Potential Hot Spots: July 15, 2002

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: As Africa's delegates left Durban after the formation of the African Union and Gadaffi's men fuelled up for the Brother Leader's motorcade to Mozambique, Libya was confident of becoming the seat of the proposed Pan-African Parliament (PAP). Africa's favorite dictator Libyan Colonel Gadhafi arrived in Swaziland's spiritual capital Ludzidzini on 11 July with a motorcade of 60 armored vehicles and numerous female bodyguards. Known locally as the "Muammar Gaddafi road show", he travels with an entourage like a 21st century version of Rudyard Kipling's "The Man Who Would Be King"; two Boeing 707s and giant Antonov plane, plus assorted another aircraft and a container ship full of goat carcasses are used to move 400 security officers and bodyguards. 

Although Colonel Gaddafi's travel arrangements are supposed to be a closely guarded secret, the press reported that his convoy would pass through Swaziland, Mozambique and Kenya on the self-promotional tour that would continue all the way back to Libya. Colonel Gaddafi would fly to each country along the route, leaving a brother to anchor the road show. The ground convoy included 60 assorted vehicles (some armored) and two 46-seater buses. Each vehicle was packed to capacity and security officers even found $6 million in hard cash in one car, although the Libyans point-blank refused for some of their baggage to be searched. 

The armored vehicles' ostensible purpose was to provide safety for the Libyan leader's convoy home through Africa. But South African government officials feared he would use the vehicles to visit black townships and an attempt to steal the limelight from the summit's host and chairman of the new African Union, President Thabo Mbeki. 

Gaddafi (also known as 'Brother Leader', 'The Guide') was given free rein in Durban, after South African security impounded most of his airborne convoy of luxury vehicles and other equipment on his arrival. However, there were frequent unpleasant encounters between South African security officers and the Libyan guards. On 6 July, a stand-off between South African and Libyan security forces was described as "almost a war", with 40 outnumbered and outgunned South African officers staring down almost 400 Libyans. One unnamed security officer told the press that Gaddafi's entourage "works totally above the law. They came here with the attitude that Gaddafi is the Golden Leader and that they, as Libyans, are above all of us." 

Protocol allows for four firearms to be carried by a visiting president's personal detail, although special permits are sometimes issued. The Libyans were issued permits for 21 AK-47 assault rifles, but this had multiplied to 48 by the time the weapons were checked in at a Durban hotel. On 10 July, one of Colonel Gaddafi's planes was grounded in Mozambique after an unspecified number of rocket-propelled grenade launchers were discovered on board. An initial search of some cargo turned up 27 submachineguns. 

South African cabinet ministers Charles Nqakula, Lindiwe Sisulu, and Mosiuoa Lekota attempted to do damage control on the 12th, claiming that everything was under the command and control of the local security unit assigned to the Libyans.
South Africa has reason to tolerate Colonel Gaddafi's antics, since it admitted on 16 June to holding talks with the Libyan government on supplying arms, but described the negotiations with the North African country as being an early stage. A Libyan deal could be very lucrative for the cash-strapped South African government.

Gaddafi wanted to upgrade his old Mirage fighters, as well as acquire a new fleet of fighter jets and replace his military helicopters. South African defense firms could provide Libya with communication and radar equipment, electronic warfare systems, armored trucks and cars and mine protection vehicles. The supply of military equipment to Libya is restricted by a United Nations embargo, imposed because of Colonel Gaddafi's alleged support for international terrorism.

Of particular noteworthiness is that one of the 10 armored cars in Colonel Gaddafi's delegation was fitted with a jamming device, which disrupts all electronic and radio signals in the vicinity. People on his route were likely to suffer sudden interruptions of their cell phone conversations as the convoy passed, indicative that at someone has been paying attention to Asymmetric Warfare's most effective weapons - the Command Detonated Mine. Recent combat experience (particularly in Chechnya) has illustrated that cell phone technology makes a wonderful actuator for a remotely-detonated mine (usually about the size of a 152/155mm HE shell). - Adam Geibel

For a recent photo of the esteemed Libyan leader, see http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/020708/170/1tcis.html



 

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