Besieged Muamar Gadaffi goes digital and blames Al-Qaeda for his woes
By Maurice N. Amutabi
In one of his many articles few years ago, Kenyan scholar Ali Mazrui had suggested that Egypt and Libya were some of the most stable states in Africa, because they had been founded by revolutions (1952 and 1969 respectively). He classified them as ‘coup-proof’ and others like Ghana and Nigeria, he described as coup-prone. His argument was that these regimes might have been dictatorships, but they were supported by the people. We can now confirm that this was what they wanted us to believe, but the truth of the matter is that they were houses of cards, built by straw, on what peace scholars call, cold peace, on sand.
Even as Tunisia and Egypt burnt, Libya appeared solid. This goes to confirm another political truth, that in politics, fortunes can change very fast and the states that Ali Mazrui thought as being stable few years ago, are today’s soft states, with clay feet. They are falling like dominoes and the democratic forces in Africa and the Arab world are celebrating the power of the people.
Could one have imagined a few years ago that anti-Western Gadaffi would stand on the rooftops in Tripoli and tell Europeans and Americans that Al-Qaeda were fighting him in Libya? Few months ago, before the fall of Ben Ali’s regime in Tunisia, and Hosni Mubarak’s in Egypt, one would not have imagined a regime such as Gadaffi’s looking to the west for support and for survival.
The factors that made these regimes – Tunisia, Egypt and Libya- to look strong were artificial appearance of peace. They used cold peace (negative peace) to pretend that all was well. Beneath the appearance of peace were secret police and state machine that systematically eliminated any dissent and opposition. That is why they looked strong and stable, and peaceful.
As many pundits are pointing out, Gadaffi’s regime is on its last legs. It is not surprising to read that Muamar Gadaffi has decided to go digital, in defence of his bloody regime. His regime reportedly sent out short text messages (SMS) with the message: “God give victory to our leader and the people.” This is ridiculously ironic for someone who is clearly power hungry and blood thirsty. It is clear indication of the desperate times that the regime finds itself in. We cannot deny the power of the peoples’ revolutions and the power of the digital medium, which has mobilized people against these dictatorships.
What is even more interesting was that the SMS from Gadaffi’s regime promised credit to anyone who forwarded the message to other Libyans. The message confirmed the belief that dictators would use all means, and hold on anything, in order to retain power. He was beaten to the digital media by young Libyans on facebook and twitter.
Something else appeared from Muamar Gadaffi’s last ditch efforts to cling on power. His deputy foreign minister in what is clearly a propaganda item targeting Europe and America suggested an Al-Qaeda connection. The deputy minister alleged that Al-Qaeda has set up an emirate at Derna, in eastern Libya, headed by a former US prisoner at Guantanamo Bay. This is probably one of the most hollow propaganda item I have seen in recent past from any government. As expected no one will believe Gadaffi, for we know these are youths who are sharing their ideas in social media and scheming on how to bring about democracy in their midst.
Muamar Gadaffi has been president since 1969. He has stolen from his country, promoted his sons and daughters and his oligarchy at the expense of ordinary Libyans. His assets have been frozen in many European countries and his sons and daughters have been denied asylum in many countries in the past one week. It is a lesson that one hopes that the likes of Robert Mugabe, Paul Biya and other dictators and kleptocracies in Africa are learning from this.
Even at this eleventh hour and sunset days of his regime, Gadaffi is still killing his own people in order to hold onto power. Almost 300 people have been killed since the uprising started few days ago. He has ordered his air force to bomb his own people, and some of the airmen have defied him, and refused to bomb fellow citizens.
Muamar Gadaffi is free to go digital, and is free to send all the SMS messages he wants. He is also free to identify all the Al-Qaeda elements in Libya. However, for now he should know that time is up for him and he should give democracy a chance.
Prof. Maurice Amutabi teaches Political Science at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa. Amutabi@yahoo.com