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Qadhafi Invested Heavily In Pan-Africanist Mission -Prof. Pondi 

Interviewed By Yerima Kini Nsom — One of Cameroon’s foremost intellectuals, Prof. Jean Emmanuel Pondi, says the struggle for a United States of Africa will never be the same following the death of the Libyan leader, Muammar Al-Qadhafi, on October 20, 2011.


Pondi, a specialist in Political Science and International Relations and the Secretary General of the Yaounde University I, recently published a book titled “Life and Death of Muammar Al-Qadhafi. What Lessons for Africa?” Pondi, in this interview, condemns western media for highlighting only the flaws of the former Libyan strongman while all his virtues and positive actions were relegated to the back burner.

The Post: What motivated you to write a book about one of the most controversial figures that we have ever heard in Africa as a dictator?

Prof. Pondi:  I was not totally happy with the description of Muammar Al-Qadhafi which followed his death around the world, mostly from Western media. They used the terms such as dictator and so on to describe him.

Having been to Libya four times and having had the privilege to be received by the Libyan leader twice, not because of me but because I was part of an AU delegation. I think what I saw in Libya was at odds with the description that was given. The media from Northern countries also erased a whole part of the action which he conducted throughout his life. They only pointed to one aspect of Muammar Qadhafi, purposely trying to hide other parts of his personality and action.

The book you have just published; “Life and Death of Muammar Al-Qadhafi: What lessons for Africa?” seems to bemoan the plight of Africa without the Libyan strongman. What do you think Africa will be in the coming years without Al-Qadhafi?

First of all, the book establishes clearly that he was not a saint. He did not do only very positive things. The book recognizes that. But then the book goes further to say that that given the departure of the head of the country and its options which were pro-African and pro Pan-Africanist, it stands to reason that the team that will succeed him will not have the same options and therefore what do the Africans do in order to make sure that they take that new

context into consideration and what kind of adjustment or readjustment they will use now in order to make sure that the contribution of Libya or the lack of it rather, is not felt in the dramatic way in the conduct of African International Relations. This is really the main reason why I thought that it is important to draw the attention of the leadership of Africa to the fact that it is not one week before the magic session of the AU that they will certainly realize that there is a big gap in their budget.

Libya was 15 percent of the AU’s ordinary budget, Egypt 15 percent of the ordinary budget which all together is 30 percent of money less available that was the case while those two leaders were part and parcel of the AU. So, I am trying to make sure that we anticipate rather than acting while being astonished at things that happen to us.

How will you describe Muammar Qadhafi in one sentence or two sentences?

He was a very passionate person, first of all he was a Pan-Arabist in the beginning then he knew a few problems in that domain and turned into a Pan-Africanist. But, it is important to know that he did not stop at speaking; he acted, he invested very heavily in the Pan-Africanist mission which he found himself to be a messenger of. Libya, between the years 2000 and 2010, disbursed more than 200 billion US dollars which is more than the IMF, World Bank, European Union funds, all put together for Africa. So, I think it should be known by Africans and not to be hidden from them.

Would you say that Qadhafi lacked the diplomatic skills and maybe the courtesy to push across the very lofty ideas he had?

Clearly, he was not a very diplomatic person in his behavior. This is absolutely clear, and that way of behaving really irritated many of his peers and colleagues. The Libyan delegation tended to behave at the AU as if because of Libyan financial power, it had a right of say about everything and that tended to irritate a lot of African delegations.

Having said that,  the book also explains that Qadhafi is the first child ever to have gone to a western school in his family. No body before him had ever set foot in a western style school. It doesn’t mean that he did not have any education, but as far as the western mannerism or way of behavior is concerned, it is important to know that in his family. They used to be pastoralists; these are people who look after herds, cattle and that he was the first one to do this, so maybe this could explain that also.

What interests you most about Qadhafi and what did you hate most about him?

His personality was a dual and ambiguous. He was a very determined person and he was a very much self- confident person in Africa. He wanted an Africa which was economically powerful. And he did not refrain from saying it to whoever was in front of him. So, I think, he was a fearless person.

He was a “mercenary” in the sense that he felt that Africa was a great continent, Africa had a great destiny and he could explain that to the Africans themselves who were the first to doubt their capabilities. He was a very fearless messenger and he acted according to what he believed. On the other side, in terms of political systems, he was very authoritarian. He did not accept dissent; he didn’t accept another point of view besides what he was claiming to be a new found ideology, that is to say the green book ideology.

Would it be fair to rank him at the same pedestal with other African patriots like Kwame Nkrumah, Thomas Sankara and Patrice Emery Lumumba?

I think History afterwards will put them at the same level even though there are still many animosities which manifest themselves against him.

Do you think that a man who used enormous resources of his country to sponsor acts of terrorism in different parts of the world and threatened his neighbors deserves to have a place in the good books of history?

I must say that that is a dark side of him that I am not hiding in the book. In fact I document the huge sums of money which he spent to support terrorism, not on one continent but on five continents which the planet has. It’s a very bad point for him. Again the book attempts not to explain it but to understand his mental map, why did he behave that way?

And he explained himself that when he was a kid he grew up in a war context and situation where his people were bombarded on a daily basis in 1942- 1943, but they didn’t know why. And they were not part of a conflict but they were victims of the conflict. So I think that created in him some kind of inherited hostility against those powers. Am not trying to justify but am just trying to understand why he was that way.

Qadhafi spent Libyan cash all over the world in acts of terrorism and his quest for a United States of Africa yet Libyans were not living in affluence. Would you say that he was a man whose charity began abroad?

Not at all! As I said, I have been to Libya. The reports about Libya which I saw, heard or read were very biased. They did not say what any objective traveler to Libya could have seen. That’s a country where water and electricity were free for all citizens; a place where housing was by right given to all Libyan households, a place where fuel caused 0.08 Euro per liter. I am talking about gasoline and normal fuel. That’s a place where health services were free. So I don’t know what other country can actually say about that.

Libyans were not free to express themselves, they were not politically free. Do you agree?

That is absolutely correct, that is why am saying that we must make a difference between a political side of his actions and economic wellbeing which he brought to Libya.

What is the fate of the United States of Africa project without Qadhafi?

Again if because of the death of one person a project dies it means that it was not a well rooted project or a well accepted project. My hope is that the United States of Africa be carried by the whole of African population and not by one or two people. Africa can have an impact in world affairs only if Africa is united with its one billion four hundred thousand population; with it 30 million square kilometers and with its immense riches. If we do not understand that and we persist in micro-states which fight against each other, we will have no way forward in the world of today.

You blame western powers for the demise of this African patriot. Don’t you think he was to a greater extent responsible for what happened to him?

Mr. Qadhafi was a specialist in provocation. He did provoke western powers; it is not me who can say whether it is the west that brought him down. The facts speak for themselves and I think that those facts have been thoroughly brought to the book so people who read the book will have to determine for themselves whether it was this entity or the other that was

responsible for his demise but I am calling for Africans to read, to educate themselves and be aware of the intrigues of the world around them, not to let other people explain Africa to them, which is unfortunately more often the case than not. We need to make our opinion on the development of Africa ourselves. We do not need people to explain Africa to us and for that we need to make efforts, an individual effort, a collective effort as a people.

You seem to doubt that the Libyan National Transition Council will be able to carry on the reforms or investments in black Africa. What makes you think so?

I rely on facts and facts alone. If one goes through the book, the person will find out that I have really used facts, figures, and statistics. It is research and so the National Transitional Council is made up of people who are self- appointed. They are not democratically appointed for one thing.

The second thing is that they have already expressed their absolute determination to go away from any past which was created by Muammar Qadhafi, which includes the refusal to hearken to the building of the United States of Africa. They said it at Addis Ababa in the first meeting in which they refused that a minute of silence be observed in the memory of Muammar Qadhafi. From that particular standpoint you understand that there is nothing to expect from them.

When you were writing, did you have any target in mind; African leaders, policy makers? Who are those who should be the target of your book?

Every living African who claims to have concern for Africa today and tomorrow. This is not only Qadhafi. Before him it was Thomas Sankara, before him it was Patrice Emery Lumumba and so on and so forth. So, the question is who is next in terms of the leaders who really want Africa to emerge as a dignified actor in the world system?

Why is it a crime to have that kind of ambition? And we see the fate that has met those who have said that Africa must stand tall, must stand proud and must stand in dignity. They have been dealt with. I am saying that we must, as a continent, reflect on that, we must better protect those who want to protect our interest and throw a more positive image of Africa around the world.

Can you pinpoint a few lessons one can get away with?

First of all, we must stop saying that Africa is a poor continent because it is not. If you take countries like Algeria, South Africa, Angola, and Equatorial Guinea…. these are very rich countries today indeed. They can step in for the Libyan and Egyptian void.

They can readjust their contribution significantly; they can act as consortium, and now see what the African Union needs for the next ten years and put that money on the table. What I am saying is that we lack, perhaps, the determination and vision. We should galvanize Africans because it is our right to want to be happy, to be successful in the world and for that, we need to read the world the way it is, not as we think it should be.

First published in The Post print edition no 01425

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