- The hanging of the former Iraqi President, Saddam Hussein, has succeeded in making him a martyr, with people now interested to know the achievements of the executed leader. Medals showing his achievements have become the centre of attraction at an exhibition in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Collected by a retired South African colonel, William Endley, the medals comprise sashes, badges and orders.
The display include medals such as the 'Mother of All Battles', which he was awarded after the Iraq-Kuwait war. Saddam's medal for crushing the Kurdish rebellion was also put on display in South Africa.
Museum spokesperson Allan Sinclair said a large number of South Africans who want to know more about Saddam, have been attracted by his medals. "It's quite a coup," he said.
"Medals tell the story of a country. The medals are very, very colourful and the medals and medallions tell a story," William Endley, who now works for a United States de-mining company in Sudan, told the South African news agency 'Sapa'.
"The Middle East has their own way of doing things ... ours is much more formal."
He said he himself had decided to become a soldier when he was 5 years old and that he started collecting military memorabilia at the age of 14.
While working in occupied Iraq in mid-2004, Mr Endley bought a set of Saddam's awards from a former soldier who might have bought them from a Baghdad medals dealer. "It was quite an expensive little exercise," he reveals.
He decided to loan them to the South African National Museum of Military History, where they are now on display to the public.
The collections were said to be in excellent condition and they include a photograph of Saddam fully dressed in military attire with awards more than 20 years ago.
The museum's acting director, Sandi MacKenzie, said normally it takes them 100 years to get such a collection.
"Saddam was known to have had 19 palaces prior to the 1991 Gulf War and at least 25 additional palaces were built or partially completed in the decade that followed," notes a museum display.
He had earned the first 4 medals while a soldier. He was also awarded the rare Wisam al-Jadara - Order of Merit - awarded to only three or four Iraqi rulers.
The soldier-turned-politician was born in 1937. He became Vice Chairperson of the Iraqi Revolutionary Council from 1969 to 1979 and later President until an invasion by the United States in 2003. After his conviction of crimes against humanity, Saddam was executed on 30 December, amid the roaring of human rights activists against the move.
According to the museum curator, James Boale, the controversial Iraq collection has opened much discussion among most visitors who are critical of Saddam but also of his death and the US invasion.
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