Tripoli: Born in a desert near Sirte in 1942,
Muammar Gaddafi, the mercurial and eccentric strongman, was
the longest-serving leader in both Africa and the Arab world,
having ruled Libya since he toppled King Idris I in a coup at
the age of 27.
Since the bloodless military coup in 1969, Gaddafi, known
for his flamboyant dressing style and gun-toting female
bodyguards as much as for his iron clasp over the country,
styled himself as the country's "brother leader" and the
"guide of the revolution."
His name was synonymous with almost every facets of the
life of Libya's about six million inhabitants.
His relationship with the world has seen some very dark
phase. Former US president Ronald Reagan had once called him a
Gaddafi was blamed for the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am jumbo
jet over Lockerbie, Scotland, that left 270 people dead.
For years Libya denied, but in 2003, the country accepted
responsibility and agreed to pay up USD 10 million to
relatives of victims and thus Gaddafi bought a ticket to
befriend the world, which till then considered the oil rich
country as pariah.
He had also vowed to dismantle all weapons of mass
But back home, the Libyan leader projected himself as the
spiritual guide of the nation and brought in what he said was
a different version of direct democracy.
However in reality, Gaddafi ruled with an iron hand and
all dissents have been ruthlessly crushed. Even the media
remained under strict state control.
The Gaddafi regime has been accused of imprisoning
hundreds of people for violating his laws and sentenced some
to death. Torture and disappearances were frequently reported.
His tough character can be gauged from a statement that he
gave soon after the latest rebellion, that ousted him from
In a televised speech, Gaddafi vowed to hunt down
protesters "inch by inch, room by room, home by home, alleyway
On the global front, Gaddafi first focused on Arab world
and later shifted his eye to Africa.
He played an important role in organising Arab opposition
to the 1978 Camp David peace agreement between Egypt and
But however, later shunned by various Arab states,
especially for his views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,
Gaddafi's foreign policy focus shifted to Africa.
Gaddafi proposed a "United States of Africa" - an idea
first thought of by US pan-Africanist Marcus Garvey - in which
the continent would include "a single African military force,
a single currency and a single passport for Africans to move
freely around the continent".
But besides all his toughness and controversies, Gaddafi
was also known as a flamboyant man.
Known for his highly decorative military dresses and caps,
his noodle hair was his trademark.
Whenever he travelled out of the country, he is known to
be more flamboyant.
On foreign trips, instead of staying at five star hotels,
he has set up camp in a luxury tent and is accompanied by
armed female bodyguards.
Some of the pictures taken of his palace here, after he
was ousted, shows Gaddafi's opulence and the extravagant life
that he led.
First Published: Thursday, October 20, 2011, 21:35