African viewpoint: Unjust justice?

A fighter at the drainage pipe where Col Muammar Gaddafi was captured The drainage pipe where Col Muammar Gaddafi took refuge before his death

In our series of viewpoints from African journalists, Nigerian writer Sola Odunfa argues the world is better off without Libya's ousted late leader.

One news clip which many people across the globe will not easily forget is that of the Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi humbled, dazed and, with a bloodied head, dragged to his inevitable inglorious end.

His tormentors were the battle-scarred revolutionary fighters whom he had described as "rats" and "cockroaches" barely two months ago.

On that triumphal Thursday morning, they were propelled by the fire of all-consuming vengeance.

Unknown even to himself, Col Gaddafi - the absolute ruler of Libya for 42 years - had suddenly become an ordinary human with ordinary feelings; the toga of "king of kings" and "imam of imams" had dropped off his sagging shoulders as he faced their wrath.

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I wish he was the last of Africa's tyrants, but he is not”

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I thought I had been steeled against squirmy sentiments by decades of reporting from scenes of war, but I could not watch those final minutes of the killing of Col Gaddafi after two television replays.

I had little sympathy for him - rather, I was angry about what he had done to his country and his lack of common sense by refusing to go into exile.

Libya's new leaders have promised an investigation into Col Gaddafi's death following concerns - first raised by the UN human rights commissioner, Navi Pillay, a South African lawyer - that he was summarily executed.

That is to be expected, but the fact is that certain actions do take place in the heat of combat when there is an absence of rational thinking.

The perpetrators cannot, in all fairness, be held accountable in such a situation.

'Quit notice to bad leaders'

The untrained young man who joined the revolutionary forces because his home had been destroyed or his relatives butchered or his sisters raped by pro-Gaddafi soldiers was not likely to think about the Geneva Convention on the conduct of war when he came face-to-face with Gaddafi.

A fighter celebrates after Col Gaddafi's capture The exact circumstances of Col Gaddafi's death are not known but many Libyans celebrated his demise

Those fighters who were baying for Col Gaddafi's blood had personal scores to settle with him and no authority - inside or outside Libya - could have restrained them.

That was the moment for which they put their lives on the line, and they had saved the lives of several thousand other Libyans by their bravery.

The action of the victors in Sirte, regrettable as some may regard it, may even be more understandable than the execution by US special forces of unarmed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in his bedroom in Pakistan in May.

Col Muammar Gaddafi

  • Born in Sirte on 7 June 1942
  • Seized power on 1 September 1969
  • Faced uprising in February 2011
  • Killed on 20 October 2011

The bottom line, to me, is that the world is better off without the two men, however they were bumped off.

Africans had been happy to say good riddance to killers and thieves like Idi Amin, Mobutu Sese Seko and Jean-Bedel Bokassa.

Now why not Col Gaddafi?

I wish he was the last of Africa's tyrants, but he is not.

The political stage is still paraded by leaders who need to take more than a passing glance at the front page headline of Nigeria's Guardian newspaper, which announced Gaddafi's death thus: "Quit notice... to bad leaders".

Col Gaddafi had done a lot to improve the economic conditions of his people - but man does not live by bread alone.

If you would like to comment on Sola Odunfa's latest column, please use the form below.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 14.


  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    Why do we care so much how he died? Why do we care so much that he was killed instead of brought to trial?

    Gaddafi was one of the nastiest dictators of recent times - death is probably the best thing. Do the west really think that if he had been captured alive and put on trial, that he would of given rational explanations and confessed to crimes? You wouldnt have got a word of sense out of him.

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    Re 11:

    You're absolutely right. The internal politics of the African should be nothing to do with the West. We shouldn't spend a single penny on them.

    By the same token, neither should we give a single penny to relieve African genocide, starvation, poverty, and disease.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    Glad to see a monster like Gaddafi gone, but it should be for Africans and Africans alone to sort out their own countries. Western democracy cannot and should not be imposed by airstrikes, coups or assassinations.

  • Comment number 10.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    We need more leaders like Gadhafi.

    We need more leaders will to use the Military against his own people?
    Far from standing up to the West he bent over backwards to accommodate them, and they did because of people like you, he spent million on western military equipment, tortured terrorist suspects on behalf of them and offered oil to anyone willing to turn a blind eye to genocide.

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    Gaddafi was a tyrant and ruled for 42 years with iron fist. He murdered and tortured thousands and he deserves what he got. Good Riddance Gaddafi is gone and good luck for Libya. But there are worst dictators still left in Africa. I can single out the chief of despots President Isaias Afwerki of Eritrea. He was a very close friend of Gaddafi and I’m sure he is spending sleepless nights.

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    Gadhaffi. African leaders were like Zebras seeing one of their own taken down by lions. They saw , looked away and have continued grazing knowing very soon it might be their turn.

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    i only would have hoped it will send a strong message to other African tyrants and despots but i doubt it,instead it will strengthen their resolve and cling on to power but the day of reckoning will catch up with them as it has with their major mentor[GHADAFFI].TO HIS SUPPORTERS AND SYMPATHISERS I SAY TO THEM ;GOOD RIDDANCE


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