The atmosphere is that of the sixties.

SIRTE (Somalilandpress) — That’s what journalists felt while covering the 22nd Arab League summit in the Libyan city of Sirte, while listening to those songs – songs by Abdel-Halim Hafez, the famous Egyptian singer who used to sing for late Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser in the fifties and sixties and who sang long for pan-Arab nationalism.

These songs were played many times in the conference corridors and inside the press centre with video of the Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

This apparently suggests he’s the new unifier of the Arab World that’s been sharply divided on almost every issue in today’s world.

This isn’t strange for those who travel to Libya a lot. The North African Arab country has been ruled by Gaddafi for more than four decades since he came to power on the first of September 1969 overthrowing King Idris Senoussi.

Gaddafi has always seen himself as Nasser’s natural successor as a unifying factor and the leader of the ummah.

The longest serving Arab leader has tried to forge several unity projects with a number of Arab nations such as Egypt, Syria and Sudan.
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These attempts were no doubt a failure due to the lack of political will, and perhaps because leaders of these nations refused to allow such a maverick politician to lead them even if that was on rotational basis.

But Gaddafi succeeded in forging one Arab Union, namely the Maghreb Union. But that gathering has finally stopped functioning. Now it’s just ink on paper.

Turning to the poor African Continent, Gaddafi managed to achieve his ambition – the creation of the African Union to replace the Organization of African Unity.

That took place on 9/9/99 in Sirte, the city that’s hosting the Arab summit in 2010.

This is the first time ever, Libya hosts the most prestigious Arab gathering, and unity was on Gaddafi’s mind as well as on banners and slogans of the small, quite city.

He’s called it the summit of unity and solidarity, asking all Arab leaders to put aside their differences, get together and agree on a unified stand on all issues.

Gaddafi’s opening speech at the summit lasted almost twenty minutes, one of his shortest.

Half of the speech was dedicated to explain the history of Sirte, his home town.

He made the odd joke here and there, with the Emir of Qatar and the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

But he did not make scenes like those in Doha in the 2009 summit, when he had an exchange with the Saudi King. Maybe because he’s the host.

But the summit is lasting for two days and there’s still time for such scenes – scenes that are said to have created tension among organisers and Arab league officials.

“Oh unifier of the Arabs”, still comes Abdel Halim Hafez’s voice through the speakers of the conference hall in Sirte, bringing to memories those feelings of the sixties: nostalgic for some, notorious for others.

Source:, 28 March 2010