Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The rise & fall of Col Muammar Gaddafi

A friend from Libya wrote on her twitter account today 'Once again people, there will NOT be a civil war! The Libyan people have one enemy and that's Gaddafi. Libya has never been this UNITED!'

This is the voice of the country who for decades did not feel a part of the outside world. She was one man's legacy, one man's mistress. But today she refuses to bow down to her 'master', refuses to obey his command and refuses to let him reign over her!

Libya has awakened from its long slumber and warns the world: 'Beware the wrath of the patient!'

Libya: A torchbearer

An independent Libya in 1951 was the torchbearer of its times. It was the first country in Africa to get independence from a European ruler. It was also the first country to achieve independence through the UN.

In 1951 it was proclaimed a constitutional and hereditary monarchy under King Idris, Libya's first and only monarch. It also saw the enactment of the Libyan constitution.

Yet, over the years the laurels turned into brickbats. In 1959 vast oil reserves were discovered and this money transformed Libya into one of the richest countries in the world; but also led to growing resentment among the masses as its benefits were reaped by only the wealthy few men of King Idris.

Same reason for Gaddafi's rise and fall
Gaddafi in 1969

This discontent led to Col Maummar Gaddafi gaining power in 1969. He was only 27 years old when he launched the Libyan revolution and staged a coup against King Idris on September 1, 1969. Before the end of the day, the monarchy was abolished and Gaddafi earned himself the title of 'Brother Leader and Guide of the Revolution'. And since then Libya was ruled by the iron fist dictator Col. Muammar al-Gaddafi.

So its little surprising that the same discontent the masses felt way back in 1969 that led to Gaddafi's rise will once again be the reason for his fall in 2011. Gaddafi of all the people should understand this. But perhaps the 42 year rule has gone into his lead. He was the undisputed leader of Libya but he was not the leader of the people who for decades secretly wished he was gone and Libya was truly liberated.

Today, Libyans are fed up of the growing income disparity between the masses and the elite class comprising of Gaddafi's clan and men. There is a high rate of unemployment, poverty and marginalisation.

Protesters want a society based on equality and justice and Gaddafi represents everything they believe is wrong with Libya and he is definitely the biggest hindrance in Libya moving towards democracy.

Protesters show red to Gaddafi's Green Book

For over four decades, Libya political system followed Gaddafi's philosophy based on his Green Book, a combination of socialist and Islamic theories which gives Gaddafi supreme power to reign over Libya by controlling major government decisions. There is no parliamentary democracy and no political parties in Libya.

In 1977, Gaddafi established the General People's Congress (GPC) and claimed it represented the 'people's power'. He also changed the country's name to People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya yet people got no say in any matters. GPC did not have any 'ordinary people'.

Gaddafi holds no official position in the government today. All major positions of the GPC lie with a small group of trusted advisers of Gaddafi and include relatives from his home base in the Sirte region, which lies between the traditional commercial and political power centres in Benghazi and Tripoli. With the fall of Benghazi and the violent clashes in Tripoli, many of Gaddafi's men have deflected and joined the protesters.

But there is no doubt that Gaddfi's grip on Tripoli is weakening even with the bloodbath he has sanctioned on the streets with his men opening fire at protesters. Even military aircrafts are being used to drop small bombs and open fire at protesters. The death toll is fast rising although to confirm any figure is near impossible with the ban on foreign journalists in Libya and disruptions in Internet and telephone communications.

What will happen to the oil?

Libya has the largest oil reserves in Africa and the ninth largest in the world, so the political unrest is understandably a source of concern regarding production volumes and prices. The government (read Gaddafi) has complete control of the country's oil resources, which account for approximately 95% of export earnings and 25% of the gross domestic product.

Although oil revenues and a small population give Libya one of the highest per capita GDPs in Africa but the ordinary man on the street can see it have no effect on his life.

The government has squandered the money and mismanaged it to such an extent that Libya faces a high inflation and lies on high priced imports.

So the threat of rising oil prices or firms pulling out of Libya will not silence any protests although they will pull the stock markets down. The protests which have now turned into a civil war have seen international oil companies and sub-contractors shut down oil production and evacuate staff. This could affect Libya crude oil supply for days to come if protests continue. 

An excellent reason for the world to lobby to put a stop to the brutal attacks by the state on protesters and support and 'peaceful transition' to democracy. 

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