affairs, there are no permanent friends, but permanent interests.

That’s why many States, though uneasy companions, see the wisdom in co-operating to further their mutual interests.

Yes, one way of looking at this is that while the world has become much more enlightened from the time of the 1884-1885 Berlin Conference to partition Africa, imperialistic tendencies are still there and strategic rivalries between the new world powers are very much evident.

That’s why cries have been increasing of a Chinese invasion of Africa.

A Russian official this week said his country would no longer be able to compete with the Nato countries on equal terms in the distribution of Libyan oil projects.

A Chinese official said the new Libyan government “will now be very grateful to them (Nato members), and in distributing contracts to rebuild the Libyan economy, will give priority to the Nato countries”.

He continued: “Neither China, nor Russia, nor South Africa or any other country which did not participate in this ‘humanitarian operation’, will be able to compete with the Nato countries on equal terms.”

So China and Russia were somewhat left behind in this scramble.

Another way of looking at it is that Gaddafi chose rigidity over reform.

Gaddafi has been waging a war against his own people for the past six months and is on course to losing it. It has been Gaddafi versus the people.

Politics is a numbers game; thus, when Libyans took to the streets in their hundreds of thousands nationwide, there was no way Gaddafi could stem the tide.

Yes, change can be slow and ponderous, it can take time, but when things come to a head, it can be sudden and cataclysmic, toppling hitherto unshakeable dictators. Gaddafi had ruled Libya unchallenged since 1969 – until this year.

He dismantled institutions to expand and consolidate his hold on power. But it’s now a new time and era and those methods don’t work anymore. He has been overtaken by events.

Ground rules have drastically changed from the crude methods of 19th century imperial Europe.

The hermit or rogue state is becoming an endangered species because of the increasing interconnectedness of the world following globalisation and the IT superhighway, particularly Facebook and Twitter, which has greatly shifted the power configuration from strongman leaders to the people.

Yes, there has been diffusion of power with people no more always looking up to the State for everything; power points have exponentially grown.

Furthermore, and crucially, Gaddafi didn’t realise that for long-suffering people, the urge for freedom becomes greater than fear.

The horrific experience when he unleashed tanks and heavy artillery on them as if he was fighting a conventional force seared into their memories and emboldened them to take the fight to him.

Said a Russian Foreign Affairs parliamentary committee member:

“Russia will never shelter Gaddafi. He lost our trust when he ordered attacks on peaceful demonstrators. We will not take in Muammar Gaddafi, (his son) Saif al-Islam or anyone with innocent blood on their hands.” China this week said it “respects the Libyan people’s choice”.

South Africa’s measured response that it backs “the AU (African Union) roadmap for Libya’s first-ever democratic election” is in tune with the times.

But the ruling class in Zimbabwe, like Gaddafi, is out of step as gauged in the statement by Secretary for Foreign Affairs Joey Bimha this week:

“We take the African Union position which recognises the government of Libya under Muammar Gaddafi.”

This rigid stance even after the Libyan ambassador to Zimbabwe had officially informed him that to the Libyan people Gaddafi was no more leader is absurd.

As civil uprising engulfed his neighbours, Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam, his apparent heir-apparent, defiantly declared: “Libya is not Tunisia or Egypt,” before the tables were decisively and dramatically turned.

Now he could be wishing he hadn’t said that as he and his father cannot negotiate, because they frittered the opportunity to come to a workable and peaceful settlement; or surrender, because they could face the fate of Saddam Hussein, execution by hanging, for the thousands of deaths they have caused and are still causing though what started as a peaceful revolution which was not meant to threaten the pair’s lives, but to give Libyans back their lives after 42 years of dictatorial rule.

Their only option is to run or, as Gaddafi has said, “fight to the end”.

That’s the ultimate high price of rigidity.

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