From his colourful robes to using female guards and calling himself the King of kings of Africa, Gadaffi will always leave a mark in the history books, writes ROBERT KALUMBA
T hings don’t look that rosy for Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, the embattled leader of Libya. It all started in February as a spillover of what had happened in Tunisia, Egypt and many parts of the Arab World, where pro-democracy riots took centre-stage in these countries. When the winds of change came to Libya, within weeks, the Libyan leader was staring at a full blown rebellion complete with rebels and an angry international community that wanted the maverick leader out of Libya, with his sons in tow.
Ever since then, Colonel Gaddafi has had it rough. The news of what’s happening there keeps changing by the day, but by the time this was penned, the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had rubbished the Libyan leader’s attempts of requesting the US to cease the bombing. Gaddafi’s plea was done in a three paged letter to US President Barack Obama whom he referred to in the letter as “our son” and called on him to end an “unjust war against a small people of a developing country.” The rebuff was swift, “I don’t think there is any mystery about what is expected from Mr Gaddafi at this time,” said Hillary Clinton.
Poor man. Do you feel an inch of compassion for him? This was a man who swayed around like he answered to God alone and was literally untouchable by anyone. Now he’s penning letters from a bunker crying out for help and understanding! His is a lesson about the cruel sarcastic side to politics. One day you’re the don, the next day the very people who laughed with you are baying for your head.
That aside, Gaddafi over the years has given us some memorable moments characterised by a huge dose of eccentricism, quirkiness, flamboyance, name it, that had us roll off our seats dying of laughter. And the beauty of it all was that the Libyan leader always had this facial expression that showed that he was actually unaware of his absurdity. He came across as a caricature of everything hilarious.
So what is it that tickled your bone about the famous Colonel? Below are some of his out of this world moments that range from his bizarre speeches to his love of sleeping in tents!
The Wacky Dress Sense: This is the way Vanity Fair the famous international magazine of pop culture, fashion and politics, in 2009 described Gaddafi’s dress sense: “He has brought colour and his own eccentric panache to the drab circuit of international summits and conferences. He is simply the most unabashed dresser on the world stage. We pay homage to a sartorial genius of our time.”
So his wardrobe wasn’t that crazy after all? If Vanity Fair can see through the wacky, eye-catching, ridiculous pieces of cloth that were at-times complimented with gold encrusted chains, all wrapped round the colonel, and call all that “sartorial genius”, then who are we, mere mortals, to start poking fingers at Gaddafi’s dress sense? Some quick questions though; who Is Gaddafi’s tailor? Does any Ugandan tailor envy him? How does he manage to go through all that cloth? Did he ever burst out laughing while he tailored the Colonel’s attires asking himself what the hell he was designing? Did the tailor get lost in his own creations? How often could that have been? What does President Museveni think of those attires?
The Female Body Guards: They have thick lipstick and wear dark shades. Sometimes they wear high heels, they never smile and rumour has it that they are virgins. No, this is not a scene from an action movie. They are the female bodyguards of Gaddafi who go under the moniker, Amazonian guards and range over 40 in number, all handpicked by Gaddafi with their main duty being to protect him 24/7. But why does the Colonel rely on female bodyguards vying away from the traditional male guards?
There is no clear answer to that, although some have said the Colonel loves surrounding himself with attractive females just like Hugh Hefner the legendary Playboy American magazine publisher. Gaddafi however rubbished rumours that he once in a while asks for sexual favours from his contingent of Amazonian guards. Uhmm!
Travel gimmicks: Which world leader on earth moves around with a charcoal stove, the kind you see being sold at Kalerwe market? That’s exactly what he did during last year’s African Leaders’ Summit at the Commonwealth Resort in Munyonyo! He pulled up a plastic chair, ordered his aide to make him tea (which they did on a charcoal stove in the hotel gardens) and called for an impromptu meeting with the Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete!
In 2006 at the Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport, in Nigeria, Gaddafi caused a stampede when he not only arrived for the African Union summit, with five aircrafts carrying 50 cars, but with over 200 security personnel each carrying a gun! They originally refused to declare their weapons at the airport leading to a fracas with the Nigerian security personnel. Drama ensued when Gaddafi got out of his car and started walking 40kms to Abuja in protest, until then president Olusegun Obasanjo intervened! And we thought Rtd. Col. Kiiza Besigye’s intention of walking 13 miles from Kasangati to FDC offices in Najjankumbi on Monday morning was a maverick act!
Wacky behaviour: During last year’s African Summit in Uganda, Gaddafi slapped an aide of his -in front of the media for having directed him to a different hall other than the one in which a meeting he was supposed to attend was taking place! He walked out of that meeting 30 minutes later, bored as hell.
In 2009 on an official visit to Italy, he ordered for 500 girls between the ages of 18 and 35 to be brought to his tent. Many thought he was going to entertain them on Champagne and caviar, how wrong they were! Instead he lectured them about Islam for three hours, handed each one a Koran and bid them farewell. He’s that zany! Oh, in 2007 he had pulled the same stunt this in time in Paris, and the number of girls he invited…1000!
His tent: The Americans didn’t know what hit them in 2009 when Gaddafi visited their country to attend the UN General Assembly. He decided to pitch in a tent on Libyan government property in Englewood, New Jersey. The community leaders protested, forcing him to change his plans. He took his tent to an estate in Bedford belonging to the billionaire Donald Trump, Trump told him to vamoose! The man wasn’t done; he took the tent to the compounds of the Hilton Hotel, where he pitched camp for the entire summit! Imagine the looks of the delegates passing his tent as they got inside the hall for the meetings. What went through their heads? “What a wacko!” they must have thought. Instead of booking into a presidential suite at the hotel, he chose the compound! He has had the same problems with his tent in Russia, Italy and France.
Absurd speeches: During the 2009 UN Assembly, Gaddafi addressed the summit for 100 minutes with his speech touching on the following; the abolition of Switzerland, praising of the Taliban, calling on the re- investigation of the John F. Kennedy assasination, Swine Flu, American invasion of Grenada and finally calling for the re-naming of the UN Security Council to “terror council!” By the time he was done, an exhausted Arab translator had to be relieved of his duties midway through Gaddafi’s rant out of exhaustion, he complained that Gaddafi at-times during the speech either talked to himself or murmured inaudible things making it hard to have his speech translated. The hall was half empty too when he was done. Hehehe (can’t help but chuckle!)
Hilarious quotes: “I’m not such a dictator that I would shut down Facebook. I will merely imprison anyone who logs into it,” delivered in a speech he read in 2009 at the UN Assembly.
“Protest however you want, but do not go onto the streets and squares,” Gaddafi told the rioters during the early riots that turned to a rebellion threatening to overthrow him.
“I will live in Libya until I die, or until the end of time God allows me to live,” Gaddafi’s defiant speech as Nato rained missiles onto his country.”
“There are people who have been in power longer than me, like Queen Elizabeth of Britain and nothing has happened to them,” Gaddafi said recently in a 30 minute phone call broadcast live on state television last Thursday.
The love to merge with other countries: In 1971, Gaddafi offered to merge Libya with Sudan, but then Sudanese President Gaafar Nimeiry turned down the offer calling Gaddafi a man with “a split personality-both parts evil!” Hehehehe! In 1974, he attempted the merge thing, this time with Tunisia. That too collapsed. Before all that, in 1970, Gaddafi had attempted to form the “Federation of Arab Republics” consisting of Libya, Egypt and Syria, yes you guessed right, that too hit the wall! Blimey!
United States of Africa: In 2009, as he accepted the mantle for Chairman of the AU during the summit in Ethiopia, Gaddafi shared his vision of Africa with the delegates. What was the vision? A United States of Africa! One delegate from Nigeria on hearing that called him a “mad man!” Before the summit, Gaddafi had circulated a letter saying he was coming to the summit as “the king of the traditional kings of Africa!” No, we are not making this stuff up, the man is that hilarious!
King of Kings: In 2008, in Benghazi, in the presence of over 200 African traditional rulers and kings, he was bestowed the title King of Kings of Africa! During the meeting, he called for a single African currency, an African military to defend Africa and a single African passport to be used by Africans to travel across Africa without visa hindrances! So what can we call this, deluded pan-Africanism or a King drunk on power!? Quick question; if Gaddafi is the King of Kings for Africa, does that mean that Kabaka Ronald Mutebi is below him in the pecking order? Wouldn’t that cause another Buganda riot of sorts?
The military Rank: There is no other rank higher than Colonel in Libya. There are two colonels in Libya, one being the Chief of Staff of the Libyan Army, Col Abu-Bakr Yunis Jabar, the other being, the King of Kings, Col Gaddafi. We wonder what Lt Gen Yoweri Kaguta Museveni thinks of that?
Gadaffi has ruled Libya for 42 years having gotten into power in a military coup in 1969, where he overthrew King Idris. Through the 70s and 80s Gaddafi’s government was considered a pariah state by the west accused of having participated in acts of state-sponsored terrorism that ranged from assassinations of dissents and amassing weapons of mass destruction to the Lockerbie bombing.
Coupled with that has been his eccentric leadership that could be detected from the way he dressed to his grandeur plans of uniting Africa around kingdoms! Some have called him zany, others have hailed him as a misunderstood pan Africanist who deserves to be saved from the rebellions that have engulfed him. The Queen Mum of Toro Best Kemigisa is one of those that would love to save the Colonel.
There has been talk of Gaddafi being given asylum in Uganda! With such a colourful figure, the guys at Fun Factory would have found a match in the comedian.
He’s one hell of a character that added colour to politics. Why do I see a Hollywood movie in the future about Gaddafi and his eccentricities! He has offered them enouh material to get their movie up and running, don’t you think?