A poster in Sirte, Libya, Gadhafi's hometown
Muammar Gadhafi's one-man version of "Extreme Makeover: Dictator Edition" arrived in Ethiopia this week, where the Guide of the Revolution did his typically modest, who-me? routine at the African Union summit. Arriving for his installation in the AU's temporary presidency like a monarch in a Merchant-Ivory costume drama, the New York Times' Lydia Polgreen described it as
Even when he was sponsoring terrorism and behaving as the bad boy of the Middle East, Libya's president thought of himself as a statesman. Gadhafi was too mercurial, polarizing and geographically isolated to become the next Nasser, but lately he's been looking south and trying to become a pan-African leader, sponsoring peace initiatives and the like.
He's still prone to behaving badly, or at least strangely. And his interest in issues tends to flicker like a child's. But he's renounced terrorism, the U.S. has warmed to him and now he's planning to turn the presidency of the AU -- a rotating, mostly ceremonial post -- into something of substance.
"I hope my term will be a time of serious work and not just words," he said. Top on his agenda is creating a United States of Africa that would include, according to the BBC, "a single African military force, a single currency and a single passport for Africans to move freely around the continent."
Only Gadhafi -- who's ruled for 39 years and banned opposition parties and a free press -- would think that what this continent needs is more bureaucracy. It's clear what he really wants: a mega-nation to control, a continent's worth of heads of state answering to him -- to be the "king of kings." How else to explain Gadhafi's arrival at the summit, documented in eye-rolling detail by the AP's Anita Powell:
Africa already has enough megalomaniacs -- and even they aren't impressed by Gadhafi's plan. His proposal stymied the AU session, and his first significant act as president was to walk out of a late-night debate in a moody fit when he didn't get his way. All this would be a sideshow if the AU didn't have real work to do in Somalia, Sudan, Congo and elsewhere.