Gaddafi's fairytale diplomacy
By HaileMariam Legesse (U.K.)
July 15, 2004
I was angry, but not surprised when I read in the Web,Tsehay’s article about Libya’s Demand for the transfer of the African Union’s (AU) headquarter from Addis Ababa to Tripoli, the Libyan capital. I was not surprised because this is ‘déjà vu’, Gadafi’s ‘fairy tale diplomacy’. It is not unfathomable for the eccentric colonel, dubbed as the `mad dog of the Maghreb`, to raise this issue, as he harbours a deep rooted hatred and enmity to Ethiopia and its proud people. Since he usurped power through military coup in 1969, Gadafi has left no stone unturned to undermine the very existence of Ethiopia, by conspiring with its enemies, both from within and from without. Driven by his wishful thinking of making Libya the power centre of the Afro-Arab World, the colonel has, time and again, clamoured for the headquarters of the OAU and the Arab League to move to his capital, though to no avail.

Back in 1973, during the Tenth Anniversary Summit of the OAU, which was held in Addis Ababa, Gadafi, in collusion with the now defunct ‘irredentist’ Ziad Bare regime, embarked on a futile diplomatic exercise to move the seat of the OAU to Tripoli. However, his campaign was rebuffed by the Summit, after he was devoured and humiliated in front of the world, by the late Ethiopian Prime Minster Aklilu Habtewold, and foreign Minster Dr. Minasse Haile, while the late Girmawi Janhoy’, watched in magnanimity, applauding the envious performance of his diplomats. Ethiopia was vindicated, when the uncultivated braggart colonel and his cohorts suffered a total diplomatic debacle.

Ten years later, in 1983/84, the unscrupulous Colonel suffered another diplomatic debacle. In line with the OAU’s decision to rotate the venue of its annual conference amongst member states, Libya was given the chance to host the 20th OAU Summit. However, in spite of repeated attempts and negotiations, the Summit failed to meet the required quota to convene the summit as many leaders refused to go to Libya in protest against its adventurous intervention in Chad, and other African states.

This prompted the decision to change the venue back to Addis Ababa, home of the OAU, which made the unruly colonel even more furious. Frustrated by his own failure to garner the necessary diplomatic support to host the summit, he came to Addis, escorted by three planes load of armed bodyguards, ostensibly to intimidate leaders who refused to go to his capital, and wreck the conference from being concluded successfully and amicably. So, what did he do? Contrary to conventional diplomatic norms and practices, he demanded, with impunity, to enter the Conference Hall escorted by his armed bodyguards. The consequence of this ‘Bedouin diplomacy par-excellence, Gadafi style’, was total humiliation when his notorious female bodyguards were unceremoniously disarmed and put out of action by the Ethiopian Security. Humiliated by his own self-inflicted diplomatic scandal, the unscrupulous colonel licked his wounds, and immediately left for Mecca, presumably to pray, and repent for his unforgivable sins.

Old habits hardly die. In 2004, four decades after the founding of the Pan-African organisation in May 1963, the colonel still beats the same drum, demanding, once again, the removal of the seat of the African Union from Ethiopia. This megalomaniac still lives in his own ideal world, clamouring for making Libya the power ‘hub’ of the Afro Arab world, and himself, the supremo leader.

By design or by default, Gadafi has been pursuing an adventurous, if not reckless, foreign policy, based on personal sentiment or ideological eclecticism, an amalgam of political outlook, ranging from Pan Arab nationalism, Islamic Socialism, Afro-Arab nationalism, to pan-islamic internationalism. He has shifted allegiances and alliances, and sponsored state terrorism by funding and arming subversive elements of whatever brand to promote his own unrealistic dream, for which he has been punished and ostracised by the international community.

What is surprising is the fact that, despite repeated failures of his misadventures, Colonel Gadafi seems to be unwilling to learn from his mistakes. The conventional belief is that through time people change, and change to the better. One would expect the colonel to fit in this general truth. But, it is ironic that even after three decades in power, he has not learnt the basic virtues and wisdom of statesmanship and diplomacy. Is it because an old dog never learns new tricks’, as the adage goes, or a personality disorder? But he should at least know that love for female bodyguards, a herd of camels or camping tents, is not the sine qua non of modern diplomacy. Hailemariam Legesse, UK