Sunday, October 23, 2011

Muammar Gaddafi Dies Ignominiously

Colonel Gaddafi in March of this year ignored 
the demonstrations and protests against him by claiming 
in an interview with a foreign journalist that "My people love me!"

Cartoon (Toronto: March 5, 2011) © Joachim Romeo D'Costa

Libya’s Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s 42-year tyrannical rule came to end on October 20 with his ignominious death at the hands of his own people who had revolted against him. 
His hometown of Sirte in northwest Libya was a place of bitter fights between the advancing rebels and Gaddafi’s armed force personnel and supporters. As he saw the fall of Sirte imminent, he and a few of his close associates were fleeing the city in early morning in a convoy of vehicles. The NATO forces intercepted the convoy and realized that some important person or persons must have been there. American drone missile strikes destroyed a number of vehicles but Gaddafi luckily survived. He and some others left the remaining vehicles and took shelter in a nearby concrete culvert. In the meantime, the rebels nearby closed in and captured bloodied Colonel Gaddafi. 
He was captured alive and was mishandled by the captors, who were mostly ragtag rebels with no or little army training. At one point someone shot Gaddafi dead instead of handing him over to the new government of Libya for trial. 

This Type of Death of Gaddafi Is Uncalled For

Colonel Gaddafi, although a maniacal and brutal head of the state of Libya, did not deserve such a death when he was captured alive and when there were none of his men defending him by using arms. It would be a wise thing to hand him over to the new government authority for trial that would be good for the future of Libya. He should have been held accountable for the atrocious misdeeds he committed against his own people. His immediate killing deprived Libya of bringing justice to him. 

At the same time, we also need to realize that many of the Libyans were living a life of fear and sudden unjust imprisonment and death for so long under the high-handed rule of Gaddafi.  People were fed up with him, yet they could not say or act anything against him without retribution. Many of the people saw how Gaddafi’s men brutalized, imprisoned and killed their near and dear ones for no or little reason. People were so enraged and full of hatred for him that his killing came naturally when he was captured. May be the idea of sparing his life temporarily was thought of dangerous and that’s why he was done with immediately. 

So, the practice of international law of sparing lives of those captured during war for later trial is difficult to expect under such circumstances. 

Gaddafi the Tyrant

Colonel Muammar Gaddafi was not only an autocratic dictator but also a tyrant. He knew how to use his power and brutality to keep people under subjugation. He was adept at using the evil side of his character to rule Libya. 

He was such an ambitious person that in 1969, at the age of only 27, he took control of the country in a bloodless coup. King Idris of Libya was sent into exile in Egypt. Then he did a lot of experiments in ruling the country and finally he imposed his own system – a mixture of capitalism and communism. 

The tyrannical aspect of his character came to the fore one year after he took over power. A group of young army officers wanted to oust him from power by a coup but failed. He became suspicious of others and became vengeful. He saw any opposition as a sign of ousting him from his position. In the 1970’s decade, he imprisoned and killed many students and their supporters who demanded freedom and human rights. Once he also killed about 1,200 unarmed prisoners for asserting their demands. There are dozens of tribal groups in Libya. He favoured his own nomadic Bedouin tribals and acted against almost all others.
Journalists call him eccentric in a nice way, but in reality his tyrannical and unremorseful behaviour is a clear proof of mental illness. He should have been removed from power a long ago. 

He was against western system of capitalism. He nationalized the Western-dominated oil industry of Libya in 1973. He exported terrorism by funding terrorist groups in Colombia, Northern Ireland, Germany and Palestine. His Libyan agents in 1986 bombed a night club in Berlin and killed two American soldiers and wounded many. His agents also placed bomb in the PanAm (American) airlines in 1988 and killed 270 people, mostly Americans. The Western countries then imposed a heavy sanction again doing business with Libya.
This sanction was too much to bear. Colonel Gaddafi, after suffering much economic loss, ultimately admitted its participation in the bombing plot the PanAm airlines and compensated millions of dollars for the death of the passengers and crew. In the first half of 2000’s, he also disavowed himself from supporting terrorism and producing weapons of mass destruction. After this, the USA and western countries began normal relations with Libya.

The Arab Spring – common people’s demonstrations and rallies – demanding freedom and democracy started in the beginning (Spring) of 2011. It became successful in ousting the president first in Tunisia and later in Egypt. Seeing their success, people in Libya also followed the same tactics but were fiercely opposed by Colonel Gaddafi and his henchmen, who vowed to flow rivers of blood in the country by attacking and killing the demonstrators. The killings gave birth to full-scale revolts in different cities of the country. The NATO countries openly supported the fledgling rebels and air-bombed Gaddafi’s forces and weakened their positions. Gradually the rebels, also aided by military weapons and advisers from the NATO countries, freed most of the country and fought the last battles in Sirte until Colonel Gaddafi’s death.

Securing the Rule of Law and Scattered Arms and Weapons Should Be the First Priority

The new government of liberated Libya must secure the rule of law and all scattered arms and ammunition in the country before any peace and stability are established for exercising democracy. 

The birth of Bangladesh in 1971 and the present birth of new Libya in 2011 have similarity. Bangladesh (former East Pakistan), in 1971, fought the war of independence against West Pakistan (now Pakistan) with the direct assistance of India and indirect support of the Soviet Union. After the country won independence in December of the same year, the new government of Bangladesh failed to secure the law and order situation and retrieve all the arms and ammunition from the freedom fighters. As a result, after some months of independence, a reign of terror started all over the country when one political group began fighting another with the loose arms, some freedom fighters resorting to robberies and blackmail and so and so forth. For more than half a decade this lawlessness persisted before matters began to settle. Similarly, Libya, with the direct intervention of the NATO countries, gained freedom  after a bitter fight with Gaddafi forces. The new Libya should take a lesson from Bangladesh's experience.

Another similarity is: Those who came to power after the independence of Bangladesh, did not have experience of holding political or administrative offices in the country due to domination of the West Pakistanis in political and economic fields. As a result, these new leaders failed miserably in running the country. In the midst of chaos and confusion, there were coups and counter-coups and killing of the President of the country, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, and his colleagues of his political party. If the new Libya is not careful and does not plan well,  it is very likely to face a lot of difficulties in politics, economy and society.

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