Gaddafi’s end for Libya’s new beginning

Prepared by: Daniel Omeragić

The former leader of Libya, Muammar Gaddafi and his son Mutassim were buried at an unknown location deep in the Libyan Desert on 25th October. This definitely ended Gaddafi’s era in Libya, which started a long time ago, in 1969, when he launched a coupe d’etat.

He was the leader of a group of young officers, who came from less privileged tribes and could not get an education at civilian universities, and therefore joined the army. Until the beginning of the twentieth century, Libyans belonged to the Ottoman Empire, and afterwards became an Italian colony.

Gaddafi came to power as a colonel leading the group of officers who dethroned King Idris who was considered as too soft to France and the USA, while he was away on medical treatment in Turkey. After the military coup, the Revolutionary Command Council chaired by Gaddafi was established in Libya, and in 1970, Gaddafi took the title of Prime Minister, which he gave up two years later.  He based his rule on Arab nationalism with elements of the welfare state, which he called “Islamic socialism”. A year after taking power, he expelled all Italian citizens living in Libya, which was previously an Italian colony in the first half of the twentieth century.


UN sanctions and bombing

In 1977, he turned the Republic of Libya into a jamahiriya which means, “state of the masses” or “all-peoples republic” run by the national congress. Gaddafi became Secretary General, but later he left that position too. Under the Gaddafi rule, Libya had an active role in the Non-aligned Movement.

At that period Libya developed firm relations with former Yugoslavia. Gaddafi and the Yugoslav leader, Josip Broz Tito cooperated closely. Gaddafi needed experts and goods, and Yugoslavia needed a market. Thanks to that, strong business relations were built which survived the dissolution of Yugoslavia and, in fact, lasted until the revolution started in Libya that led to Gaddafi’s downfall.

Anti-West and anti-Imperialist positions were constant in his political speeches. In 1979, after the protests in Tripoli when the US Embassy was set on fire, the USA put Libya on the list of the states supporting terrorism; after the attack on the plane of US company PanAm above the Scottish town of Lockerbie in 1988, in which Tripoli was involved, UN Security Council imposed sanctions against Libya.

In April 1986, after the bomb attack in a Berlin discotheque in which US soldiers used to hang out, US President Ronald Reagan authorized the revenge action in which Tripoli and Benghazi were bombed. In the attack on the discotheque, 3 persons were killed, and 250 wounded, while the Gaddafi residence was destroyed in the US revenge.

Sanctions were lifted in 2003, after Libya took responsibility for the PanAm plane attack, agreed to pay compensation to the families of 270 victims, and promised not to support terrorism. Gaddafi went out of isolation and came back to international politics. In 2006, the USA renewed their diplomatic relations with Libya, and Gaddafi had frequent meetings with western leaders. In September 2008, the US State Secretary, Condoleeza Rice, visited Tripoli, which was the first visit to Libya of a US diplomatic leader for 55 years.

In Jutarnji list, historian Tvrtko Jakovina from the Department of History at the Faculty of Philosophy in Zagreb recently reminded the world of the political and military career of the former Libyan leader. Jakovina wrote that Gaddafi was unpredictable, ungovernable. He was the leader who knew how to attract attention.

“… Traveling all over the world in his own tent and giving camels as gifts, even his visit to Rome, when he pinned a photo of Omar el-Mukhtar, the leader of the revolution against Italians, on his uniform were more than provocations, putting him in the center of public attention … the Sudanese President once called him a split personality, and both of them are evil. Some African leaders, whom he bought with his millions, thought differently, at least as long as the money was coming in. Libya was created in 1951 and at the time it was just a little bit more than a geographical term. It is now in a similar situation…” writes the historian.

 What will happen with Libya remains an open question. The country without institutions, warns Jakovina, after the ruler who was everything for 42 years, after several months of civil war or revolution, should now find a way towards stability, democracy and equal distribution of national resources. It is also clear that it won’t go without western help, but it should be done better than in Iraq or Afghanistan.

When the uprising against the Gaddafi regime, where his sons occupied many positions, started in mid-February, he decided to fight with all means. He immediately tried to use force to stop the protests against his government in Benghazi and El-Baida on the East, but he couldn’t stop the revolution from spreading. He used force against his own people, which resulted in a bloody civil war. The international community stood on the side of the people and approved a military campaign for protecting civilians. On 27 June, the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Muammar Gaddafi indicting him for crimes against humanity.

Libyans were determined to settle the score with Gaddafi once for all, having accused him of all the troubles – poverty, murders, persecutions – which they faced in the last four decades of his dictatorship during which he became enormously rich (resources close to the Libyan Government published that about 200 billion dollars of Libyan property were taken out of the country); it is also proven by their relation to the dead leader. An official of the National Transitional Council (NTC), Abdel Majid Mlegta said that, after the prayers above the bodies of Muammar and Mutassim Gaddafi, their bodies were given to two people trusted by the interim Libyan authorities who buried them at a secret place deep in the Sahara Desert, having taken the oath never to reveal the location.

According to reports from Sirt, the birthplace of the former Libyan leader, in which he was hiding until the last moment, Gaddafi and his entourage tried to get out of the besieged town on 20th October. They were escaping in the convoy of vehicles hit by a French fighter plane and the US unmanned plane Predator. Gaddafi tried to hide in a drainage pipe, in which he was found and caught. The head of the National Transitional Council, Mustafa Abdel Jalil, claims that Gaddafi was killed in a crossfire of his loyalists and NTC soldiers while entering the vehicle. Jalil said that Gaddafi was first shot in the arm, and while the vehicle was setting off, shooting started again and he was shot in the head.

 However, the videos published on the Internet show something else. Al-Jazeera announced that the former insurgents were dragging Gaddafi’s dead body down the street. A new video on the Internet shows 22-year-old Sanad el-Sadek el-Ureibi who claims to have killed Gaddafi. Under the pressure of Western allies, NTC promised to investigate how Gaddafi and his son were killed, as it shows from the mobile phone videos that they were still alive after arrest. United Nations and Amnesty International called for an investigation into Gaddafi’s death.

Soon after Gaddafi’s murder, NATO announced that the UN mandate in protection of the Libyan people was successfully completed. The mission ended at midnight on 31 October, in an agreement with UN and Interim National Council of Libya.

“We completed our military task. The historical mandate of UN is completely fulfilled. One of the most successful missions in NATO history is completed,” said NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who came to Tripoli a few hours before completing the mandate in Libya to urge the new authorities to build a democratic country.

The EU leaders also think that the death of the former Libyan leader is the end of the period of despotism and repression that the Libyan people suffered from for too long.

“Today Libya can turn a new page of history and accept a democratic future,” writes the joint statement of the President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy and President of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso.

The general view of the world leaders is that the dictator’s crimes cannot remain unpunished, and that Libya now should start from the beginning and reform the country towards democracy.

The US President Barrack Obama said that the death of the former dictator marked “the end of a long and painful chapter” for Libyans and called for new authorities in Tripoli to build a “democratic” and “tolerant” country; the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, said that the death of Gaddafi marked “the start of a new era” for the Libyan people and underlined the US efforts to support them “on their road to democracy”. Clinton pointed out “the efforts of the United States of America in support of the Libyan people, as a friend and partner as they embark on this new democratic path”.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel gave a statement in which she said that Libya was now ready for a new beginning, and after the death of Gaddafi it could start implementation of peaceful democratic reforms. UK Prime Minister David Cameron is proud of the role of British troops in operations in Libya and the dethroning of Muammar Gaddafi.

On the other hand, Russia believes that Muammar Gaddafi should have been treated as a war prisoner, in accordance with Geneva Convention, instead of being killed, said the Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sergey Lavrov, and asked for an investigation into his death. Still, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev expressed hope that finalizing the search for Gaddafi would bring peace and democratic changes in Libya.

The African Union (AU) announced that they terminated suspension of Libyan membership and decided that the “present Libyan government can take its place in the AU and its bodies”.

Before Gaddafi, the “Arab Spring” wiped out Zine Ben Ali from power in Tunisia after 32 years. After 30 days of revolution, he fled with his wife and children to Saudi Arabia. He was convicted twice of corruption in absentia, embezzlement, misuse of state funds, to over 50 years in prison and payment of 50 million Euro of fines. But, Riad refuses to extradite him.

After 18 days of protests, Hosni Mubarak had to leave too; he led Egypt for three decades. He resigned and gave power to the Military Council. Mubarak withdrew to Sharm el-Sheik resort. In August he was arrested and taken to court for corruption and death of protesters.


BiH waiting for solution

Bosnia and Herzegovina was reluctant to recognise the Interim National Council of Libya, as a result of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s long friendship with Gaddafi and jobs worth millions from Bosnian companies active in the country. Only by late August, did the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina make a decision on recognition of NTC as the only legitimate representative of the Libyan people. At an emergency session of the state leadership, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of BiH was entrusted with contacting the NTC representatives for the purpose of continuation of bilateral relations of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Libya, and protection of economic interests of our country and citizens. It was preceded by the intrusion of a group of Libyan citizens in the Embassy of this country in Sarajevo, who burnt down the flag of Libyan jamahiriya and Gaddafi’s photo, and displayed the symbols of the Interim National Council, and requested Ambassador Salem Finir to leave the post because he didn’t reject Gaddafi on time.

After Gaddafi’s end, there was no official reaction in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Only the Head of the Islamic Community in BiH, Mustafa Cerić, issued a statement. Cerić avoided talking about the way Gaddafi’s reign ended, as he was a generous financier who gave three million KM for the construction of the administration building of the Islamic Community in BiH, in the Sarajevo settlement of Kovači, which was supposed to be named after him, and which he visited only two weeks before the Libyan revolution. It was Gaddafi’s last donation.