Things Fell Apart

Things Fell Apart

The Colonel & Bob

All of you by now have seen, read and simply been overwhelmed with images, videos and commentary from the pundits, laymen and goons alike about the life and death of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.  Here is another goon’s take on the issue.

Much has been written and discussed in Tanzania about the Colonel and thoughts of western imperialism and fears of neo-colonialism in the continent.  Some Tanzanians, have been anti-west arguing against the west’s abetting of the Libyan rebels, while others have been anti-Gaddafi, reminding Tanzanians that it was the late Colonel who assisted Idi Amin in his campaign to annex Kagera during the Uganda-Tanzania War (known locally as Vita ya Kagera).  I happen to lean towards this latter group, although the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and its supporters will not be invited to any of my Christmas dinners, any time soon.

Gaddafi did help Amin in the war that not only cost many Tanzanian lives, but also led to many economic woes for the country.  This is fact.  Although Uganda did eventually pay reparations in 2007 to the tune of $ 67 million, Nyerere certainly would have been quick to remind Tanzanians today of Gaddafi’s role in our country’s short history.  If we are to truly honour our founding president, let us not do it by pretence but by actions.  And romanticizing Gaddafi is definitely pretentious.

On the issue of the nature of his death: I concur with The Mikocheni Report that the “manner of his demise” was abhorrent.  As a self-proclaimed anti-execution activist, I found the whole spectacle a little bit like some medieval lynch mob, or worse still, akin to the lynch mobs of the American South.  Pain is one thing.  Revenge.  Another thing altogether.  The Libyan people involved in exacting their revenge on Gaddafi clearly need a re-evaluation of their morals.  I am glad that the people in charge have finally stopped the public viewing of Gaddafi’s body as this only demonstrates the sad psyche of an oppressed people, who viewed their tormentor’s mortal corpse as a trophy.

On the issue of western incursion into sovereign African state of affairs: I have mixed feelings.  On the one hand, I fear western interference in African matters (see the French involvement in Ivory Coast’s recent crisis), but on the other hand I would like all of us to recall that although we are often quick to criticize the west for failing to help save Rwandan lives during their genocide, we also failed our neighbours.  Edmund Burke has been attributed to saying, more or less, that “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing”.  In leaving the Rwandans to their own deadly devices, we as Tanzanians, let evil prevail.

If African problems are to be solved by Africans, then Africans should show initiative and lead in finding solutions.  There are plenty of great examples of this.  African Union (AU) troops, supplied solely by Tanzania’s army, successfully put down a revolt in the Comoros in 2008 (although even here, the French assisted).  The AU is also currently involved in the conflict in Sudan and most recently Somalia.  Once again, even here, some logistical and financial backing of the west has been needed.  All these are great steps in the right direction of Africa’s capacity to intervene in its own continental crises.

So, we have come a long way since the ambivalence of the Rwandan genocide, but sadly, we have yet to abandon our unwavering cry for the sovereign right of our states.  Zimbabwe is a great example of this: clearly our beloved Comrade Bob has brought his country to its knees.  And yet we defend him with the guise of sovereignty, cry western imperialism and reminisce of our comrade’s courageous freedom-fighting credentials during Africa’s push for independence.  Thus, in the quest for Africans solving their own problems, we still have a long road to traverse.  And as Mahmood Mamdani has brilliantly deduced: if we are apprehensive about external intervention into our affairs, then we need “to concentrate [our] attention and energies on internal reform”.

Lastly, although the west has a poor record of good deeds in intervening in the continent, not all of our leadership issues stem from western incursions in our state of affairs.  Rwanda’s Paul Kagame, touted as a success of African leadership is one prime example.  Although, he keeps his house in order, his rule is not wholly clean.  And like Gaddafi, he is proving to be quite industrious in making sure his people get all the basic needs and more.  All this is good, but let us not forget Lord Acton‘s quip: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”  Must we sacrifice democracy for bread and water?  Why can we not have both?  The lazy and naive response that leaders like Gaddafi and Kagame adequately provide for their people’s needs is disingenuous to our search for great African leadership that is both effective and responsible.  Like Mo Ibrahim‘s efforts to reward good African leadership failed to identify a winner in 2009 we should not just be content with the current plethora of African leaders.  Let us seek and get the best, and not simply live with mediocrity, lest things fall apart like in Achebe‘s Man of the People.

Constantine was born in Dar es Salaam and raised between Dar es Salaam, Nairobi and Lusaka. He enjoys history, comedy, and African live music.


  1. Ahmed 6 years ago

    Great piece. I agree with you regarding the lazy and naive response that leaders like the Colonel adequately provided for their people’s needs, every time you hear about the Colonel its always some sort of balanced response that he was “bad” and caused “trouble” but he also did a lot for his people. Its like a foregone conclusion that we all have to accept that we will never get leaders who are accountable and honest. We should be, at the very least, thankful that some African leaders do good even if they did a whole lot of bad. Standards need to be increased, I will never forget the Colonel’s speech at the UN General Assembly in 2009, it was comical and he was the Chairperson of the African Union!! That speech basically made us all look like clowns.

    I think you may be a bit too kind regarding the African Union, it has not been a very good year for them especially in the context of Libya. The continent was and still is divided over the Libya question and that has pretty much put a strain on the AU’s response and action, they always seem to be that last to respond. They were going to send a delegation to negotiate peace between the Colonel and the rebels but then claimed it didn’t come into being because NATO started bombing…the AU should be the first to respond! They also were the last ones to recognize the NTC, fairly or unfairly this did not look good or even relevant. I also think South Africa’s foreign policy took a real hit this year and consequently the AU’s as well and while the international community claims victory, we are standing by the sidelines wondering what just happened.

  2. Constantine 6 years ago

    Ahmed: Thanks.

    On the AU, perhaps I was a bit too kind. South Africa’s foreign policy is a mess. Zimbabwe, Ivory Coast, Libya were all opportunities that Africa’s eminent power failed to seize and assert itself as a responsible power in the continent. Nigeria, the other heavyweight in the continent, I think has faired well over the years in its foreign policy.

    SA is a mess to be honest. I was hoping, ours truly, Tanzania, would re-emerge from Nyerere’s dominant character and shape a renewed leadership that came to symbolize Tanzania under Mwalimu. Neither has Mwinyi nor JK done this very well. Mkapa did the best job out of the whole bunch, but even his diplomatic efforts fell short of catapulting Tanzania as a regional leader in foreign policy. The AU should be at the forefront of our affairs, agreed, and I hope Tanzania will be leading the AU in this endeavour.

    Gaddafi made everyone in the continent look like fools. And although I have nothing against Arabs (or any other ethnicity) let us remember that Gaddafi had tried, to no avail, to court the Arabs via the Arab League before crossing to the “black” part of the continent. It was after the Arabs thought him to be a fool (especially the House of Saud), did Gaddafi begin to espouse his Pan-African agenda. And Ahmed, I completely agree: his speech at the UN in 2009 made us all look like clowns.

  3. dd-m 6 years ago

    NATO and its allies would have never interfered in Libya if the opposition to Qaddafi was weak, the Colonel time was up, time was ticking, and it was just a matter of when and not if. Of course we know why the west wanted him gone, though the accusations would be dismissed as ridiculous and cynical!
    This should be a reminder to all power hungry and control freaks leaders, especially in Africa, it doesn’t matter what good deeds the Colonel did to his people, people also need of freedom speech and options to choose who they like to lead them.
    We saw some amusing response from home, it as if we were more touched by the Colonel demise than the Libyans who decided to punish him they way the see fit!

  4. Constantine 6 years ago

    dd-m: To me, the argument shoudn’t be necessarily who deposed him, but rather whether he should have been deposed in the first place. Clearly the answer to this is yes. And for one prime reason: longevity. No leader should lead their country for that long, in this gilded age of democratic form of government.

    With regards to your “reminder to all power hungry and control freaks” that lead in Africa to beware to not only do “good deeds” but also allow for freedom of speech, among other democratic institutions, I can only add one thing: Kagame, you have been warned.

    And if I understood your last comment correctly, that Tanzanians have been more occupied with the “tyrant” rather than the people to which the tyrant subjected much control over. If this is what you are saying, then I definitely agree with you. To an extent. The Colonel, for all his sins (and good deeds, for that matter) should have been given the right that we all would like given the circumstances. And that is the right to a fair trial. If he had been given this, it would have been a great start in Libya’s quest for democracy and the rule of law.

    I hope (and pray) that Libyans find peace and seek forgiveness and reconciliation and move towards re-building their country. Egypt is a mess, Syria is still clutching onto its status quo, Yemen is slowly shimmering down, and only Tunisia (the Arab Spring’s catalyst) has managed to create some semblance of what this year’s protests intended to achieve. I hope Libya can do one better.

  5. dd-m 6 years ago

    I concur Constantine. It’s frightening to think what kind of world we are going to leave to our children, the people and the ones in power in Africa, Middle East and Asia seem world apart, is it the leaders not listening or the people demanding too much?
    Let us hope time will tell.

  6. Constantine 6 years ago

    dd-m: History is mostly deliberate and less accidental. We should not just sit and wait for time to tell us about the future of our country or continent. We should actively create this future. Otherwise, we will simply be observers of history and not creators of it.

  7. ak 6 years ago

    As this spring – if it can truly be called one – continues to unfold, how will the role of Africom affect future military mobilizations across the continent? [ ]

  8. Constantine 6 years ago

    ak: Given defense budget cuts in the US, I can only imagine that Africom will not receive considerable new funding especially when you consider that the Americans view the Chinese as a rising threat in the Pacific. They will probably reorganize funding to account for this sudden rise of China in the Pacific.

    Additionally, I think the US has little appetite for actually putting men on the ground in a direct combat capacity. In the end, it isn’t about US presence in the continent (a foregone conclusion) but rather whether Afro-American collaboration is constructive and does not restrain African states from forging alliances with other nations, most relevantly China.

    On the Gaddafi issue, had China and Russia vetoed the UN resolution, Gaddafi would still be here today. Russia is an old, wounded dog, and China is the new rising dragon, and I for one, look forward to the end of the US’ hegemony in the world and welcome China’s balancing of world power away from the sole American military complex.

  9. Mwafrika 6 years ago

    Great piece, but i hope Libyans will design a original unity plan ( backed by the local people). The fact that NTC is already out there begging from the West, is in itself scary. We hope Libya does not become a basket case choked with tons of unfair contracts, regulations and dubious trade deal with the very folks that helped fight the self proclaimed king of Africa.
    What was the agreement between NATO and Libya if i may ask? The cloud of uncertainties surrounding the Libyan people is what brings a lot of questions.
    The West did not have Africa’s interest at heart when they first invaded the continent, what makes us believe that this time round they have landed with good intentions, a mighty plan that will set us free from all our woes. Gaddafi claimed he was democratic, so did the West, so who is to judge who’s democracy was/is best for Libyans?
    The whole idea of forcing a peace dove through the barrel of a gun is what sends doubt to the minds of many folks who have always questioned Western “democracy”.

  10. Mwafrika 6 years ago

    I, in bad taste and regrettably, watched the end of Muammar Gaddafi. His bloodied, confused old face, straggly hair and tattered clothes provided a stark contrast to the Gaddafi we’ve all seen for decades. For all his past luxury, flashy authoritarianism and obnoxiousness – he looked pathetic. He begged for his life as hoards of Libyan rebels pushed his near-lifeless body around and celebrated his end, which had been assisted by NATO. I have no sympathy for Gaddafi – the man is amongst recent history’s worst tyrants. His end is fitting for the life he led.I have nothing but hope that Libyans will finally sleep tonight, knowing that they are embarking on a new era in their lives and their country’s history. Yet despite that, the death of Gaddafi brings little reason for enthusiasm or even a brief moment of celebration. Despite the role of the rebels, Libya remains strongly in the hands of NATO forces, led by my lovingly and increasingly hawkish country Canada. The death of Gaddafi means official transition of power and ‘re-building’ Libya. The death of Gaddafi means increased American access to rich oil reserves. The death of Gaddafi means an Africa Command Center [AFRICOM] that finally will be in Africa. The death of Gaddafi means another foreign occupation; another neo-colonial state.

    I hope I’m wrong. The Libyan people are strong and the recent uprisings across the world, not just in the Arab region, have shown the fortitude of The People to take back their agency and demand righteous governance and fair ability to lead their lives as they wish.

    The celebrated deaths of prominent Arab despots and bearded evil-doers in recent years, however, leave a discomforting precedent.

    BY SANA ⋅ OCTOBER 20, 2011

  11. Ahmed 6 years ago

    Preach @Mwafrika!

    However, I think AFRICOM finally arrived in Africa when President Obama sent 100 Special Forces…I mean “military advisers” to Uganda–>South Sudan—>DRC—->Central African Republic. That’s one major entrance.

  12. dd-m 6 years ago

    Analytical response to all, it might present Tz is in good hands, how come we are tops in corruption and bottom in accountability and infrastructure?! Are you guys trying to hoodwink the vijanafm that you are here but the gov doesn’t need your contribution?!
    Very frustrating to me honestly!

  13. Constantine 6 years ago

    @Mwafrika: Great comment and the extract from Sana is great. I have no idea about the ToRs between the NTC and NATO. Hopefully, after things calm down, every investor (Western or not) is given free and transparent access to bid for lucrative Libyan contracts. However, let us not jump the gun if the west gets a disproportionately larger share of these contracts, because it could be that western companies are more efficient in those bids. If the argument is the cheapest bid, then we should cry foul, because western companies are not competitive on this.

    @Ahmed: I agree with you. AFRICOM had arrived and will continue to grow I suspect in its involvement in the continent.

    @dd-m: Where are you getting data on Tanzania being top in corruption? Because even in the region, we are not top in corruption. We have dropped in the Doing Business sector evaluated by the World Bank, but not significantly. This is because legislation is moving towards the socialist tendencies of the past, fueled in part by CHADEMA’s insistence on seemingly “pro-poor” policies, when in fact “pro-business” policies help the poor more than you would think. Please read my pieces

    1. Zebras with Spots and Leopards with Stripes:

    and 2. Spitting on Marshall:; for some of my views on good intentions but bad outcomes.

  14. Diop 6 years ago

    I support NATO. NATO is made up of many countries that are economically and military superior (but also more socially-stable) than most African nations. Africa has proven to fail socially and economically in soo many instances like e.g. Ethiopia, Zimbabwe (used to be the jewel of Africa), Liberia, Congo, Rwanda, Ivory Coast, Tunisia and most recently Libya. Some leaders fail their people, starves them, oppresses them, kills them for decades. We need a global communal organization that steps in to remove him/her. Due to the impotency of SA, TZ and the AU – we cannot rely on inaction. Yet, the author lambasts NATO for their involvement in Africa, yet condemns Gadaffi. You cannot sit on the wall. Gadaffi was a disgusting human-being. Fact. He helped kill Europeans and Africans in multiple bad terrorist moves. He lived by the gun and he died by the gun. NATO. Why do they get involved? The international community failed Rwanda when they did not stop the genocide. As the international community (which has been globalized, get over it) we have a duty to help people around the world. By going on about sovereign nations when those “sovereign nations” are on the verge of civil war, genocide and social collapse, we have a duty to help. Diplomacy has failed with Gadaffi for 40 years. And the AU thinks by mutual consent they will have Gadaffi make peace with the NTC? How daft are we as Africans? How ignorant are we? The international community needs to get involved where social structures collapse, because humans are evil and revolt comes naturally. I am not talking about western-financial institutions, which we all know are wrong. Militarily, there is a need to help protect, and/or liberate social ‘collapses’ around the world. You may hate NATO for all your conspiracy theory reasons, but the international community demands an organisation like them. Sorry.

  15. Maarifa 6 years ago

    “Yet, the author lambasts NATO for their involvement in Africa, yet condemns Gadaffi. You cannot sit on the wall.”

    Diop, sounds like you want the author to see things as ‘black-and-white’, which is fine as far as I am concerned, although not realistic.

    Out of curiosity, what do you think of NATO’s activities, or rather missions? When are they supposed to step into Zimbabwe’s of this world then?

  16. Bahati 6 years ago

    I dont know how many of you have seen this, but it blew my mind. It could all be just a conspiracy, but its a good one if it is…take a look at this video

  17. ak 6 years ago

    @Bahati thanks for that link; interesting that some people are pointing to the Libyan currency as a global target. MANY of our global processes (the financial system, media, the Internet) take place with the dollar as an instrumental currency. If that changes, will the way in which these processes work change as well?

  18. Bahati 6 years ago

    This video only continues confuse me of who really Gaddafi was. Was he a hero or a tyrant, or a bit of both.

    The video is very convincing, however, it could be a propaganda, because it seems to be painting Gaddafi as a hero. Someone who had the best interest of his people and the whole of the African continent.

    But the West has a track record of doing whatever it takes to protect its own interest so I wouldn’t be surprised if this is true, or at least partly true.

    But even if Gaddafi was successful on implementing this, how much would it have helped Africa from its abjective poverty with all the corruption, selfish leadership and greed that we have going on?

    The West may be villain most of the time, but at the same time, we’re our own wizards and witches of our own progress, I think. A book called “Africa Unchained” puts some of these things into perspective.

  19. Constantine 6 years ago

    @Diop: As the author of this piece, I welcome your thoughts on the post. On sitting on the wall, I was trying to deliver a balanced piece as much as possible, however, my opinion still came out. So although it may have seemed that I was on the fence, I am actually in agreement with you about the need for Gaddafi and other un-democratic leaders of the continent to be removed by force if they fail their countries. In particular, note that I am against those that decry sovereignty when they defend un-democratic leaders such as Mugabe. My primary skepticism is on whether the international community has enough objectivity in all cases to judge whether to intervene or allow political and legal institutions in place in that particular country to deal with the scenario. In my opinion, the majority of African countries today have these institutions in place, not to mention the cultural institution of succession within traditional African societies. I do agree with you though that we are in a global world where the international community is responsible for such affairs. My fear is that NATO (a relatively small group of countries) will get precedence of the larger community that is the UN General Assembly, for instance. The more the people available to discuss and debate the issue, the higher the chance it will be that the outcome will be fair and balanced. The UN Security Council is an example of what I think should be phased out: veto power should either be abolished or expanded. That’s my humble opinion. Of course.

  20. Constantine 6 years ago

    @Maarifa: Many thanks for your comment and excellent questions for @Diop. Please see my points for @Diop above and if I may add: there needs to be guidelines on when the international community should intervene. Rwanda was a clear case of a need to intervene. Zimbabwe is another. So too is Sudan. However, the most important metric for intervention, should always be human lives. The question to always ask ourselves, is how many human lives will we save by intervening? The human cost of Bob’s senile policies in Zimbabwe have cost that country’s economy many billions of AMERICAN dollars, and countless of lives: many children have died and their mothers too from starvation, disease and worse still, government hostilities. This is just fact. However, a country like Tanzania (or Kenya for that matter) with relatively low levels of government inefficiencies and relatively free and democratic institutions should not be intervened militarily before exhausting all other avenues, most importantly the diplomatic route. Tanzania has relatively strong political & legal institutions, which explains why it is the only other place besides the Hague that hosts an International Criminal Court. This is also fact. Given that we have enjoyed 3 presidents over our short history, with the current 4th with relative stable transitions of power and that the last 2 presidents had a 2 term limit shows that we have gone a long way to establishing precedence to the 2 term, democratically elected form of government. This is at times, better than many of our African colleagues. We should hold tight, and remain vigilant that this becomes a solid institution: that of a democratically elected government balanced by both the legislative & legal branches of government.

  21. Constantine 6 years ago

    @Bahati: Kwanza, that video is from RT, a Russian news agency. If we can propose that the West had (and continues to have) its interests when implementing their foreign policy, why can we not pose this same question to the Russians? If we are to believe that we are all predisposed to our biases, because of nationalistic tendencies and the like, why would we think otherwise about the Russians? Are Russians above this petty nationalistic biased self-interested opinion mongering? I think not.

    The dollar being weakened by buying goods via gold rather than the dollar itself is such a trivial matter, that a mediocre student of A Level Economics in Tanzania can provide you with the real answer. In fact, the world currencies were pegged to their reserves of gold. Today, Switzerland for example, has a relatively small economy but enjoys relatively strong prominence of its currency in the global stage because people have faith in keeping their money in Swiss francs. Having gold as currency would certainly uplift the Swiss franc even more. So the Swiss would be the ones most supportive of a gold based currency system. But the Americans would still be the dominant currency, simply because people have EVEN more faith in keeping their money in dollars during a rainy day. In fact, Swiss citizens clamour for dollars and euros rather than their own currency, because of this thing. Classic elementary economic theory tells us that a good reserve currency should be a unit of account for international currency, store of value and extensive liquidity markets. No one beats the dollar on all three of these, particularly the last two. Gold is a fixed commodity, value added by businesses all over the world is limitless. Even if we mined all the gold in the world, eventually the value of the world economy would exceed the total value of our gold. What do we do then: go onto silver, perhaps bronze? It would be impossible, because eventually it would cost you so much GOLD to transport the GOLD across borders just to buy a car. Imagine ordering cars from Japan with tons of gold coins? It would be a logistical nightmare. I pity the Russians: for a great people, their influence over the world has waned, and they feel it.

  22. ak 6 years ago

    Something else to think about: Newsweek had this as its cover this week (

    If we continue to not only wreak havoc in one anothers’ states, but to also create and publish materials to support our biases, can we ever imagine a world where people actually “understand” eachother?

    Or can we expect to see a world that is continuously polarized and becomes like a comic book story we see in Marvel?

    • Constantine 5 years ago

      @ak: Many thanks for the link. I love your general point about “understanding”. It is very crucial and often times when people are in conflict it is because of misunderstandings or lack of understanding. Ahsante sana for this point and looking forward to moving with this point in my writing and future work.

  23. Anonymous 6 years ago

    @ak: Very provocative image. Thanks for supplying it. I worry too about the fate our “brotherhood”. I am optimistic, if not at times realistic about the prospect for lasting peace in the world.

    • Constantine 5 years ago

      @Anonymous: I too am optimistic about the prospect for lasting peace in the world. Am glad am not alone on this.

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