Gadaffi hailed as 'knight' of the revolution

Libya’s celebrations marking Moammar Gadaffi’s four decades in power got off to a spectacular start on Wednesday morning with a colourful extravaganza lauding his achievements as the heroic “knight” of the country’s revolution.

Dancing, singing, marching and feats of horsemanship were combined in a dazzling display at Tripoli’s Mitiga airbase in the early hours of the morning in a lavish tribute to the one man who will forever be identified with the coup on September 1 1969.

Gadaffi, in mottled beige suit and matching cap, sat in the centre of a dais under a striped awning as African, Arab and other VIPs were disgorged from black limousines and ranked according to their importance before the show began after the Ramadan iftar meal.

Green laser beams cut through the humid night sky to announce the “Knight and Men” salute to “a great leader, a maker of great events”—first in Arabic and then English, French, Italian and Spanish for the many foreign guests.

A troupe of Italian girls took part in the dancing sequences, but the horse riders were Libyans, men and women in tribal dress, strutting and cantering across the Astroturf repeatedly to shake their fists and hail the man on the podium.

Large parts of the programme were devoted to Libya’s struggle against Italy, which occupied the country from 1911 until the World War II. One tableau recreated a mass hanging—designed to crush the anti-colonial resistance—complete with wooden gallows and dangling corpses.

Libya’s modern military might was represented by soldiers in camouflaged armoured vehicles and others waving green banners and chanting Allahu akbar. Flaming hoops and torches added deep orange flashes to the kaleidoscopic scene.

The event was broadcast live on TV, but few ordinary Libyans were in the crowd.
Huge numbers are expected to turn out for the main anniversary event—likened to an Olympic opening ceremony—in Tripoli’s Green Square early on Thursday.

The overall message was of immense pride in the country’s achievements, but it was a blunt one. “Libya is Paradise,” proclaimed one giant slogan adorning Gadaffi’s image. “In blood and spirit we will redeem our leader,” children in national costume chanted as he beamed back at them.

Produced by an international events company in cooperation with Libyan state broadcasting, the Gadaffi show was a sophisticated display of adulation and agitprop, Libyan-style. But there was no mention of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, the man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing, who was freed by Scotland last month and is dying from prostate cancer.

The regime appears to have decided to try to limit the international damage caused by al-Megrahi’s welcome home, though film of his return is broadcast constantly on TV.

Gadaffi made clear that the choice of the location was deliberate: until September 1969 Mitiga had been an American airbase that Libyans—even army officers like him—had been forbidden to enter, he mused in his low, growling voice. “The revolution that restored it to the Libyan people,” he said, “was our zero hour”. - guardian.co.uk

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