The occasion for this invitation was the visit of a delegation of leaders from the African Union, the 53-member pan-African organization that tries to speak with one voice for Africa. Five countries were represented in what was billed as an effort to establish a "Road Map for Peace." The organization has little credibility on the world stage. Gadhafi helped create it, Libya's oil money had financed it and its leadership is stacked with Gadhafi allies. The AU, as it's called, has a checkered history of supporting dictators rather than democrats.
In a manner that we have come to accept is typical of the way things are handled here, there was no effort to organize the media availability. No podium, no microphone, no amplification. Just a hundred frustrated journalists left jockeying for a clear camera angle and chance to hear. The minders looked on disdainfully, as if the chaos was yet more proof of the vulgarity of the media. It never occurred to them that their total lack of planning had pre-ordained the mayhem.
Jacob Zuma, the President of South Africa, appeared. He talked affectionately of his meeting with "the Brother Leader," the curious honorific the Gadhafi's followers use to address him. Zuma said Gadhafi had agreed to the AU "roadmap" that includes a ceasefire and talks with the rebels. He called on NATO to stop its bombing. But there was no mention of Gadhafi giving up his leadership. And then Zuma disappeared.
What about Gadhafi? We asked. "We are done here," we were told. And throng of media was quickly ushered out the way it came: down the street, through massive steel doors, across the manicured lawn, back into the screaming mosh pit of Gadhafi followers ("Down, Down, Sarkozy!") and into the dusty parking lot where our cramped pickup truck was waiting.
Our visit to Ba-al-Azizi was over.