23rd August, 2011
After six months of intense battle, Tripoli, the Libyan capital, finally fell to the advancing rebel forces seeking to overthrow the countryâ€™s maximum leader, Moamar Gaddafi.
Even though the tyrant who has ruled the North African country for more than four decades is still holed up in his bedouin tent surrounded by tanks and other heavy weapons in a section of the capital, many believed that he has lost the battle and it is a matter of days before he is flushed out. It is either he is captured or would be allowed to negotiate his exit out of the country.
To avoid further bloodshed, many world leaders have advised the Libyan strongman to relinquish power and go into exile but it is doubtful if the eccentric leader would take to the advice.
There is lesson to be learnt in Gaddafiâ€™s fall from his olympian height by other sit tight leaders, especially in Africa. It is instructive to note here that the ragtag army of rebels he once described as cockroaches and rats who launched the operation to oust him from power finally proved to him that he was mistaken.
For tyrants like Gaddafi, history certainly has a way of repeating itself. Because they do not learn from the past, they tend to repeat the same mistake made by their predecessors and fall prey to the forces of change.
If Gaddafi had taken heed of what happened to other despots like Ben Ali of Tunisia and Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and bow to the forces of change, may be he would have been saved from his present ordeal. He refused to take heed and boasted that what happened in Tunisia and Egypt cannot happen in Libya.
Now, events of the last two days have proved him wrong. He is about to face the unpleasant judgment of history just like his predecessors. If only dictators like Gaddafi recognise that power is transient and that there comes a time in the history of a country when the people desire change, they would not trample on the rights of their people.
When the Libyan uprising started in February following the mass revolts which pushed out Ben Ali of Tunisia and Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, Gaddafi responded fiercely by bombing his people, using planes and heavy artillery. Hundreds of defenceless civilians were killed, forcing many of the opposition forces to relocate to Benghazi.
For a long time, Benghazi became the bastion of the opposition. Using mostly pick-up vans mounted with machine guns and rocket launchers, the opposition forces harassed well organised and better equipped Libyan forces, engaging in hit and run. To neutralise them, Gaddafi deployed Libyan warplanes which embarked on bombing runs and straffing of the opposition forces in the dessert of Benghazi. After suffering heavy casualties, the opposition cried out to the international community to save them from Gaddafiâ€™s brutality.
The international community, led by USA, Britain, France and Italy responded to the distress call by mobilising their fighter jets and declared a no-fly zone over Libya. They also embarked on systematic bombing of selected military stronghold of the Libyan dictator. By these measures, the international community was able to neutralise Gaddafiâ€™s firepower. By last weekend, NATO had carried out 42 airstrikes and reduced the once boisterous Gaddafi forces to a scampering army.
By now Gaddafi would have realised the folly of his decision to fight his people. There is no despot that can stop a people determined to shake off their shackles. Having remained defiant to the last and allowing himself to be boxed into a corner, Gaddafi must pay the price for defying his people. He must pay the price for refusing to bow to the wishes of his people. However unpalatable it may be, Gaddafi like all other despots before him, must face justice for his numerous crimes against the Libyan people.
Already, the International Criminal Court in the Hague has issued warrants of arrest for him and his children to face justice for crimes committted against the Libyan people.
For other despots in Africa, Paul Biya of Cameroon, Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe and Abdelwade Diouf of Senegal, the clock is ticking. It is time for them to bow out and give their people opportunity to chart the way to the future.