On 20 October 2011 Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi was killed in an uprising. One year later, the greater majority of young Zimbabweans feel the first anniversary of Gaddafi’s death should serve to remind old African dictators like their president they cannot continue clinging on to their jobs forever.
By Nkosana Dlamini, Harare
At the height of the Libyan war, which resulted in the death of leader Muammar Gaddafi in October last year, Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe expelled the Libyan ambassador to Zimbabwe, Taher Elmagrahi and his staff out of the country.
The Libyan envoy has led his staff and a group of Libyan nationals based in Zimbabwe to burn the flag then used under the Gaddafi regime. Elmagrahi went on to hoist the one used by Gaddafi’s conquerors at the embassy in an emphatic show of support for the Libyan strongman’s ouster.
While Mugabe’s government saw this as an act of diplomatic overzealousness, it was apparent Mugabe, a long time Gaddafi ally, was angered by the fall of yet another African dictator in an uprising, that was supported by Western countries.
Mugabe, 88, just like his slain comrade, has ruled his country for over three decades, leading to a fall-out with the West, which has persistently put his controversial rule under close scrutiny.
Mugabe took his bitterness to a recent UN summit where he challenged the West to treat Gaddafi’s violent death the same way it treated Christopher Stevens’s death in September this year.
The US envoy to Libya and some staff members were killed when demonstrators besieged the American embassy, protesting against an American film allegedly denigrating their religion.
"As we in spirit join the United States in condemning that death, shall the United States also join us in condemning that barbaric death of the head of state of Libya, Gaddafi? It was a loss […], a tragic loss to Africa,” Mugabe said.
Mugabe must feel strengthened by some young Zimbabweans, who feel the aggressive West has used the restoration of democracy as an excuse to bludgeon African leaders opposed to their meddlesome habits.
One such youth is Zechariah Mushawatu, a political science student at the University of Zimbabwe, who feels African countries have surrendered the task of solving their own problems to the “insincere” West. “Gadaffi’s death was a clear reflection of how Africa is still to mature as a continent,” he says. “As Africans, it’s time we stopped relying on foreigners to solve our own problems.”
Rumbidzai Mashavave, a 25-year-old women’s rights activist, says she feels Gaddafi did a lot for his people and should be allowed to rest in peace. “Yes, Gaddafi had his own shortcomings, but I believe he strove to empower his people and fought to protect Libyan oil resources from being exploited by the West. Because of that, I feel Africa lost a hero.”
Killing is no solution
But the greater majority of young Zimbabweans feel the first anniversary of Gaddafi’s death should serve to remind old African dictators like their president they cannot continue clinging on to their jobs forever.
Patrick Danga, a 27-year-old supporter of Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s party, says although he regrets the former Libyan strongman met his fate in a Western sponsored uprising, his death should teach African leaders they cannot continue taking their people for granted. “We cannot solve political problems through killing. On the other hand, Gaddafi’s death sends a strong warning to dictators that Africa is fast losing patience with them,” he says.
Live and die by the sword
Tafadzwa Muranganwa, a Harare resident, says African tyrants should use the anniversary of the death of their comrade to reflect on their own dictatorial tendencies. “African dictators should take this as a reminder they cannot continue brutalising their own people and ignoring the rule of law. They should remember that those who live by the sword will die by the sword,” says Muranganwa.
Pride Mkono, a student activist, says he feels pity for the Libyan masses that they have to bear the costs of Gaddafi’s misrule long after he is gone.
“The anniversary reminds us that bad men tend to live on even after they are long gone. It pains Libyans are still trying to recover from his misrule and the consequences of his removal from power. I personally do not miss him at all.”