Autumn of the PatriarchBy GITAU WARIGI | Monday, February 21 2011 at 14:53
I am one of those who have been taken by surprise by the vehemence of the uprising now sweeping Libya. I had assumed, complacently, that Muammar Gaddafi’s tight social control would see him ride the Arab upheaval fairly successfully. Many of my friends shared this erroneous view.
Over the years, the Libyan leader’s finely cultivated eccentricity has tended to fool the world into viewing him as a tolerable rogue rather than the tyrant he actually is. We get entertained when he drops by in Rome and hosts a huge party for unmarried Italian beauties, who he then admonishes to become Muslim after throwing in some cash.
And when he plants that Bedouin tent in whichever world city he happens to travelling to, it adds to the entertainment.
So does his wacky political schemes, such as the “United States of Africa,” for which he has been paying a spurious cast of African “traditional kings” and “elders” to actualise.
Nobody finds it worth his while to make a big issue of the idea’s impracticality because, essentially, it is harmless. Again, while spoil the party for the “kings” and “elders?”
Certainly, our entertainment is not the same experience Libyans have gone through under their ‘Brother Leader’ and ‘Guide.’ Their raw anger has certainly startled their leader like never before.
Uncharacteristic of him, he has gone very quiet as his soldiers run amok.
Will Gaddafi flee to exile if – or when, as is increasingly looking to be – his 41-year regime crumbles like that of Hosni Mubarak and Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali?
A man of his gargantuan pride would find the shame of exile too painful to bear. Over the years, he has conditioned the world to believe that Libya’s destiny and his own are tied together – umbilically.
This is not the script being played out on the streets by demonstrators who are yelling at him to get lost.
I doubt whether Saudi Arabia, the favoured destination of the ousted despots, will be eager to host Gaddafi. He has spent his political life insulting the Saudi ruling family for its “reactionary” policies.
If there is anything that must be pleasing the Saudi royal family at this time of otherwise great and worrying turbulence, it is to see Gaddafi roasting under the same populist fire he has all along threatened others with.
The alternative being contemplated – of Gaddafi digging in his heels – is likely to be terrible. We heard it from his son, Saif al-Islam, who spoke on Sunday about “fighting to the last bullet”.
That will mean more bloodshed, more deaths. Make no mistake, Gaddafi is enough of an oddball to risk everything to save his delicate ego.
His soaring rhetoric of Pan-Arab “brotherhood,” of anti-American “imperialism” and Palestine and all that, is clearly not having much effect. It will not save him now. Only Allah can.
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