As the Libyan rebels swarm Tripoli and push Muammar Qaddafi's regime to the brink of collapse, The Globe and Mail's Doug Saunders is keeping an eye on Libyan officials who have stuck with the regime since the uprising erupted in February only to break with the government at the last possible moment. And indeed, these figures--whom Saunders is calling "post-barn-door defectors" or "Jamal Come Latelys"--have been making headlines throughout the day, as they righteously express their support for the same rebel leaders (and presumably future Libyan leaders) whom they long refrained from supporting when the opposition's ability to overcome Qaddafi was in doubt. Let's take a look at some of the defectors:
- Libya's prime minister: Al Baghdadi Ali al-Mahmoudi fled to the southern Tunisian island of Djerba late on Sunday, according to Reuters. Al Jazeera reports that Abdallah Mansour, the head of Libya's television union, accompanied him.
- Libyan diplomats in Kuwait: Mohammad Al-Mubarak told Kuwait's KUNA news agency that as of Monday "the embassy will operate as a representative of the Libyan people under" the auspices of the rebels' National Transitional Council, which he now recognized as the sole and legitimate representative of the Libyan people. In the picture above, the green Libyan flag at the Libyan embassy in Kuwait is replaced by the pre-1969 old Libyan flag adopted by the rebel forces.
- Libyan diplomats in the Czech Republic: In Prague, Libyan diplomat Nuri Elghawi, third from left, went one step further than his counterparts in other countries, dramatically helping burn burning propaganda materials in front of the Libyan diplomatic office:
- Libyan diplomats in Malta: Hours after a crowd of protesters burned Libya's green flag and raised the Libyan independence flag at the Libyan embassy in Malta, embassy officials recognized the National Transitional Council as the sole legitimate government of Libya, according to the Times of Malta. "The Libyan embassy has consistently maintained that it represents the Libyan people rather than the regime," the statement declared, despite the fact that it hadn't officially recognized the rebel leadership until today.
- Libyan diplomats in Syria: In Damascus, which is experiencing its own uprising, the embassy threw its "total support" to the "revolution of February 17" and declared its "formal adherence" to the National Transitional Council. "What is happening now in Libya is rewriting of history through a revolution led by the sacrifice of young Libyans," the statement added, noting that "history will not forgive those who will not participate" in the revolution.
Other Libyan diplomats in Algeria, Turkey, and Morocco have similarly allowed pro-rebel Libyans to take over their embassies and destroy symbols of the Qaddafi regime. But not everyone in Libya's diplomatic orbit is peeling away from Qaddafi. In the Bosnia, a group of Libyan protesters briefly seized Libya's embassy in Sarajevo and demanded that the ambassador resign before police removed them from the building. Amira Berma, a former embassy employee who was among the protesters, told the AP that the ambassador, Salem A. A. Finnir, was a stalwart Qaddafi supporter who informed Tripoli about any disloyalty among his staff.
Libyan officials, moreover, aren't the only ones expressing solidarity for the rebels at the eleventh hour. On Monday, Egypt formally formally recognized the rebels' National Transitional Council. Egyptian diplomats told Ahram Online had previously refrained from recognizing the rebels because Egypt "did not want to give Qaddafi an excuse to punish migrant Egyptian workers."