‘Gaddafi’ – A Great Nationalist, Hero or A Tyrant? [2 of 3]

In 1969, Gaddafi created Revolutionary Committees to keep tight control over internal dissent. Ten to twenty percent of Libyans worked as informants for these committees. Surveillance took place in the government, in factories, and in the education sector.
People who formed a political party were executed, and talking about politics with foreigners was punishable by up to 3 years in jail. Arbitrary arrests were common and Libyans were hesitant to speak with foreigners. The government conducted executions and mutilations of political opponents in public and broadcast recordings of the proceedings on state television.
Dissent was illegal under Law 75 of 1973, which denied freedom of expression. In 2010, Libya’s press was ranked as 160th out of 178 nations in the Press Freedom.
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GADDAFI, THE DICTATOR

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by Dirgha Raj Prasai (Nepal)

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In 1969, Gaddafi created Revolutionary Committees to keep tight control over internal dissent. Ten to twenty percent of Libyans worked as informants for these committees. Surveillance took place in the government, in factories, and in the education sector. People who formed a political party were executed, and talking about politics with foreigners was punishable by up to 3 years in jail. Arbitrary arrests were common and Libyans were hesitant to speak with foreigners.
 The government conducted executions and mutilations of political opponents in public and broadcast recordings of the proceedings on state television. Dissent was illegal under Law 75 of 1973, which denied freedom of expression. In 2010, Libya’s press was ranked as 160th out of 178 nations in the Press Freedom.

From time to time Gaddafi responded to external opposition with violence. Between 1980 and 1987, Gaddafi employed his network of diplomats and recruits to assassinate at least 25 critics living abroad.In April 1980, his revolutionary committees called for the assassination of Libyan dissidents living abroad sending Libyan hit squads to respective countries to murder them.

On 26 April 1980 Gaddafi set a deadline of 11 June 1980 for dissidents to return home or be “in the hands of the revolutionary committees”. Gaddafi stated explicitly in 1982 that “It is the Libyan people’s responsibility to liquidate such scums who are distorting Libya’s image abroad.” Libyan agents assassinated dissidents in the United States, Europe,and the Middle East. As of 2004 Libya still provided bounties on critics, including $1 million for one journalist.

During the 2005 civil unrest in France, Gaddafi called Chirac and offered him his help in quelling the resistors, who were largely North Africans. There are growing indications that Libya’s Gaddafi-era intelligence service had a cozy relationship with western spy organizations including the CIA, who voluntarily provided information on Libyan dissidents to the regime in exchange for using Libya as a base for extraordinary renditions.

Libya enjoys large natural resources, which Gaddafi utilized to help develop the country. Under Gaddafi ‘s ‘jamahiriya direct democracy regime, the country’s literacy rate rose from 10% to 90%, life expectancy rose from 57 to 77 years, employment opportunities were established for migrant workers, and welfare systems were introduced that allowed access to free education, free healthcare, and financial assistance for housing. The Great Manmade River was also built to allow free access to fresh water across large parts of the country.

In addition, financial support was provided for university scholarships and employment programs. The country was developed without taking any foreign loans. As a result, Libya gradually turned into welfare state during his 42 years long rule.

The Libyan Economy was centrally planned and followed Gaddafi’s socialist ideals. It benefited greatly from revenues from the petroleum sector, which contributed most export earnings and 30% of its GDP. These oil revenues, combined with a small population and by far Africa’s highest Education Index gave Libya the highest nominal GDP per capita in Africa. Between 2000 and 2011, Libya recorded favourable growth rates with an estimated 10.6 percent growth of GDP in 2010, the highest of any state in Africa. Gaddafi had promised “a home for all Libyans” and during his rule, new residential areas arose in empty Saharan regions.

On 4 March 2008 Gaddafi announced his intention to dissolve the country’s existing administrative structure and disburse oil revenue directly to the people. The plan included abolishing all ministries; except those of defence, internal security, and foreign affairs, and departments implementing strategic projects. In 2009, Gaddafi personally told government officials that Libya would soon experience a “new political period” and would have elections for important positions such as minister-level roles and the National Security Advisor position (a Prime Minister equivalent). He also promised to include international monitors to ensure fair elections.

Libya’s society became increasingly Islamic during Gaddafi’s rule. His “purification laws” were put into effect in 1994, punishing theft by the amputation of limbs, and fornication and adultery by flogging. Under the Libyan constitution, homosexual relations are punishable by up to 5 years in jail. A Westerner was shocked in 2005 to see Libyan society, saying it was: ‘A country without alcohol, where the population abides by strict codes of male-female conduct that require both sexes to stay virgins until marriage—there are no dance clubs, no bars, no young couples strolling down the street, holding hands.

From the beginning of his leadership, Gaddafi confronted foreign oil companies for increase in revenues. Immediately after assuming office, he demanded that oil companies pay 10 percent more taxes and an increased royalty of 44 cents per barrel. Gaddafi argued that Libyan oil was closer to Europe, and was cheaper to ship than oil from the Persian Gulf. Western companies refused his demands, and Gaddafi asserted himself by cutting the production of Occidental Petroleum, an American company in Libya, from 800,000 to 500,000 that year. Occidental Petroleum’s President, Armand Hammer, met with Gaddafi in Tripoli and had difficulty understanding exactly what he wanted at first.

In 1998, Gaddafi turned his attention away from Arab nationalism. He eliminated a government office in charge of promoting pan-Arab ideas and told reporters “I had been crying slogans of Arab Unity and brandishing standard of Arab nationalism for 40 years, but it was not realised. Gaddafi’s support frequently went to leaders recognized by the United Nations as dictators and warlords. Gaddafi used anti-Western rhetoric against the UN, and complained that the International Criminal Court was a “new form of world terrorism” that wanted to recolonize developing countries.

Gaddafi’s strong military support and finances gained him several allies across the continent. He was bestowed with the title “King of Kings of Africa” in 2008, as he had remained in power longer than any African king. Gaddafi was celebrated in the presence of over 200 African traditional rulers and kings, although his views on African political and military unification received a lukewarm response from their governments. Gaddafi supported militant organizations that held anti-Western sympathies around the world.

Following the 1986 bombing of Libya, Gaddafi intensified his support for anti-American government organizations. He financed the Nation of Islam. Gaddafi also sought close relations with the Soviet Union and purchased arms from the bloc. After the fall of Soviet client states in eastern Europe, Libya appeared to reassess its position in world affairs and began a long process of improving its image in the West.

Gaddafi’s government faced growing opposition from Islamic extremists during the 1990s, particularly the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, which nearly assassinated him in 1996. Gaddafi began giving counter-terrorism intelligence to MI6 and the CIA in the 1990s, and issued the first arrest warrant for Osama bin Laden in 1998, after he was linked to the killing of German anti-terrorism agents in Libya. Gaddafi also accused the United States of training and supporting bin Laden for war against the Soviet Union. He said the United States was bombing al-Qaeda camps and that they had supported and built for him in the past. Gaddafi also claimed that the bombing attempts by Bill Clinton were done to divert attention from his sex scandal.

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.

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

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. On 30 April the Libyan government claimed that a NATO airstrike killed Gaddafi’s sixth son and three of his grandsons at his son’s home in Tripoli. 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 the previous month. Gaddafi suggested there was room for negotiation, but he vowed to stay in Libya.

Western officials remained divided over whether Gaddafi was 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.

In connection with the Libyan uprising, Gaddafi’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 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.

During the Battle of Tripoli, Gaddafi lost effective political and military control of Tripoli after his compound was captured by rebel forces. Rebel forces entered Green Square in the city center, tearing down posters of Gaddafi and flying flags of the rebellion. He continued to give addresses through radio, calling upon his supporters to crush the rebels. Gaddafi was known for erratic statements, and commentators often expressed uncertainty about what was sarcasm and what was simply incoherent. Over the course of his four-decade rule, he accumulated a wide variety of eccentric and often contradictory statements. On 20 October 2011, a National Transitional Council (NTC) official told Al Jazeera that Gaddafi had been captured that day by Libyan forces near his hometown of Sirte. He was shot dead. >Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia< 

Continued…

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