Libya’s Gaddafi dies… but as whose martyr?

By | October 20, 2011 at 10:05 pm | No comments | Africa, Libya, News, Situational Awareness

Libya’s Gaddafi dies… but as whose martyr?

By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor


Thursday, October 20, 2011

At long last, one of the two eventual possibilities to rid Libya of its long-term maverick leader, Muammar al-Gaddafi, has materialized. Gaddafi is dead, killed in his hometown, Sirte, where he had been hiding ever since his opponents and collaborators in NATO dislodged him from power two months ago.

In effect, Gaddafi has made good his vow not to desert his country in the wake of the uprising against his rule and NATO’s consequent military action. He wanted to die a martyr and has done so. Sirte was Gaddafi’s cradle and, as his fate would have it, his death-bed as well. Now dead, whose “martyr” is he?

Ultimately, his fate has thrown his opponents into a wild celebration and closed the chapter on his dogged resistance to those he had labelled as “rats” and “cockroaches” whose uprising in mid-February was to usher in the massive devastation that Libya has suffered in the NATO-led military campaign. His opponents may be celebrating his end; but I can stick my neck out to say that his death won’t end the Libyan crisis.

Obviously, it will go a long way to influence the ebb and flow of Libyan politics henceforth. It will not completely eradicate the “Gaddafi menace” or automatically ensure the “national liberation” that the interim leaders are optimistic of. The post-Gaddafi era poses as many serious challenges as the pre-February uprising had. These challenges will test the leadership capabilities of those now in charge of affairs or the new administration that is envisaged to take over from Mustapha Jibril’s National Transitional Council (NTC). And Libya’s fate will hang in the balance till the dust of the uprising settles.

The current fractious nature of the military and security situation is one major problem that has the potential to plunge the country into a more devastating crisis, especially if the reported in-fighting among the commanders of the disparate militia groups in Tripoli and elsewhere are anything to go by. At the departure of NATO and its military apparatus, tension among these factions can spiral into a damaging national security problem. What to do with these disparate pockets of authority is worth tackling.

Of course, the primary task now is to ensure national stability, peace, and security; but uniting the various ethnicities and political entities (both the pro- and anti-Gaddafi elements) seems to be the most daunting task since it is the charge that will break or make Libya in this new era. Whether the situation will stabilize soon to return normalcy to Libya depends on how the new leaders stamp their authority on the country.

Now that the sole fount of authority that has loomed large over the Libyan horizon is no more, the situation is fluid and can get out of hand at the least misguided prompting. And no one should shift blame to Gaddafi.

He seemed to have sealed his own fate long before now. In choosing to stay back in his country—if even in hiding—he had pushed himself toward a dead-end. He had the freedom to choose between life and death, and chose death over life to seal his vow to die in his country as a martyr. By refusing to step down and to leave his country as demanded by his opponents, he gave the Libyan crisis many twists and turns.

Gaddafi’s death can be easily explained as the culmination of self-created problems that fed into the machinations of his opponents to bring down his 42-year-long repressive rule. Indeed, he qualifies as a victim of miscalculation and ill-considered strategies to prolong his rule in the teeth of bitter opposition. He underrated the potency of the forces arrayed against him and suffered the kind of fate that is reserved for intransigent characters like him. His refusal to know his limits heightened the internal crisis and paved the way for what the West and the Arab League did to show him where naked power lies.

Gaddafi was extremely myopic—even to the3 point of abject stupidity—not to have known that he couldn’t escape from the forces lined up against him and continue to live his life in peace. All doors to freedom had been closed against him and it was only a matter of time for him to reach his end—being captured alive or killed, which were the only two options that his opponents, especially the United States, had opened. He was wasting his energy, swimming against raging currents.

As is characteristic of power-drunk leaders, Gaddafi failed to hasten slowly. He inflated himself too much and burst. His death, however, saves him from the massive humiliation that awaited him had he been captured alive to be taken through the rigours of prosecution (whether in his own country or at the International Criminal Court at the Hague).

The manner in which he died may not really matter much. After all, his opponents had all along wanted him out of the way, dead or captured alive. The reports on events preceding his death may be conflicting; but they establish one fact: that NATO played a huge role in paving the way for his death. Its airstrike on the two military vehicles in a convoy suspected to be conveying Gaddafi had dealt the devastating blow that exposed Gaddafi to harm. I don’t believe any claim that Gaddafi was captured, hiding in an irrigation pipeline or hole in Sirte before being shot in the belly to die.

That being the case, it is beyond doubt that Gaddafi’s fall is the work of a superior military force, not the so-called civilian uprising by his own citizens. The Benghazi rebels might have initiated the uprising but NATO took over the war and fought it on their behalf and finally nailed the coffin on Gaddafi. Some may argue that NATO did nothing wrong by launching that military campaign because Gaddafi couldn’t have been incapacitated without that military venom. Others may claim that NATO’s action was to protect civilian lives. Such claims will continue to provide enough stimulation for debate on the Libyan imbroglio.

Regardless of how much hatred he aroused, however, Gaddafi wasn’t in the bad books of everybody. His admirers are spread all over the world and will grieve at his death. Many countries in Africa and elsewhere have regarded him as a hero and will uphold him as such. His death is a big blow; but it teaches a lesson that African leaders who have hung on to power all these years and managed national affairs like a private family business must learn.

Gaddafi may be regarded as a maverick or an anathema by his haters; but he means a lot to those to whom he was an inspirer, a staunch defender of the downtrodden voiceless millions in countries formerly colonized or still suffering from the scourge of neo-colonialism. His main offence—beyond what he had done to incur the wrath of his own people—was to step on the toes of the West for which he paid dearly. The relentless anti-Gaddafi rhetoric and practical action by the West and his haters in the Arab League is enough to confirm the extent to which he had turned himself into the bull’s eye—and he was caught right where it cost him dearly.

Hated or loved, Gaddafi will go down in history as one leader who stood firmly against the arm-twisting tactics of the West to use his country’s massive natural and human resources to improve the Libyan economy and to ensure good living standards for the Libyan people. He served other useful causes by providing the wherewithal and material resources for the needy in other parts of the world. But he will also be remembered for being foolhardy and atrocious. He went too far in ruling his country as if he alone was destined to do so and pass the baton on to his son as his dynasty took shape. His refusal to obey the dictates of morality and conscience led him to his demise.

Such a character provides many lessons for today’s rulers, especially those in Africa who have mistaken their people’s leniency to be their weakness. Their own days of reckoning aren’t too far off. As the curtain falls on Gaddafi, theirs won’t take long to be lowered too. If it happens, the relieved citizens will have only one thing to say in consolation: Good riddance!

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