Kadhafi after four decades: a leader under siege

TRIPOLI- Libyan strongman Moamer Kadhafi, who vowed Tuesday to crush a popular uprising, is a one-time political pariah who imposed himself as a key international player the West could not ignore.
Waving his fists and touting his revolutionary credentials, Kadhafi spoke on state television for more than an hour, defiantly warning he would "fight to the last drop of my blood."
The embattled Libyan leader faces an unprecedented challenge to his four-decade rule after anti-regime protests erupted in his country February 15, following similar revolts in Egypt and Tunisia.

Kadhafi after four decades: a leader under siege
International rights groups estimate that between 200 and 400 people have been killed in the upheaval.
While witnesses report bloodshed, massacres and overwhelmed morgues after the indiscriminate shooting of civilians, Kadhafi dismissed the youth-led uprising and harkened back to the revolution that had him at its helm.
As a young colonel, Kadhafi on September 1, 1969, led a coup overthrowing the Western-backed elderly King Idriss, and quickly established himself as a belligerent, unpredictable and flamboyant leader.
Reputedly born in a Bedouin tent in the desert near Sirte in 1942, Kadhafi alienated the West soon after seizing power, accusing it of launching a "new crusade" against the Arabs.
His idol was Egyptian president and fervent Arab nationalist Gamal Abdel Nasser, and he also variously declared himself a fan of Mao Zedong, Stalin and even Hitler.
For decades linked to a spate of terrorist attacks the world over, Kadhafi's Libya was accused of using its oil wealth to fund and arm rebel groups across Africa and beyond.
Libya became an international pariah in the aftermath of the 1988 Lockerbie airliner bombing, but relations began to thaw when it agreed in 2003 to pay compensation to the families of the 270 people who were killed.
Kadhafi also renounced terrorism and declared in 2003 that he was giving up the pursuit of weapons of mass destruction, prompting the lifting of UN sanctions.
The declaration also shored up dramatically Libya's ties with the West and was crowned with a visit in September 2008 by then US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
In February 2009, Kadhafi was elected chairman of the African Union, after he tired from championing Arab unity and months after African tribal dignitaries bestowed on him the title of "king of kings."
He is known for receiving world leaders in a bedouin tent, rather than in palatial buildings, and often dresses in colourful flowing robes, surrounded by an entourage of female bodyguards.
His country has often been the focus of international attention.
In 2007, Tripoli released Bulgarian medics who had spent eight years in jail for allegedly infecting hundreds of Libyan children with HIV-tainted blood.
In 2008, the festive homecoming of Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Ali Mohmet al-Megrahi, who was released by Scottish authorities on compassionate grounds, triggered fury in the United States.
And an apology to Libya the same year by Swiss President Hans-Rudolf Merz over the 2007 arrest of one of Kadhafi's sons, Hannibal, drew harsh criticism across the Alpine nation.
But the Arab world's longest-serving leader still managed to rile the West and Arab leaders with his belligerent and provocative statements.
In July 2009, he blasted the UN Security Council as a form of "terrorism" in a speech at a Non-Aligned Movement summit.
In March the same year, he hurled insults at Saudi King Abdullah at an Arab summit, telling him: "You are always lying and you're facing the grave and you were made by Britain and protected by the United States."
Kadhafi can be quick to praise himself.
"I am the leader of the Arab leaders, the king of kings of Africa and the imam of the Muslims," he has said.
On a trip to Italy he was quoted as describing women in the Arab and Muslim world as "a piece of furniture you can change when you want" and said the situation needed a "feminine revolution."
Kadhafi, who proclaimed a Jamahiriya or "state of the masses" in March 1977, is officially known as "guide of the revolution" as he has always shunned the title president.
His revolutionary "Green Book," also published in 1977, offers "a third theory of the world" between capitalism and socialism, and according to him provides the only real solution for humanity.
Before the uprising, Kadhafi had reportedly been grooming his son Seif al-Islam -- one of eight children plus an adopted daughter who was killed in US bombing raids in 1986 -- as his successor.

Wednesday, February 23rd 2011

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