This is one of those cases where the Western view is slightly at odds with the African view, and I write this aware of the dangers of making sweeping generalisations. Itâ€™s hard to believe now, but Libya in the 1950s and early 60s was pro-Western, and the Western media absolutely loved it. Then Gaddafi seized power in 1969, shut the American and British bases and partly nationalised the foreign oil and commercial interests.
The United States of Africa
But, while Gaddafi was ruling Libya with an iron fist, eliminating all political opposition and restricting the lives of Libyans, he was also doing more for the country than many African leaders (democratically-elected or otherwise) ever did for theirs. Sure, we in Africa know, too, that itâ€™s time for the dude to go â€” even while dreaming of a United States of Africa he was quite divisive in his relations with the rest of the continent, and from time to time he expelled black Africans en masse from Libya and encouraged xenophobia against them â€” but weâ€™re also very aware that the average Libyan has had it better than the average citizens of most other African countries due to his leadership.
He always supported SWAPO in Namibia and the ANC in the dark days of South Africa [Mandela visited Libya to thank him almost as soon as he came out of prison]. And, it has to be said, you will not be hated in Africa if, as a leader, you have the guts to say up yours to America, the UK or France, and thatâ€™s what Gaddafi did for 4 decades. For these reasons the feelings of many of us towards him are nowhere near as strong as those people in the West have been encouraged to develop by their media.
Hereâ€™s the BBC on what he also did:
During Muammar Gaddafiâ€™s 42-year rule, Libya has made great strides socially and economically thanks to its vast oil income, but tribes and clans continue to be part of the demographic landscape.
Women in Libya are free to work and to dress as they like, subject to family constraints. Life expectancy is in the seventies. And per capita income â€“ while not as high as could be expected given Libyaâ€™s oil wealth and relatively small population of 6.5m â€“ is estimated at $12,000 (ÂŁ9,000), according to the World Bank.
You have the guts to say ‘up yours’ to America
Illiteracy has been almost wiped out, as has homelessness â€“ a chronic problem in the pre-Gaddafi era, where corrugated iron shacks dotted many urban centres around the country. â€“ Libya crisis: what role do tribal loyalties play? BBC Monitoring, 21st February, 2011Compare Libyaâ€™s country profile with any other in sub-Saharan Africa and youâ€™ll see that this guy, unlike too many of the crap leaders the continent has endured in the last few decades, didnâ€™t just say â€śfuck youâ€ť to his people.
Compare Libyaâ€™s GDP per capita ($12K+) with countries like Nigeria ($1K+) or Botswana, probably the most stable â€śdemocracyâ€ť in Africa at $6K+. Democracy is not always the solution; sometimes itâ€™s nothing more than a money-wasting farce.
Gaddafi was a dictator, he supported many questionable cause and held on to power for too long, and it is best that he goes now, but while we celebrate his removal letâ€™s not completely erase our memories of what else he did, or forget why many of us were also, from time to time, rather proud of him, frustrating as he may have been.
Source: This Africa