gaddafi: still him


It isn’t so much a tent as an awning, open to the desert at the edges. Inside, there are some white plastic chairs, a plastic table and two easy chairs. I am sitting in one of them, waiting for Colonel Gaddafi. To get here, I flew to Tripoli and then took another plane up the coast, followed by an hour and a half’s car ride into the desert scrubland. Gaddafi moves around a lot, like the nomadic groups he comes from, and no doubt also for security reasons. This evening he is camped at a small oasis, replete with camels and some tired-looking palm trees. It’s only a few minutes’ wait before he arrives.

Dressed in a brown-gold robe, he cuts an impressive figure. There are no guards or minders in view, and the occasion is a completely informal one. He is instantly recognisable and would be so to a great many people across the world, whatever their feelings about him might be. In a way, it is an extraordinary phenomenon. Libya is a tiny country in terms of population, with only 5.8 million people. Gaddafi’s global prominence is altogether out of proportion to the size of the nation he leads. He is now 64, in power since 1969. Rumours abound that he is in failing health, but he looks robust.

more from The New Statesman here.