Rebuilding a ‘New’ Libya and Implications for International Politics
We [the NTC] request from the international community to fulfil its obligations to protect the Libyan people from any further genocide and crimes against humanity without any direct military intervention on Libya soil.
On 1 September 1969, exactly 42 years ago, the Libyan ‘revolution’ was launched by a coup d’état against King Idris under the leadership of a young military officer, Muammer Gaddafi. Nobody could predict that Gaddafi would stay in power as a ‘secular’ dictator until a true Libyan revolution. On 1 September 2011, the hunt for Gaddafi is on, despite his offer to discuss a ‘transition of power’ and there is a £1 million reward for his capture ‘dead or alive’. How did Libya reach this point in history? Under Gaddafi’s dictatorship, a ‘people’s revolution’ was declared and the official name of the state was changed from the ‘Libyan Arab Republic’ to the ‘Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab al-Jamahiriyah’ in 1977.
However, the Libyan state was neither great nor socialist. During four decades, there were very strong signs of the regime’s failure under the ‘whimsical leadership around Gaddafi’: no constitutional system, no human rights, no opposition, no civil society, no free media but arbitrary arrest, disappearance, detention, and torture. Moreover, it is clear that despite all the rhetoric about ‘revolution’ and the ‘state of the masses’ Gaddafi has abused the oil wealth for personal and family interests. He created a ‘rentier’ state, of which oil revenues were exploited by the regime to serve his family, loyalists and international powers’ vested interests.
In the international arena, Gaddafi’s secular outlook and his hatred of Islamic fundamentalists brought him into alliance with the West. It was back in the 1970s that Gaddafi did not hesitate to hang the members of Hizb-ut Tahrir and it would not be too difficult for him to rhetorically support the Bush-Blair war against Al-Qaeda in 2000. After 9/11, the international community speculated about political changes in Libya when the Gaddafi regime rhetorically condemned the use of state terrorism and agreed to abandon its effort to develop weapons of mass destruction in December 2003. While Gaddafi seemed to be altering the foreign and security policies of Libya, he hardly introduced significant political reforms domestically, especially not for the progress of human rights, good governance and the freedom of the people. The continuing annual reports of Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch highlighted the systemic abuse of human rights whereby Libyans ‘who oppose the ideology of the Gaddafi revolution may, under Law 71, be arrested and even executed’. It is no surprise that the Libyan people rose up for their freedom under the influence of the Arab Spring. Gaddafi foolishly portrayed himself as a ‘martyr’, a victim of Western colonialism and stated that he would fight for his cause until the end.
One might wonder why it took four decades to rebel against Gaddafi’s brutal rule but there is no doubt that they are not a bunch of ‘rebels’ without a cause. After toppling the regime, anti-Gaddafi forces established the National Transitional Council of Libya (NTC) – also referred to as the Transitional National Council – and issued a statement on 5 March 2011, in which it declared itself as the legitimate authority of Libya. Their aim has been to ‘liberate Libya from the hands of the tyrant’ and then their challenging task is to rebuild a new Libya based on national and international legitimacy.
* Published in Political Reflection Magazine (PR) Vol. 2 | No. 3
** Director, Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Contemporary Political Violence (CSRV); Lecturer in International Politics of the Middle East and Islamic Studies; Department of International Politics; Aberystwyth University.
© Copyright 2011 by CESRAN