The blitzkrieg launched by the Libyan rebels in collaboration with the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) forces six months ago, has finally brought to a tragic end the 42-year old autocratic reign of Colonel Muammar Muhammad Abu Minyar al-Gaddafi.
In this concluding part of this report The Tide continues with a look at the Gaddafi era, the event leading to his downfall as well as the future of Libya under the National Transitional Council (NTC). Read on.
Stories compiled by Desmond Osueke
2011 Libyan civil war and United Nations Security Council Resolution 1970
On 17 February 2011, major political protests began in Libya against Gaddafi’s government. During the following week these protests gained significant momentum and size, despite stiff resistance from the Gaddafi government. By late February the country appeared to be rapidly descending into chaos, and the government lost control of most of Eastern Libya. Gaddafi fought back, accusing the rebels of being “drugged” and linked to al-Qaeda terror groups in Saudi Arabia. His military forces killed rebelling civilians, and relied heavily on the Khamis Brigade, led by one of his sons Khamis Gaddafi, and on tribal leaders loyal to him. He imported foreign mercenaries to defend his government, reportedly paying Ghanaian mercenaries as much as US$2,500 per day for their services, with advertisements for mercenaries appearing in Nigerian newspapers. Reports from Libya also confirmed involvement with Belarus, and the presence of Ukrainian and Serbian mercenaries.
Gaddafi’s violent response to the protesters prompted defections from his government. Gaddafi’s “number two” man, Abdul Fatah Younis, Mustafa Abdel-Jalil and several key ambassadors and diplomats resigned from their posts in protest. Other government officials refused to follow orders from Gaddafi, and were jailed for insubordination.
At the beginning of March 2011, Gaddafi returned from a hideout, relying on considerable amounts of Libyan and US cash that had apparently been stored in the capital. Gaddafi’s forces had retaken momentum and were in shooting range of Benghazi by March 2011 when the UN declared a no fly zone to protect the civilian population of Libya.A NATO airstrike on 30 April killed Gaddafi’s youngest son and three of his grandsons at his son’s home in Tripoli, the Libyan government said. Government officials said that Muammar Gaddafi and his wife were visiting the home when it was struck, but both were unharmed. Gaddafi son’s death came one day after the Libyan leader appeared on state television calling for talks with NATO to end the airstrikes which have been hitting Tripoli and other Gaddafi strongholds since last month. Gaddafi suggested there was room for negotiation, but he vowed to stay in Libya. Western officials have been divided in recent weeks over whether Gaddafi is a legitimate military target under the United Nations Security Council resolution that authorized the air campaign. US Defense Secretary Robert Gates said that NATO was “not targeting Gaddafi specifically” but that his command-and-control facilities were legitimate targets-including a facility inside his sprawling Tripoli compound that was hit with airstrikes 25 April.
Crimes against humanity and arrest warrant
The UN referred the massacres of unarmed civilians to the International Criminal Court. Among the crimes being investigated by the prosecution is whether Gaddafi purchased and authorized the use of Viagra-like drugs among soldiers for the purpose of raping women and instilling fear. His government’s heavy-handed approach to quelling the protests was characterized by the International Federation for Human Rights as a strategy of scorched earth. The acts of “indiscriminate killings of civilians” was charged as crimes against humanity, as defined in Article 7 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.
On 27 June 2011 the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Gaddafi, accusing him of crimes against humanity and of ordering attacks on civilians in Libya. Arrest warrants were also issued for his son Saif al-Islam Gaddafi and the intelligence chief Abdullah Senussi.The presiding judge, Sanji Mmasenono Monageng, stated that there were “reasonable grounds to believe” that Gaddafi and Saif al-Islam were “criminally responsible as indirect co-perpetrators” for the murder of civilians. She added that they “conceived and orchestrated a plan to deter and quell by all means the civilian demonstrations” and that Senussi used his position to have attacks carried out. Libyan officials rejected the ICC’s authority, saying that the ICC has “no legitimacy whatsoever” and that “all of its activities are directed at African leaders”.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) issued arrest warrants for Gaddafi, his son Saif al-Islam, and Abdullah al-Senussi, head of state security for charges concerning crimes against humanity on 27 June 2011. According to Matt Steinglass of The Financial Times the charges call for Gaddafi, and his two co-conspirators, to “stand trial for the murder and persecution of demonstrators by Libyan security forces since the uprising based in the country’s east that began in February.” This makes him the second still-serving state-leader to have warrants issued against them, the first being Omar al-Bashir of Sudan.
A Libyan government representative, justice minister Mohammed al-Qamoodi, responded by saying that “The leader of the revolution and his son do not hold any official position in the Libyan government and therefore they have no connection to the claims of the ICC against them …”
Russia and other countries, including China and Germany, abstained from voting in the UN and have not joined the NATO coalition, which has taken action in Libya by bombing the government’s forces. Mikhail Margelov, the Kremlin special representative for Africa, speaking in an interview for Russian newspaper Izvestia, said that the “Kremlin accepted that Col Gaddafi [sic] had no political future and that his family would have to relinquish its vice-like grip on the Libyan economy.” He also said that “It is quite possible to solve the situation without the colonel”.
Loss of international recognition
In connection with the Libyan uprising, Gadaffi’s attempts to influence public opinion in Europe and the United States came under increased scrutiny.
Since the beginning of the 2011 conflict a number of powerful countries pushed for the international isolation of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya. On 15 July 2011, at a meeting in Istanbul, more than 30 governments recognised the Transitional National Council (TNC) as the legitimate government of Libya.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, “The United States views the Gaddafi regime as no longer having any legitimate authority in Libya … And so I am announcing today that, until an interim authority is in place, the United States will recognize the TNC as the legitimate governing authority for Libya, and we will deal with it on that basis.”Gaddafi responded to the announcement with a speech on Libyan national television, in which he said “Trample on those recognitions, trample on them under your feet … They are worthless”.
On 25 August 2011, with most of Tripoli having fallen out of Gaddafi’s control, the Arab League proclaimed the anti-Gaddafi National Transitional Council to be “the legitimate representative of the Libyan state”, on which basis Libya would resume its membership of the League.
Marriages and children
His sons, Moatasim al-Gaddafi (pictured) and Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, were prominent on the government’s politics’ scene. A succession battle was speculated between the two brothers.
Gaddafi’s second wife is Safia Farkash, née el-Brasai, a former nurse from Al Bayda with Hungarian origins. He met her in 1969, following the revolt, when he was hospitalized with appendicitis. Gaddafi had eight biological children, seven of them sons.
Gaddafi’s brother-in-law Abdullah Senussi, is believed to head military intelligence.
The family’s main residence was in the Bab al-Azizia military barracks, located in the southern suburbs of Tripoli.
Flight to Algeria
As the Battle for Tripoli reached a climax in mid-August 2011, the family were forced to abandon their fortified compound. With the National Transitional Council in almost complete control of the country, on 27 August it was reported by the Egyptian news agency Mena that Libyan rebel fighters had seen six armoured Mercedes-Benz sedans, possibly carrying top Gaddafi regime figures, cross the border at the south-western Libyan town of Ghadamis towards Algeria, which at the time was denied by the Algerian authorities. On 29 August, the Algerian government officially announced that Safia together with daughter Ayesha and sons Muhammad and Hannibal, had crossed into Algeria early on Monday 29 August. An Algerian Foreign Ministry official said all the people in the convoy were now in Algiers, and that none of them had been named in warrants issued by the International Criminal Court for possible war crimes charges. Mourad Benmehidi, the Algerian permanent representative to the United Nations, later confirmed the details of the statement. The family had arrived at a Sahara desert entry point, in a Mercedes and a bus at 8:45 a.m. local time. The exact number of people in the party was unconfirmed, but there were “many children” and they did not include Colonel Gaddafi. Resultantly the group was allowed in on humanitarian grounds, and the Algerian government had since informed the head of the Libyan National Transitional Council, who had made no official request for their return.
Italian companies had a strong foothold in Libya. Italy buys a quarter of Libya’s oil and 15% of its natural gas. The LIA owned significant shares in Italy’s Eni oil corporation, Fiat, UniCredit bank, and Finmeccanica. In January 2002 Gaddafi purchased a 7.5% share of Italian football club Juventus for US$21 million, through the Libyan Arab Foreign Investment Company. This followed a long-standing association with Italian industrialist Gianni Agnelli and car manufacturer Fiat.
.By his own estimation, Gaddafi considers himself an intellectual and philosopher. He is known for a flamboyant dress sense, with a strong taste for safari suits and sunglasses. He changes his clothing several times each day, and according to his former nurses, “enjoys surrounding himself with beautiful things and people.” He hired several nurses to care for his health, all of whom were beautiful young Ukrainian women. Since the 1980s he has traveled with his Amazonian Guard, which is all-female, and reportedly is sworn to a life of celibacy (although Dr Seham Sergheva reported in 2011 that some of them were subjected to rape and sexual abuse by Gadaffi, his sons and senior officials. In 2009, it was revealed that he does not travel without his trusted Ukrainian nurse Halyna Kolotnytska, noted as a “voluptuous blonde”. Halyna’s daughter denied the suggestion that the relationship is anything but professional. Gaddafi frequently made sexual advances on female journalists, and successfully bedded a few in exchange for interviews. Gaddafi’s former aides have said he is “obsessive” about his image. He gave gold watches with images of his face to his staff as gifts. In 2011, a Brazilian doctor told the Associated Press that he performed plastic surgery on Gaddafi in 1995 to avoid appearing old to the Libyan people.
A Revolutionary Command Council was formed to rule the country, with Gaddafi as chairman. He added the title of prime minister in 1970, but gave up this title in 1972. Unlike some other military revolutionaries, Gaddafi did not promote himself to the rank of general upon seizing power, but rather accepted a ceremonial promotion from lieutenant to colonel and remained at this rank. While at odds with Western military ranking, where a colonel would not rule a country or serve as commander-in-chief of its military, in Gaddafi’s own words Libya’s society is “ruled by the people”, so he did not need a more grandiose title or supreme military rank.
Gaddafi made very particular requests when traveling to foreign nations. During his trips to Rome, Paris, Moscow, and New York, he resided in a tent, following his Bedouin traditions. While in Italy, he paid a modeling agency to find 200 young Italian women for a lecture he gave urging them to convert to Islam. According to a 2009 document release by WikiLeaks, Gaddafi dislikes flying over waters and refuses to take airplane trips longer than 8 hours. His inner circle stated that he could only stay on the ground floor of buildings, and that he cannot climb more than 35 steps.