In the life of Gaddafi
Many of us were shocked to hear about Muammar Gaddafi’s death two months ago. None of us expected the events in Libya to take such a drastic turn. Irrefutably, change was inevitable, and sooner or later the revolution was bound to come to a head, but the violent murder of a president regardless of his autocracy, leaves a sour tone. A lot of people have clearly shown delight in the fact that the former Libyan leader is now dead, while others are distraught. Let’s examine both ends of the spectrum.
The revolution showed its initial signs early in February 2011. Following the protests in neighboring nations of Egypt and Tunisia, the people of Libya decided they had had enough of Gaddafi’s despotism. Despite having been in power since 1969, Gaddafi was unwilling to relinquish his hold on power and adamantly refused to step down. The people decided to take matters into their own hands and an opposition rebel group was formed. Their mandate seemed pretty simple; take down Gaddafi or force him to leave power and allow for a more liberal Libya. Peaceful measures failed to get Gaddafi to see reason, and hence the commencement of what turned out to be one of the most unpredictable revolutions in Africa. The revolution attracted international attention from Europe and North America, and military forces came together to aid rebel groups in Libya and put an end to Gaddafi’s reign.
Gaddafi was a ruthless despotic leader who had been in power for over 30 years. Most of his supporters stood by him through the revolution and fought for him with their every breath. The fall of their hero is undeniably devastating, and in light of his accomplishments, its understandable why they would cling on to the very end. His contributions to the nation of Libya cannot be ignored:
1. Gaddafi turned Libya from an exploited and underdeveloped nation, into a robust oil exporting nation. The economy of Libya is stronger than most of the other African states, primarily due to their oil export industry. Gaddafi raised prices of oil and extraction in Libya, thus increasing Libya’s revenues. Libya exports just about as much oil as the Middle East.
2. As a result of the oil industry and export, Libya has no debts. This is a great accomplishment since several developing and developed countries have accumulated a lot of debt, and some economies are on the brink of bankruptcy.
3. Gaddafi decreased the threat of neocolonialism in Libya by requesting western oil companies in Libya to increase Libya’s share in revenues, or risk expulsion from the nation.
4. Literacy rates rose from 10 to 90%, government support provided for university scholarships and employment opportunities.
5. He also developed infrastructure like buildings, roads, schools, hospitals which all contributed to the growth of the economy. Note should be made though that most of these developments were favoured in Gaddafi’s own hometowns; Subha and Surt.
It’s been said that it’s not how you start that matters, but rather how you finish. This statement rings true in Gaddafi’s life. Despite all his contributions to Libya, the last couple years reflect a great leader gone rogue. What should have been a great finish for him, turned out to be a tragic one. Not only were people aggravated by his long stay in power, but also by his ruthlessness. How can one reconcile the last couple months of his life with everything else that he did for Libya? Some of his tremendous contributions pale in comparison to the various human rights violations in Libya, notably:
1. Gaddafi abolished the Libyan constitution of 1951, and replaced it with laws based on political ideology. It is almost impossible for a country to survive without a constitution. A constitution is a binding legal document that shows a government’s commitment to uphold justice and also outlines every citizen’s guarantee to personal rights and freedoms. Absence of a constitution naturally leads to injustice and violation of human rights and freedoms. As a result of such a catastrophic move, all Libyans have been denied basic rights, like the right to equality, and security, freedom of speech, association .
2. Gaddafi abolished Christian calendar holidays, and replaced them with a Muslim calendar, making it the nation’s official calendar. This is a violation of the right to free worship, and undermines the right of equality.
3. Gaddafi viewed all forms of political parties as dictatorships. He instead advocated for direct rule by people’s committees according to Islamic law. This is ironic considering that it’s the direct rule of the people that led to his demise. The right to form political parties is another right that citizens are entitled to, and absence of a constitution to protect this right consequently leads to human rights violation.
4. Gaddafi used a large part of the nation’s revenues and profits to boost the wellbeing of his family and close elites. He only structurally developed his hometowns, while certain cities and towns were extremely underdeveloped.
5. The rates of corruption in Libya are disturbingly high, primarily because Gaddafi turned a blind eye to his close allies and government officials who inappropriately administrated the nation’s funds, and exploited the working class and poor.
6. We also cannot ignore the various human rights violations by the militia and government – arbitrary arrests, execution and mutilations of political opponents; recruitment and employment of hit squads to murder critics abroad, were all actions that Gaddafi let slide.
7. Gaddafi was also determined to eliminate all dark skinned people from migrating into Europe. He referred them as “barbaric, ignorant and starving Africans” who would deter the development of Europe. His statements were not only racially discriminatory, but a backward move that undermines the progression of equality of all human beings.
8. Gaddafi admitted to having sponsored the bombing of the Pan AM flight 103 plane which exploded in Scotland, killing 270 people.
9. Gaddafi sponsored and armed other African dictators in central, northern and eastern Africa.
10. When the revolution initially started, Gaddafi referred to the rebels and his opposition as “rats” and “cockroaches”, whom he would fight until the last drop of blood had been shed. He wasn’t in the least concerned about the demands of the people or the need for basic rights and freedoms.
History shows that the fate of most despotic leaders whom revolutionaries seek to remove never have a happy ending and it certainly wouldn’t have been different in this case. The intensity of the revolution in Libya however dictated a profound difference and proved that we were about to witness something new. It is tragic to witness a promising political leader adopt a despotic mindset, and deliberately violate the rights of the very people that he should be defending and protecting. The last couple of years of Gaddafi’s reign were characterized by unarrest, violence, unlawful arrests and killing of innocent civilians, actions that cannot easily be swept under the rug. So what went wrong? Is it possible at all that the tragic events of Libya could have been prevented?
Now that the revolution is over, and Gaddafi’s government has been overthrown, it is imperative that the people of Libya unite and form one democratic government with a constitution to protect the rights of all citizens. To date, the ex-rebels who aided in the overthrow of Gaddafi still haven’t been disarmed, and all efforts to do so have been futile. It is naïve to expect a seamless transition from a bloody revolution to a peaceful democratic, human rights respecting nation. However, in order for this nation to move forward,and become a constitutional state, the rebels have to surrender their arms and concede to forming a military coalition with the aim of defending and protecting Libyan citizens. Anything short of this would render all their efforts leading to this point in time, useless.