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Thursday, 11 July, 2002, 19:30 GMT 20:30 UK
Gaddafi's guns and goats roadshow
Nelson Mandela and Muammar Gaddafi in Durban
Africa is a stage for Libya's flamboyant leader

For every head of state and cavalcade of cars which swept through the streets of Durban, there was the sound of police sirens accompanied by helicopters hovering overhead.

And then there was Libya's Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, or the "Golden Leader" as he likes to be known these days.

Gaddafi shows scant respect for the law, and his visit to South Africa was no different.

Libya's Gaddafi┐s at the launch of African Union, Durban
Gaddafi's excess luggage: 60 armoured cars, $6 million in cash and 27 submachine guns

From the start, the South African security forces knew they would have trouble reining in the flamboyant north African head of state and his 400 strong entourage - replete with Amazonian female bodyguards.

An Antonov cargo plane arrived first, carrying 60 armoured cars, $6m in cash and 27 submachine guns.

Diplomatic stand-off

Then a container ship sailed into harbour packed with goat carcasses and buses.

Gaddafi has plans to drive back through Africa to Libya in a fast-moving roadshow which will take him first to Mozambique and then Zimbabwe before heading north.

The Golden Leader himself arrived in Durban with not one, but two Boeing 707s.

Graca Machel and her husband Nelson Mandela in Durban
Africa's first couple also basked in the Durban limelight
As his entourage spilled out of the plane on to the tarmac, there was an almost immediate confrontation with South African security forces who insisted that the Libyan entourage surrender their assault rifles.

Protocol provides bodyguards with only four handguns.

One officer confided that the standoff could easily have turned into a lethal shoot-out before diplomats stepped in.

The South Africans also refused the Golden Leader permission to drive around at high speed with his 60 armour-plated cars in hot pursuit - saying there were rules, and they had to be respected.

If the Golden Leader didn't like it, he didn't show it.

During his four-day visit, Gaddafi thrilled the crowds with an impromptu speech at the public launch of the union.

Former Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda is the only living leader who took part in the formation of OAU 39 years go
A face and a handkerchief from the past at the African Union bash
But he showed little enthusiasm for the ideals of democracy, good governance and respect for human rights that the Union seeks to promote.

After days of sirens blaring, Durban's citizens heaved a collective sigh of relief when the Gaddafi roadshow left town.

Newspaper posters adorning street lamps summed up the Golden Leader's passage with the simple words:

Gaddafi - goats, guns and grenades.

The historic summit should create a new African Union.

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See also:

09 Jul 02 | Africa
24 Jun 02 | Business
25 Jun 02 | Business
09 Jul 02 | Africa
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