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Columbia Daily: Tribune
Sunday, 16 December, 2007

Gaddafi’s Rising Star Is Bitter For Man’s Family

Rashid Kikhia of Columbia on Thursday displays a photo of his uncle, Mansur Kikhia, who
disappeared 14 years ago while attending a conference in Cairo, Egypt.   Nick King photo

Columbia Daily: Tribune
Sunday, 16 December, 2007

of the Tribune’s staff

Rashid Kikhia has been thinking a lot about his uncle.
He thought about him Monday, the 14th anniversary of the date the Columbia-based real-estate investor and Libyan political dissident disappeared. He thought about him again when he saw the image of the man he holds responsible for his beloved uncle’s kidnapping, Col. Moammar Gadaffi, splashed across the front pages of major newspapers as the Libyan dictator enjoyed a prestigious European state visit.
And Kikhia has wondered when the world would get around to asking about Mansur Kikhia, the unassuming intellectual who, after years of denouncing Gadaffi, left his home on Katy Lane for a human rights conference in Egypt and never returned.
“Gaddaffi is one of the worst violators of human rights in the world, and there he is being welcomed back,” said Kikhia, owner of New York’s Famous Pizza and Nikai Mediterranean Grill in Columbia.
“This is what makes me mad. … How could people not stand up and say no to his policies?” Gaddafi, 65, has ruled Libya with an iron fist for 38 years. He has crushed free speech, killed dissidents and funded terrorists at home and abroad, observers say. He visited Paris and Portugal last week, marking his highest-profile state visits in decades. In France, he was greeted by President Nicolas Sarkozy, who told a local paper, “Gaddaffi is not perceived as a dictator in the Arab world.”
The Libyan leader also is riding high since assurances that the United States soon will resume diplomatic relations and reopen an embassy in Libya, which it credits as an ally in the war on terror.
“I think that shows you something about how” politicians “hug people. It’s not for the right reasons,” said Abdullahi Ibrahim, a professor of African and Islamic history at the University of Missouri. Ibrahim has closely watched Gaddaffi’s political career.
Libya boasts Africa’s largest confirmed oil reserves, making it an attractive trading partner for western nations, Ibrahim said.
For relatives of Mansur Kikhia, Gaddaffi’s renaissance is a bitter pill to swallow.
“He should be charged with crimes against humanity, not welcomed in the Elysee” Palace in Paris, said Mansur’s cousin, Mansour El-Kikhia, a political science professor at the University of Texas and a columnist for the San Antonio Express-News.
“When I see all this, I’m wondering: What happened to the fiber of Western morality? It’s lunacy to think a zebra can somehow change its stripes.”

In 1993, 62-year-old Mansur Kikhia traveled to Cairo for a conference on human rights in the Arab world. Kikhia had previously served as Libya’s foreign minister and ambassador to the United Nations, but in 1980 he resigned his post in protest and became an outspoken critic of Gaddafi.
On Dec. 10, 1993, he left his hotel in Cairo and was never heard from again. In 1997, the CIA told officials in President Bill Clinton’s administration there was credible evidence that Kikhia was kidnapped under an order by Gadaffi, taken to Libya, killed and buried in the desert.
Gaddafi, however, has publicly disavowed any knowledge of Mansur Kikhia and told Kikhia’s wife, Baha, in 1994 that he blamed the CIA for Mansur’s disappearance.
The tragic affair has left the family with a huge void and many unanswered questions.
“We just want to know what happened,” said Rashid Kikhia. “If he is alive, we would like to see him again and for him to be free. If he’s not, we just want to have a proper ceremony for him.”
Mansur Kikhia was diabetic, and family members concede it is unlikely he could have survived long without insulin. His cousin in Texas says the matter of his cousin’s survival is a “closed matter” in his mind.

But many are still fighting to ensure the memory of Mansur and others like him are not forgotten. Munsif El-Buri of Columbia is a Libyan-born political dissident who last week traveled to Lisbon, Portugal, and Paris to protest Gaddafi’s visits. He and other protesters held up photos of Mansur Kikhia and other people who disappeared during Gaddafi’s rule. They waved the fivedecade- old flag of Libyan independence and read from copies of the nation’s forgotten constitution.
“We want to remind him that we believe in democratic principles, we believe in the multiparty system, we believe in human rights and that all people were created equal,” El-Buri said. “Sometimes it seems like money and oil have become more important than human rights.”
In Portugal, El-Buri said his small group of protestors was attacked by Libyan sympathizers. El-Buri, 60, said he was thrown to the ground, injuring his back.
He says he is aware he could someday disappear like his friend did. But he remembers vividly the crimes of Gaddafi. He recalls his time as a university professor in Libya, in the late 1970s, when he was forced under threat of imprisonment to teach students from “the little green book,” a political manifesto written by Gaddafi.
El-Buri also remembers working in the Libyan Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1973 and watching as it was taken over by thugs whose allegiance was to Gaddafi. He remembers his own brother, who spent 14 years in a Libyan prison. “For some things, you have to take a stand,” he said.
Mansur Kikhia’s family members agree. They say the plight of Libyans is much larger than one man or one unsolved mystery.
“It’s hard. Mansur never talked about himself. It was all about Libya. So for us as a family to take it personally is not right. For Mansur, everything was about home. It was about human rights, and it was about the right for people to live without fear,” Rashid Kikhia said of his uncle. “That’s why, when I think about him, he was really — he was more than just my uncle. He was my teacher.”

Reach T.J. Greaney at (573) 815-1719

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