Muammar Gaddafi - Down, but not out!

Kamna Arora

Torture, terror, death and despair loom over Libya. The lust of Libyan strongman Muammar Abu Minyar al-Gaddafi of holding on to power is devastating this North African country. I wonder if Libya is on its way to becoming Somalia of the Mediterranean.

Famously dubbed the "mad dog of the Middle East", Gaddafi is using violent tactics to hold on to the power. In a vain attempt, the miserable leader tried humble speeches to control the resentment of Libyans, who have been on the streets against his dictatorship since February 15.

Gaddafi however still seems to command devotion from at least a considerable segment of the population in the vast stretches that lie beyond the enclave of rebel-held territory in the east.

But this strike against tyranny, quite different from the ones seen in Egypt and Tunisia, seems headed for a prolonged battle in the North African country.

`The King of Kings of Africa`

Muammar Gaddafi was born in 1942 in the desert near Sirte to nomadic parents. A big fan of Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser, Gaddafi joined Army in his youth.

Gaddafi was 27 when he toppled King Idris I in a bloodless coup in 1969. And with the death of Gabon’s Omar Bongo in June 2009, the maverick leader became the longest serving of all current non-royal national leaders.

In the 1970s, the self-styled intellectual leader came up with a “concept of Islamic socialism”. On the lines of Mao’s ‘Little Red Book’, the young leader laid out his political philosophy in `Green Book`.

His inventions did not stop there. In 1977, he changed the country`s name to the Great Socialist Popular Libyan Arab Jamahiriyah (State of the Masses). He wants himself to be known as "Guide of the First of September Great Revolution of the Socialist People`s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya" or "Brotherly Leader and Guide of the Revolution”.

His bedouin roots are still intact, as the eccentric leader sets up luxury tent camps on foreign trips. Not just this, he is always accompanied by 40 female bodyguards, who he insists must be virgins.

He has a habit of making bizarre requests. In 2009, he invited 500 `beautiful girls` for a gala evening during his trip to Italy. According to reports, the girls had to be at least 5ft 7in, aged between 18 and 35, and dressed appropriately. The motive: Gaddafi suggested all the girls to convert to Islam.

Gaddafi has 10 children (seven sons, a daughter and two adopted children) from two marriages.

Gaddafi is said to have sponsored revolutionary efforts in Sierra Leone, Chad, Liberia, the Philippines, and Morocco.

In 1986, his adopted daughter was killed when US bombed Tripoli and Benghazi in reprisal for Libya’s alleged involvement in the bombing of a German disco that claimed the lives of several US service members.

In 2003, Gaddafi admitted responsibility for Lockerbie bombing, which killed 270 people. It was the beginning of the end of Libya`s international isolation.

Anointed as the "king of kings" in 2008, the Libyan leader dreams of creating `United States of Africa`. But at this point of time, he is in dire need to save his throne first.

The relentless Colonel

Military forces from the US, the UK and France on March 19 began to enforce UN Security Council Resolution 1973, which called for no-fly zone over Libya. But it has failed to force the Libyan strongman to bow down. Instead, he warned, “This assault ... is by a bunch of fascists who will end up in the dustbin of history.”

Gaddafi’s tryst with power came at quite a young age. Unlike Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and Hosni Mubarak, who succumbed to the pressure of Tunisians and Egyptians respectively, Gaddafi has a unique personality.

Former Libyan justice minister Mustafa Mohamed Abud Al Jeleil has even predicted Gaddafi will commit suicide the way Adolf Hitler did at the end of World War II rather than surrender or flee.

On March 23, 2008, Gaddafi had defended Libya`s Jamahiriya system by declaring, “There is no state with a democracy except Libya on the whole planet." But now, swaying in the storm of a nationwide popular revolt, Gaddafi has started showing his eccentric behaviour by declaring, “Those who don`t love me do not deserve to live, it will be hell for them.”

The outcome of Libyan crisis is far from clear. But it will be interesting to see if this revolt by people in Libya makes their idiosyncratic leader fade into oblivion.