How Gaddafi became a pan-Africanist

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MUAMMAR GADDAFI was a strong supporter of Egypt’s former president Gamal Abdel Nasser.

Nasser was very patriotic and passionate about Islam — two things that Gaddafi admired and emulated.

Nasser was viciously against the colonial regime of the Zionist Government in Palestine.

When asked about peace in the Middle East, he said: “The Jews will never be able to live here in peace because they left here black and came back white.”

In 1969, Gaddafi got into power via a coup. He ousted the Senussi Monarch which was a puppet of the West.

He expelled over 12 000 Italians and some white Libyan Jews. He shut down all Western military bases in his country.

The rest of Gaddafi’s works in transforming Libya into a modern Islamic socialist state (Jamahiriya) were discussed in last week’s article. 

Besides this, he used his nations resources to fund revolutions on foreign lands.

Though many in the West call him a dictator, Gaddafi surrendered true power and became a symbolic or ceremonial ruler as far back as 1977. From this point on, he was called the brotherly leader of Libya.

Gaddafi is remembered as a pan-Africanist, but this development only took place after he failed to establish pan-Arabism.

After Nasser was succeeded as President of Egypt by Sadat, Gaddafi’s dream of uniting nations with Arab speaking or Islamic nations became hard to achieve.

He had border issues with neighbouring nations like Egypt. 

Upon failing to convince his neighbour rivals that they had a common enemy in Western imperialism, Gaddafi grew more and more interested in pan-Africanism as it acknowledged the West as a threat, encouraged unity among Africans and was more mature in terms of its existence as compared to pan-Arabism which Gaddafi himself was pioneering.

Gaddafi faced Western opposition throughout his period of rule. He was accused for being behind the Lockerbie bombing of a Scottish airliner. 

For this, he and his nation faced isolation. 

The US, UK and the colonial Israeli Government loathed Gaddafi and, in 1986, Libya was bombed by a military force led by the three nations. 

They followed this up by successfully lobbying for the UN to sanction Libya on economic grounds.

This did not surprise Gaddafi as he understood imperialists and imperialism. What he was disappointed about was the way some Arab nations ignored his plight and were not interested in working together as brothers throughout these hard times.

In 1974, he tried to unite Tunisia and Libya politically. Tunisia soon backed out of this union and this disheartened Gaddafi.

In 1984, he signed a similar deal with Morocco. 

The Moroccan ruler, Hassan II, abolished the union within two years because his nation enjoyed good relations with the US and Zionist Israel.

The breaking point was when Egypt and Syria went to war against Israel without consulting or involving Libya. 

He was further angered when Sadat, the man who succeeded Nasser as president of Egypt got into peace talks with Israel rather than continuing the war of Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement).

Like Nasser, Gaddafi sympathised with the Palestinians all his life and saw the settlement of whites in their land as a purely colonial conquest.

This drove him from pursuing pan-Arabism to pursuing pan-Africanism.

Pan-Africanism dates back to the days of Marcus Garvey, a black Jamaican who awoke the blacks of the West to the knowledge and appreciation of their African ancestry and heritage. 

He sought to physically, or at least mentally and culturally, return blacks to their homeland of Africa.

In the 1960s, pan-Africanism was fostered by the likes of Kwame Nkrumah, a Ghanaian who advocated for African unity for the cause of economic and political solidarity.

Even before Gaddafi caught onto pan-Africanism, his hate for imperialism always pointed him towards it.

He was hated by the West for funding movements that threatened their social order or governments. Many of these movements involved black people, particularly in the West.

These include the Black Panther Movement and the Nation of Islam. He also funded the ANC of SA throughout the apartheid era. 

When accused of funding terrorist groups, he revoked the classification of the groups he helped as terrorists. 

Instead, he called them revolutionaries and he was thus seen by the West as a leader in the so-called Third World’s struggle against modern slavery, colonialism and neo-colonialism.

This shows that Gaddafi was always a pan-Africanist even before he got directly involved with organisations like the OAU in 1999.

Once he started working with the OAU, he began signing numerous bilateral agreements with African nations. 

In 2002, he became one of the founders of the AU. He shared with them his vision of a united Africa and discouraged the receiving of conditional Western aid. 

Gaddafi was confident that Africa, with its plenteous resources and cultures, was meant to be a world leader in terms of economic prosperity.

He proposed for Africans to have their own truly gold-based currency called an African dinar, which would function throughout the continent. 

He also proposed for Africans to have their own satellites rather than subscribe to those owned by the West.

He exposed how ideas like Coca-Cola came from a Ghanaian traditional drink made out of cocoa.

He embraced his African identity and called Africans his fellow brethren. 

When the AU summit was held in Libya in 2005, Gaddafi took time to explain the fullness of his vision which had the slogan: ‘Unite the states of Africa’.

It involved the establishing of an AU passport, common regional currency and army, air force and naval base.

Though many African leaders found the fulfillment of these ideas far-fetched, the common people of the continent embraced the ideology of Gaddafi and continue to hold on to his dream of African unity and co-operation.

They saw the economic successes of his own nation as a sign that Africa indeed had the potential to become what Gaddafi envisioned if the systems of economic governance were revised.

Gaddafi went out of his way to add Libya into the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa. 

His efforts to unite and strengthen Africa were not in vain. 

In 2009, he was crowned King of kings while in Addis Ababa by some African leaders. Shortly afterwards he was made chairman of the AU.

The following year, Gaddafi made a statement directed at the black people of Africa and abroad. 

In this statement, he apologised for the involvement of Arabs in participating in the kidnapping and selling of Africans as slaves. 

He had already refrained from making exploits in African nations that could be deemed colonial. This, he had previously done by going after Chad’s uranium reserves in the early 1970s. A move that made him unpopular in the then OAU. 

Such repentance and acknowledgment of guilt is rarely found in world leaders and is very much encouraged.

The only mistake Gaddafi made was re-engaging the West, largely by way of privatising oil reserves.

This began in 2003 and within a year, over US$40 billion of foreign direct investment was injected into Libya, largely from the West.

By 2010, Gaddafi was receiving money exceeding 50 million Euros to stop Africans from illegally migrating to Europe via Libya. 

The following year, the nations of the US, UK and France, among others, used their truce with Gaddafi to turn his people against him via social media. 

After insurrecting and assassinating him, Barack Obama, David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy described him as a brutal dictator and lauded his death. 

The rest is history as Libya fell from grace and is not likely to recover any time soon.

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