Times of Malta : Mali iedzīvotāji vienmēr gatavi uzņemt Kadafi

Posted on September 1, 2011

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Muammar Gaddafi’s circle of friends on the international scene is fast shrinking but in the Malian town of Gao, residents say they would be happy to welcome the fugitive Libyan leader.
“Let Gaddafi come here. We will offer him bed and board,” said a chemist in Gao, the impoverished Sahelian country’s main eastern hub.
A school headmaster looked slightly more nervous when asked if he would open his home to Gaddafi but argued Mali had long benefited from the maverick leader’s largesse and could not leave him out in the cold.
“I agree to welcome Gaddafi. We are not ungrateful people. He opened his wallet to us Africans. Today he is experiencing difficult times, we should not forsake him,” he said.
Mali’s relations with Gaddafi’s regime were manifold.
The oil-rich regime welcomed thousands of Tuareg rebels from Mali and neighbouring countries in the 70s, many of whom are now returning with expensive cars and weapons.
But more recently, Gaddafi also showered African leaders with billions of dollars and got traditional leaders all over the continent to call him the “King of Kings”.
While cases of mistreatment of sub-Saharan immigrants in Libya spurred some controversy in Mali and elsewhere, many simply remember the man who sprinkled dollar bills on the crowd when he toured the region to launch his drive for the “United States of Africa” a decade ago.
Mali is one of the countries that benefited the most fromGaddafi ‘s generosity. Libyan investments financed a gleaming government office complex which bears Gaddafi’s name and is on the brink of completion.
Libya also has significant stakes in the hotel and banking industries.
“I never received a penny from Gaddafi but I like him. There is a man who knows how to share. Just look at what he’s done for countries like Mali,” said Nouhoun Kone, a Gao airport employee.
“How many other Arab leaders offered any help to black Africa?” he said.
Two other residents sitting in front of their plot in this former Sahelian trading hub agree and say they would be happy to give Gaddafi hospitality.
“We are ready to protect him, offer him shelter and assistance. Nobody can root him out from this place. Tell him to come,” said one of them, who asked not to be named.
One of the richest men in Gao, who also wished to remain anonymous, concurred.
“Why not build him a house in Gao or allow him to stay in his residence in Timbuktu,” he said, referring to the Malian town that was once a renowned centre for Islamic learning and where Gaddafi owns land covering several hectares.
The Libyan leader once had himself declared the Imam of Timbuktu and flew in African leaders to pray with him in the city’s stadium.
Ibrahim Ag Kina, a former Tuareg rebel, said he had received more than 250,000 dollars from Libyan envoys as part of an operation to disarm the rebellion in northern Mali.
Speaking to AFP, he claimed that Libyan diplomats came to see him last year to “ask me to organise a disarmament operation with people from my tribe and tell me that Gaddafi was going to give money.”
“I got my money and the envoys took their cut. Gaddafi was a generous man,” he said, displaying a photograph of himself standing next to the Libyan leader.
Unconfirmed reports said Gaddafi and two of his sons, including Seif al-Islam, were hiding around 100 kilometres (60 miles) south of Tripoli.
Mali has seen several demonstrations of support for Gaddafi ‘s regime in recent months. They were organised by several prominent writers and involved a number of political parties and associations.
The conflict in Libya has nonetheless polarised Malian opinion.
“What is happening to him is unfair but it has to be said he was violating people’s basic rights,” said Zoueratt, a young student in Gao.
“I am nonetheless in favour of granting him asylum. He was not a democrat but one should not forget that the Libyan rebels who now control most of the country are not either,” she said.
http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20110830/world/generous-gaddafi-welcome-say-residents-in-northern-mali.382539

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