Serbian University Defends Gaddafi Honorary Degree

March 3, 2011
A private Serbian university has defended its decision to award an honorary doctorate to embattled Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi four years ago.

Megatrend, a private university in Belgrade, awarded Gaddafi the doctorate because of Libya’s “Great Manmade River,” the largest irrigation project in the world, RFE/RL reports.

The massive irrigation project was launched in 1984 and projected to cost about $25 billion. It pumps water from 1,300 wells — most of them more than 500 meters deep in the Sahara Desert — and supplies Tripoli, Benghazi, and other cities and towns in Libya through a network of pipes and aqueducts, RFE/RL writes.

The university’s director, Mica Jovanovic, says that the honorary degree will not be revoked because it was granted for scientific reasons, not political.

“There is not a single reason for the university to withdraw its decision about the honorary doctorate for Gaddafi,” Jovanovic said.

Gaddafi has close ties with Serbia, as with other countries in the region, which stretch back to the former Yugoslav period, and ever since the violent unrest broke out in Libya the Serbian media has been reporting on links between Serbian and Libyan politicians and publishing pictures of current and former leaders meeting with Gaddafi.

The Libyan leader was a friend of the late Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic, and Mica Jovanovic was a friend and financer of the party founded by Milosevic, the Socialists.

Serbia’s deputy minister for higher education, Srbijanka Turajlic, said that politics were indeed a factor in the decision to award the doctorate.

“Keeping in mind how these doctorates are often awarded, this is not something this university should be proud of,” Turajlic was quoted by RFE/RL as saying. “But considering the quality of the university, it is not surprising that it awarded a doctorate to a dictator.”