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Tuesday 30 August 2011

Should Algeria send the Gaddafis back to Libya?

It is being reported that 'Colonel' Muammar Gaddafi's "wife and three children have fled to Algeria" and are being welcomed there. This is clearly an attempt at softening public opinion towards them, as the same news could also be reported as "four members of the Gaddafi clan escape to Algeria".

The children are hardly of an age where they have the benefit of innocence. One is a Lieutenant General in the Libyan army; another heads the Libyan Olympic committee, as well as being chairman of the General Post and Telecom Company and the third is so notorious that he has been the cause of many 'incidents'.

The world is now seeing what was always suspected (but not to this ridiculous extent) were the excesses of the Gaddafi clan. The pictures of palaces where the interior design makes the term 'bling' seem very reserved, the appreciation of what the despot Gaddafi actually did for his people; nothing unless they were part of the clan, or were effectively bribed, when deemed necessary.

It should be remembered that the term 'despot', when applied to the self-styled 'Colonel' is totally apt. Gaddafi lead a military coup in 1969 whose first act was to abolish the constitution. He then attempted to convince the world that Libya was run by local councils while diverting revenue into his personal coffers and styling himself variously as "Brotherly Leader and Guide of the Revolution of Libya" and "King of Kings".

Internally, Gaddafi maintained power by repression (hardly surprising for someone who usurped power in the first place) with execution, murder and arbitrary arrests being commonplace.

Externally, Gaddafi often got his own way by using the massive revenues generated by the Libyan oil fields to feed the greedy. The sums involved were so substantial, entire governments could effectively be bought off.

If you for one moment believe that this is not the case then, consider just one of the antics of his son Hannibal (now apparently in Algeria) and its consequences.  In July 2008 Hannibal Gaddafi and his wife were accused of assaulting members of their staff at a hotel in Geneva. The Gaddafis were questioned by the police and released on bail of SFr 500,000. 'Colonel' Gaddafi retaliated for this affront by withdrawing billions from Swiss banks (don't ask where the money came from... you already know), throwing out Swiss diplomats, stopping oil deliveries to Switzerland, and arresting Swiss citizens in Libya.

The Swiss government attempted to remain calm and especially not capitulate to such boorish behaviour. Switzerland, in a measured retaliatory move prohibited a total of 188 Gaddafi family members and their cohorts coming to Switzerland. This is where things got a little messy as Switzerland had signed the Schengen Agreement meaning that measures taken to prohibit the Gaddafis access to Swiss soil automatically extended to the rest of the Schengen countries (effectively Western Europe). For once Europe showed a united front; they thought that the Swiss action was unreasonable and pressure was put upon Switzerland to withdraw their hardly draconian measures and apologise for having arrested a Gaddafi. This was of course a golden opportunity for Europe to show that it could not be bought off; it again failed miserably. Before you ask, the staff who had allegedly (there is of course the presumption of innocence) been assaulted withdrew their claims after having received a settlement.

The Gaddafis have enjoyed their ill-gotten gains and now the funds and all other assets that they have 'borrowed' from Libya should all be returned to the rightful government.

My personal view of whether Algeria should return the Gaddafis? For humanitarian reasons, accept them in the clothes they are wearing and refuse any donations. What are the chances?

If you would like to cast your ‘vote’, feel free to visit

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