BY the end of last week, a senior Nato official said if Muammar Gadaffi was killed in one of their air attacks, this would be consistent with the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973.
Gadaffi is clearly in a tight corner. But there is no likelihood that he will give up soon. He was defiant in a message to his people. He would not give up and they would not find him, anyway.
Ben Ali and Hosni Mubarak, the victims of what has been called the people’s uprising against their corruption-riddled and murderous regimes, are still alive, though both are ailing.
Muammar Gadaffi appears to have sworn that they would not take him alive — whoever gets to him first, his own people or Nato.
He, like most people, must have been affected one way or the other, by the killing by the Americans of Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan.
The Americans indicated their seriousness in “taking out” a person they considered an enemy of their country.
It might be morally reprehensible for many people that they didn’t give him a chance to surrender and that he was unarmed when they shot him.
But President Barack Obama’s government has made no apologies. The man was responsible for the death of more than 3 000 unarmed Americans in 2001. He “deserved” what he got — they insisted.
Pakistan has complained loudly and bitterly about the contempt with which the US breached its sovereignty in killing the Al Qaeda leader without their approval. Their complaint is unlikely to get them very far.
Meanwhile, the Taliban have taken revenge against Pakistan for what they saw as its collusion in the killing of Bin Laden. They have threatened more killings.
Africa, though, is anxious about the future of Muammar Gadaffi. He seems determined to fight to the end — the likelihood of victory against the Nato military machine seems remote.
In fact, the organisation seems anxious for a quick end to the fighting. Its concern is the cost of a prolonged fight. They are likely to take any measures to end the conflict, including killing Gadaffi.
For many Africans, the nagging question must be: does Nato have the moral right to remove Gadaffi on the basis of a United Nations resolution?
If that is the case, what of the future of other African leaders who feel the same way as Gadaffi — that if their people provoke them enough for them to react with mass murder, nobody should interfere with that right?
For this is what it boils down to: If an African leader is angry enough with his people to launch a campaign of murder against then — whether they are armed or not — nobody on earth has the right to interfere.
Perhaps that is a simplistic interpretation of the UN Security Council Resolution 1973.
But so far nobody has asked the UN to call a Security Council meeting at which the Resolution can be looked at more closely. Nobody, so far, has called for it to be rescinded.
Yet there can be no doubt that countries such as Germany are not at all happy that Nato should be given the right, under the UN, to actually kill the leader of an African country, even if that leader has not been deliberately targeted for liquidation.
What African leaders might spend their time debating are the reasons why Ben Ali and Hosni Mubarak did not resist too robustly when their people called for them to leave office.
One of their primary reasons, surely, was that they wished to avoid further bloodshed. They must also have decided that the final outcome of such a long bloody civil war would not culminate with their vindication or even their victory.
The rest of the world would not stand idly by as they butchered their own people.
For African leaders who believe it is their right to kill their own people — if such people disagree with their rule — the message must be crystal clear: the rest of the world might decide to take you on, on behalf of your people — whether or not you have oil or cocoa coming out of your ears.