Monday, February 2, 2009

Gaddafi, King of Kings?

Muammar al-Gaddafi, Libya's head of state for over thirty years and the longest serving Arab head of state now in power, has assumed the African Union's rotating presidency. It was North Africa's turn to hold it, and Gaddafi's turn to represent North Africa, so this shouldn't exactly come as a surprise. Nevertheless, with major humanitarian and political crises in Darfur, Zimbabwe, Congo and Somalia, all of which require a concerted diplomatic effort on the part of the African Union, the ascension of one of the world's loosest canons to the high visibility position is surely a cause for alarm.

Colonel Gaddafi, as he is still called, seized power in a coup, nationalized Libya's oil industry, published a book of his koan-like aphorisms intended to enlighten the people a la Mao's little red book, declared eternal enmity with Israel and the United States, attempted to gain nuclear and biological weapons, approved terrorist operations including the infamous Lockerbie passenger jet bombing, and isolated himself and Libya in the process. Reagan sent jets to bomb him, but no one did more damage to his regime than the man himself. He is known as a flamboyant and erratic figure, surrounded by female bodyguards as though he were a fascist Robert Palmer. (Might as well face it, he's addicted to power.) His son is credited with urging him to re-think his legacy in gentler terms which saw him abandon the pursuit of the most distressing weapons and return to the international fold, but no one, it seems, can persuade him to turn his back on the use of grand gestures or bold statements. Recently, he psychoanalyzed Obama and pronounced that a racial inferiority complex might make our new president "worse than white" when it came to dealing with the third world. Obama has made no response as of this time.

Recently, Gaddafi was the guest of honor at a meeting of Africa's Kings and Traditional Leaders, where he had himself crowned King of Kings. He has now proposed that the African Union set as its goal true political federation on the model of a United States of Africa, and somewhat paradoxically, that he be enthroned with full honors as the King of Kings of Africa when he formally assumes the presidency. No wonder some African leaders have been made uneasy, and are holding their breath for a bumpy year with Gaddafi in office.

Gaddafi is many things. Boring isn't one of them. Thanks to the The Sun for the image.