The Gambia Journal

The Gambia Journal
Freedom Is A Right

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Our disturbing relationship with Gaddafi

The Brothers: Gaddafi and Jammeh
On August 23, Libyan rebels invaded Bab al-Aziziya, the beating heart of Colonel Gaddafi’s regime, sending the once powerful monster or Mad Dog- as he is fondly referred to in the British press into hiding.
I was overcome with emotion as I watched the television pictures of rebel fighters running through the grounds of Gaddafi's inner sanctum, hoisting rebel flags, ripping up posters of the "brother leader" and attacking an iconic statue.
It was something I never thought I would have ever witnesses in my twenty-something years old life. For Gaddafi had vowed never to run away like Saddam Hussein and other callous and blood thirsty dictators and that he would turn Tripoli into a bloodbath.
The most powerful and feared man in Libya and indeed in Africa is now on the run and a wanted man. He is wanted dead or alive by his own people. Yeah, the very people he had suppressed for many decades.
As a Muslim, I have been brought up not to laugh at other people’s misfortunes. But that night as I sipped my Mexican cappuccino and watched pictures of Libyans ransacking Gaddafi’s belongings, I felt a tear of joy running down my cheeks and would have done a Sarahule dance if it was not in the blessed month of Ramadan.
In my mind, I tried to re-enact the final moments of Gaddafi in his once fortified palace, trying to choose what to take from his vast wealth as the rebels closed in. And the thought of Gaddafi legging it in his thick desert robes and cowboy boots really made me laugh.
Flushing out a tyrant like Gaddafi was good for Libya and sends a clear message to all sit-tight despots who foolishly think that they can suppress their people until the end of time.
Gaddafi had ruled Libya with an iron fist since he seized power in a 1969 coup. Students were forced to study his political theories, as set out in his Green Book. Political parties were banned and his critics imprisoned, tortured and on some occasions killed.
Not content with having total control of his country as Supreme Guide, Gaddafi used the Libyan wealth to buy influence in many dictatorial countries in Africa including the Gambia, where he was highly respected and called ‘Brother’.
Like Gaddafi, Gambian leader, Retired Colonel Yahya Jammeh came to power at a young age through a military coup and had looked up to Gaddafi as a mentor. After falling out with the West, Jammeh firmly embraced Gaddafi and was in 1995 decorated with the highest Libyan Insignia -Grand Commander of The Order Al- Fatah Revolution.
With the Gambia economy in the red as a result of Western sanctions and travel advice, Gaddafi pumped millions of Dalasis into the country and funded many development projects in the country’s health, education and agriculture sector.
Hundreds of Gambians were sent to Libyan military camps to be taught the Gaddafi Green Book ideology. To help keep Gambians in passive subjugation, Libyan style July 22 Movement- now the Green Boys- was created and headed by Libyan schooled Gambians to police local communities.  
Backed and funded by the state, this organisation operates with total impunity and has been blamed for the death and torture of many opponents and critics of the regime. Marina Parade in Banjul was named after Gaddafi and the Atlantic Hotel was sold to some Libyan government investors.
Over the years, Gambia widely opened its doors to Libyan investors backed by Gaddafi to set up multi-million Dalasis business empires such as the five-star Jerma Beach Hotel -which host many state functions- Dream Park, a children's amusement park among others.
In 2009, Colonel Gaddafi was special guest of honour on the 15th anniversary of the July 22 revolution and was conferred the Grand Commander of the Republic of The Gambia (GCRG) award “in recognition of his ardent desire towards the unification of Africa, and his strong commitment towards promoting unity and the existing bilateral relations between the great Libyan Arab Jamahiriya and the Republic of the Gambia.....”
On his way home, Gaddafi was quoted saying: “I feel I am at home, the Gambia and Libya are the same. We had excellent relations even before I paid this visit." 
Last September, during the 41st anniversary of the Al-Fateh Revolution at the Jerma Hotel, Gambian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Momodou Tangara said: "We can all bear witness that the Al-fateh revolution has provided the people of the Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya the opportunity to benefit from the development achievements initiated by the government of the great leader of the revolution.
“What solidifies the relationship between the two countries is our common desire to build a brighter future for our two peoples and for Africa in general. We truly believe in the principles of self determination, self reliance, solidarity, equality, justice, partnership and the maintenance of the international peace and security for the common good of all making.....
“Over the years, we in the Gambia have seen Libya's intervention in the crucial sectors of our economy, particularly in religion, education, culture and agriculture to name a few.”
During all this years, while President Jammeh and his cronies wined and dined with the ‘big brother’, they completely turned a blind eye to the sufferings of Libyans and Gaddafi’s appalling record as a sponsor of terrorism and blood thirsty dictator whose hand are dripping with the blood of hundreds of Libyans.
Now, after ignoring the many decades of Gaddafi’s reign of terror which include the massacre of large number of his critics and opponents, it was very hypocritical for President Jammeh to ditch him after his violent crackdown on anti-government protesters in Benghazi and other cities.
Gaddafi was dumped not because of his brutal crackdown on the protesters. There is more to it and Jammeh should stop insulting our intelligence.
How can Jammeh condemn Gaddafi while he supports Lauren Gbagbo of Ivory Coast, Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe and other dictators who killed or are killing hundreds of opponents and critics left right and centre?
As a begging nation, we have condoned gross human rights abuses in Libya and have helped strengthen the reign of a brutal dictator. And the thought of today, really disturbs me.
By PK Jarju          
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