Saadi Qaddafi (Photo:Reuters)
Muammar Gaddafi played his part of humble nomad achieving dubious dignity and fame with aplomb. Not so, his third son Saadi.
Saadi turned coat in a twinkling. Few Gaddafi names are as familiar and, yet, oddly as unimportant as that of Saadi. He is neither an academic nor has he intellectual pretensions like his elder brother Seif Al-Islam. Neither is he a generalissimo and militaristic freak like Khamis. His passion is the football pitch.
Alas, Saadi did not excel at the beautiful game even though he became captain of the Libyan national football team and president of the Libyan Football Federation. He was also on the board of the Italian team Juventus and played with the Libyan team Al-Ahly Tripoli and signed for the Italian Serie A team Perugia in 2003. However, he did not participate in a single game.
Still, Saadi was commander of Libya's Special Forces under his father's regime and INTERPOL issued an arrest warrant against him. But news that he is negotiating surrendering to the National Transitional Council (NTC) and joining forces with them, and even hinting at notifying his father's adversaries as to his whereabouts, came as a complete surprise to everyone, including the NTC leadership who welcomed Saadi's daring overtures as a coup de grace and an unanticipated manna from heavens above.
Saadi will undoubtedly fill in a lot of map, especially if he discloses the whereabouts of his father to the NTC and s head of his father's special forces will no doubt supply Libya's new rulers with precious intelligence and military information.
If Saadi officially joins the NTC that would be a terrific blow to the morale of his fathers' henchmen and hangers-on. It would infuriate Gaddafi and reinforce the derision with which his siblings regard him. It is rumoured that when the NTC Liberation Army ransacked Saadi's villa in Tripoli they found a DVD containing gay pornography entitled "Boyz Tracks", but this revelation, of course, could well be propaganda by the NTC stalwarts who wish to defame the Gaddafi family and tarnish their image in the eyes of the conservative Libyan society.
Saadi is envied and admired by his siblings. Gaddafi's offspring vied for the position of the most maverick and eccentric. Seif Al-Arab was the youngest and least problematic, the apple of his father's eye. And, so was Aisha his only daughter and at one time heir apparent. Hannibal was a disaster, a playboy with a model wife who reveled in sadomasochistic reveries torturing suspects and innocent victims alike. Seif Al-Islam was the articulate politician and accomplished artist.
Saadi shares with his eldest brother Mohamed a unique talent for standing aloof, and possesses an authority that earthly calamities could not undermine. in sharp contrast with Mohamed's asceticism, however, Saadi has never quite come clean about his past.
Saadi's treachery, or courage and defiance depending on where you stand politically, challenge his father's certitudes no end.
Gaddafi is gone, though, and so are the threats he posed. Saadi had until now navigated adroitly the fault between his father's regime and the NTC. If he wins the NTC leadership's trust he might well end up with some ministerial position in the post-Gaddafi Libya. The irony is that at least one Gaddafi would serve the NTC cause in a positive manner. But we have no reason, again, to take such stories at face value.
This dance of forces across the sprawling Libyan deserts will play out and no doubt Saadi will emerge as the NTC's trump card amid the sand dunes of doubt and mistrust. The political future of Libya now hinges on the fate of Saadi. If he surrenders and joins the ranks of the NTC then there is hope for a smooth transfer of power. Moreover, Saadi's defection will make it possible to integrate more former Gaddafi diehards into the new post-Gaddafi dispensation in Libya.
The question remains, though, why did Saadi not announce his intentions of joining the NTC when his father was still hanging on by his fingernails to a scrap of authority in Tripoli?