Sunday 20 October 2019

Muammar Mohammed Abu Minyar Gaddafi (1942–2011)

Muammar Mohammed Abu Minyar Gaddafi

Muammar Gaddafi was a young Libyan army officer who overthrew King Idris in September 1969.  Infused with revolutionary ideas designed to modernise his nation and work towards a greater union of Arab peoples, he transformed his country into a new breed socialist state called a Jamahiriya in 1977.

Over the years, he achieved a great deal, using Libya’s oil revenues to facilitate the establishment of free health care, housing projects, as well as the construction of the “Great Man-Made River”.

His rule was authoritarian in nature. He had no compunction about jailing his political opponents and even organised assassination squads to take out dissidents living in exile in parts of Europe.

Under him Libya was a secular state hostile to the spread of the sort of Islamism that had begun to lay deep roots in the Arab world after the failure of Gamal Abdel Nasser’s Pan-Arab dream. After his coming to power, Gaddafi earned a reputation as an adventurer and even a troublemaker. Early into his reign, he had several border disputes with his neighbours in Egypt and Chad, and fell out with many Arab leaders one of whom, Sudan’s Gaafar an-Nimeiry, once described him as “a split personality -both evil.”

Under him, Libya became a pariah state among Western countries, because of his support for radical liberation movements and the incidents such as the shooting of the British policewoman Yvonne Fletcher and the blame attached to him after the Lockerbie bombing.

His frustration at being rebuked by many Arab states, many of who were beholden to his sworn enemies, the Wahhabist rulers of Saudi Arabia lay perhaps with his decision to cultivate more substantive links with countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

He mended fences with the West and was in the midst of a rapprochement when the Western powers in the form of NATO facilitated an Islamist-led insurrection in the city of Benghazi which led to an air campaign designed not only to degrade the ability of his army to contain the rebellion, but to destroy the country which because of its relatively high standard of living, had often been referred to as the “Switzerland of Africa.”

Gaddafi, it appears was earmarked for destruction because he was the driving force behind a plan to develop an African currency which would be independent of the imperial dollar.

The results of his deposing were far reaching. Libya was transformed into a failed state with warring tribal groups vying for power. Slave markets sprang up and its seaports became the staging post for an onslaught of refugees from Africa, the Middle East and further afield, seeking to reach the shores of Europe. What is more, the fall of the Libyan army whose armouries were raided led to a transfer of weapons to the NATO and Gulf-backed Islamist rebels seeking to destroy the Ba’athist government of Syria. And alongside the developing Syrian tragedy, the availability of weapons Gaddafi’s military led to an escalation of jihadist insurgencies in the Maghreb and Lake Chad regions respectively by Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and Boko Haram.

The tragedy of Libya, with its descent into lawlessness after Gaddafi’s brutal demise at the hands of Western-backed rebels, is somewhat emblematic of the fate suffered by countries such as Iraq and Syria, like Libya secular states, whose rulers were determined by Western governments to be far too independent, as well as being implacable foes of the State of Israel.

He was a dictator for sure, but the consequences of his removal from power only served to worsen the spectrum of conflicts and security spanning a number of regions.

It was in the final analysis a serious and costly mistake.

© Adeyinka Makinde (2019).

Adeyinka Makinde is a writer based in London, England. 

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