Saddam, Gaddafi and the Arabs – An African Perspective

By Yushau A. Shuaib

The news is broken that Saif al-Islam, has been arrested in Libya without being brutally killed like other members of his family. The media have published gory and offensive images of the killing of his father and former Libyan leader, Muammar Ghaddafi without warning for discretion. Viewers including children have been treated to disgusting, sickening and barbaric display of how Gaddafi met his untimely death after he was brutalised, slapped, tortured, sodomized with a knife (gay-like) and shot with bullets. His body was later dragged on the road and kicked amid jeering crowd and cheering rebels. Those displays happened in Arab countries, by Arabs against their Arab leaders, they had pretended to adore while in power. Would that fate also befall Saif Al-Islam now in custody?

Similar incident had occurred almost five years ago when graphic video clips of Saddam hanging in Bagdad in December 2006, on the day Muslims were celebrating the Eid- Adha, were beamed in the mainstream media. The video also showed how Iraqi officials at the gallows were mocking and taunting their former leader before and after the execution. His sons and a grandchild had early been killed during a combat with US troops.

What happened in Libya are worst scenarios of an Arab country in the African continent. The unethical practice of the media in publishing the images and the immoral behaviours of the rebel-killers who took delight in those savageries are not only shameful but abominable acts. More worrisome is the fact that the media refuse to adhere to journalistic ethics as they deliberately refuse to advise their viewers and readers' discretion on the graphic images of bloodied ghaddafi. Such explicitly violent images not only offend and disturb feeling and sensitive of children and adult who believe in human dignity, they are distasteful as they traumatized our human feeling. The press exhibit imperialist barbarism as the images perpetuate the de-valuing of human life and cheapen the essence of humanity. For all the offence Ghaddafi must have allegedly committed, the barbaric display of Arabs won him sympathy from Africans like me.

Writing a piece entitled "Saddam Hanging and the Humiliation of Arab World" immediately after the execution of Saddam in December 2006, I clearly stated that: "The Arab world may unconsciously start to dig their own grave by giving tacit support for the invasion of their region, where foreign troops are fully armed and stationed. It is now easier for their nations to be forced and fall into the so-called western liberalization and democratization, probably like that of Iraqis as we have witnessed so far. Afterall, apart from Egypt, most Arab nations in the region are ruled by kings who own the assets and properties in their kingdoms."

While America was the major arrowhead in the extermination of Saddam and other victims in Iraq, North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) forces comprising, Britain, Italy, France and Germany led and directed the assaults in connivance with the rebels in the name of National Transitional Council (NTC) for massacre and destructions in Libya.

The allegation used against Saddam by President George Bush of America was that Iraq harboured Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) as the excuse for the invasion which were discovered to be blatant falsehood. In the case of Libya, NATO claimed they were enforcing no-fly-zone mandate of United Nations against Gaddafi forces only for the NATO aircrafts to unleash blistering airstrikes were lives and properties were destroyed in Libya. The last attacks on Gaddafi's convoy were from NATO's aircrafts.

It is glaring the hypocrisy and culpability of Arab leaders who had remained silent and nonchalant during the political imbroglios in the Arab countries. The gullibility of the Arab citizens of those countries who at one time they praised the leaders and at another they turn around singing new songs through the influence of western forces and their mainstream media.

The western media and their leaders know how to crucify perceived enemies through orchestrated campaigns of calumnies and threats including the arm-twisting of the United Nations towards unprovoked attacks on powerless countries.

While Gaddafi had his weaknesses, a common attribute of most ambitious leaders in Africa and Arab countries, his people nevertheless were better off, compare with other countries in terms of living standard. Information gathered from reliable sources including fortunate returnees from the war-torn country, Gaddafi was reported to rule Libya without external debts and had in its foreign reserves over $150 billion which was globally frozen. The cost of war by NATO and other countries could be defrayed from the frozen funds considering the over $2 billion of US and NATO's military contributions to the attacks.

As at 2010, Libya ranked 53rd on the Human Development Index (out of 170 UN member states), making it a "high human development" country and one of the richest in the world in terms of GDP per capita – with a living standard higher than that of Japan. His legacies include the right to free education and post-graduate studies, at home and abroad. A quarter of Libyans have a university degree while literacy rate for adult and youths were very high as well as gross primary school enrolment ratio for boys and girls which in 2009 was above 90%. There is free health care; interest-free housing loans; free land for farmers; highly subsidized electricity tariffs, fuel price and food items like loaves of bread.

The Gaddafi government also subsidized the cost of buying cars as well as tractors for its citizens in a country where The newlyweds in Libya receive special allowance from the government for housing, while a mother who gave birth received similar allowances to take care of the baby. In the government's oil-profit sharing scheme, every Libyan got $500 in their account every year – from the national income.

He was never perceived as a stooge of any government as he stood charismatically for the defence of his country and the African integrity. His country was a major financier of freedom movements in some African countries like Zimbabwe, Angola and South Africa towards their independence. It was not surprising that one of grandsons of Nelson Mandela was named Gaddafi. He also provided financial assistance to other countries like Niger, Chad and Burkina Faso apart from providing refuge and employments for other Africans from Nigeria, Ghana, Benin, Liberia, Senegal and Togo among others. He stood against Western attempts to re-colonise his country and criticized conservative Arab regimes for their ineptitudes in the Middle East sagas.

Col. Gaddafi also carried out the world's largest irrigation project – known as the great man-made river – to make water available throughout its desert country costing billions of dollars without any external loans. His country also offered Africa its first revolution in modern times when he contributed US$300 million of US$400 required for Africa's first communications satellite. The action reduced the cost of connecting the entire continent by telephone, television, radio broadcasting and several other technological applications. According to Professor Jean-Paul Pougala "This was a time when phone calls to and from Africa were the most expensive in the world because of the annual US$500 million fee pocketed by Europe for the use of its satellites like Intelsat for phone conversations, including those within the same country. An African satellite only cost a onetime payment of US$400 million and the continent no longer had to pay a US$500 million annual lease to the Europe."

For the love he had for Africans, especially poor blacks from other countries, he put in place a mechanism to absorb African immigrants into the Libyan civil service and the armed forces working legitimately to eke out a living. During the crisis, majority of those became victims of massacre, rape and abuse by NTC rebels as attested to by survivals and returnees.

We knew that before the invasion of Iraq under Saddam and the attacks on Libya under Gaddafi, acts of terrorism were non-existence and those countries had well-behaved security forces and law-abiding citizens. While one can list the ills perpetrated by the so-called liberators, the Arab leaders should be blamed for the indignity, humiliation and shame on Arab nations that were engulfed in political crises.

The Arab leaders who hobnobbed with the so-called infidels would employ religious sentiments to win sympathy of large followers of Islamic faith on their dilemma. At least we have seen the new Libyan leaders now talking of sharia law as it relates to polygamous marriage rather than sharia in relation to human dignity and respect for the rule of law. We should be wary of confusing the Arabs with Muslims as well as Arab's terrorism from Islamic evangelism of peace advocates. While the Arabs are a tribal group, Islam is a religious way of life that is not associated to a particular tribe or race.

Personally, we may dislike some actions of Ghaddafi, as an African, he had made many positive contributions than negative towards socio-political and economic development of the continent of the black race in Africa. He was not a coward who could run away from home when he had the chances, but confronted his enemies to the end in his hometown keeping to his words of "dying in his country than becoming a refugee in another country."

We wait to see what becomes of Syria, Yemen, Bahrain and other Arab nations whether they would be able sustain the control they have on their people against the western conspiracy to oust the regional leaders and leave the nations in continuous turmoil.

Yushau A. Shuaib

The reference article I wrote after the hanging of Saddam in December 2006 is available from this NVS Link:

Saddam Hanging and Culpability of Arab World - December 2006 by YAShuaib