Gaddafi hangs on by a thread

Friday, April 1, 2011

Muammar Gaddafi has resisted every attempt to topple him, clinging to power like a child would to its favourite toy. While he has shown no sign of letting go of his over 40 year grip on Libya, analysts believe that Gaddafi's rule is hanging by a thread. 

But it remains to be seen whether the dictator will follow his neighbours' quiet departures and listen to the will of the people. BuaNews takes a look at events that have unfolded during the six week long conflict. 

A wave of revolts engulfed the North African country over a month ago and threw the country into turmoil. Since then, hundreds of Libyans have been killed and wounded. Some 325 000 people have fled the violence, with only about 40 000 being Libyan nationals according to the United Nations. Most of them, non-Libyan migrants, have crossed over to Tunisia and Egypt. 

The United Nations Security Council took a strong stance on Gaddafi and adopted resolutions 1970 and 1973. Resolution 1970, among other things, refers the situation in that country to the International Criminal Court (ICC). It also calls for a travel ban and asset freezes for Gaddafi and his associates. 

Resolution 1973 imposes a no-fly zone over Libya, calls for an immediate ceasefire and the enforcement of an arms embargo. It also authorizes United Nations Member States to take "all necessary measures" to protect civilians in Libya. 

Days after resolution 1973 was passed, the US, along with its allies, including the United Kingdom and France, launched strikes from the air and sea against Gaddafi's forces. Recently, President Barack Obama announced that NATO would take command of the enforcement of the arms embargo and the no-fly zone. NATO also decided to take on the additional responsibility of protecting Libyan citizens. 

South Africa voted in favour of resolution 1973 because it believed that the adoption of these additional measures, including the ceasefire and no-fly zone, would assist in the protection of ordinary people, especially in the delivery of humanitarian assistance to the most needy and vulnerable.

The South African government has also raised deep concern about the deteriorating political and humanitarian situation in that country, also expressing concern about the increased proliferation of arms in that region. Some reports have said that the US was supplying arms to those fighting against Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.

Foreign ministers and leaders from the United Nations, the League of Arab States, the African Union, the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, the European Union and NATO, recently gathered in London to discuss the situation. 

They reaffirmed their commitment to UN Security Council Resolutions 1970 and 1973; to ensuring the delivery of humanitarian aid where it is needed; and helping the Libyan people plan for their future after the conflict is over.

British Prime Minister, David Cameron, in a statement, said that the Libyan solution must be a political one- and it must be the Libyan people themselves who determine their own destiny.

".....that means reinforcing the UN sanctions to exert the greatest possible pressure on the Gaddafi regime....and it requires bringing together the widest possible coalition of political leaders.....including civil society, local leaders and most importantly the Interim Transitional National Council, so that the Libyan people can speak with one voice. This will be achieved in a matter of days or weeks," explained Cameron. 

Cameron also said that the international coalition would continue the action needed to implement the United Nations Security Council resolutions "as long as is necessary" to protect the population from attacks by Gaddafi's forces.

He also called for the creation of a contact group to provide sustained political support for the country as it undergoes change.

In a strongly worded letter to the international powers, Gaddafi called for an end to what he described as "the unfair and barbaric offensive" against the Libyans. 

"Leave Libya for Libyans. You are committing genocide against a peaceful people and destroying a developing nation," he said in a letter carried out by official news agency Jana. 

Since the revolts broke out, Libyan rebels quickly seized control of many towns in the east of the country as protests swept across Libya, but have since found themselves losing their grip on many of them.

Analysts who spoke to BuaNews about the unrest, say they do not see the dictator fighting on indefinitely.

Head of the School of Politics at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), Professor Ufo Okeke Uzodike, says the Western governments are determined to weaken Gaddafi politically and morally by bombing defenses, arsenals and forces while equipping and providing much needed political support to the rebel forces and creating the sense that he lacks the moral authority to continue to lead his country. 

"Even if Gaddafi is forced to leave Libya, it is unlikely that we will see peace in that country for quite some time. This is because there is now a very sharp divide between those who support him and those who are opposed to him. No new government will be able to run things in an environment of peace and shared interests without embracing elements from both camps," he explains. 

It would be useful now for the international community, particularly the members of the African Union and the Arab League, to look at bringing both parties together with an eye on crafting a new order for Libya says Uzodike. 

He says while he does not see Gaddafi stepping down, he is being pushed into a corner and his military resources will need replenishment and the morale and motivation of his supporters will start to take a beating. 

"If the status quo continues, I do not think that any amount of bravado would be able to salvage things for him," he says. "For now, I believe it is a matter of time before he either has to give up or pursue a guerilla strategy."

On the matter of the air strikes, Uzodike says the matter is complex. He says based purely on international legal norms, it is probably illegal. 

Resolution 1973, says Uzodike, appears to have provided western governments with a seemingly legal authority and opportunity to pursue regime change in Libya. 

"What we have in Libya is largely an internal conflict that was only beginning to flare up. We have not really seen any actual threats to international peace and security, yet, the international community rushed to put in place an aggressive intervention policy.

"The interpretation of no-fly zone by western governments as entailing aggressive attacks on Libyan military bases and infrastructure is a blatant form of impunity and the infantilization of the rest of the international community. Of course, it has made a huge difference by stemming the march of Gaddafi's forces and turning the tide of the conflict in favour of the rebel movement."

Uzodike believes that Gaddafi can be toppled, but, the rebel forces cannot do it without significant external intervention. He says that with the assistance that the rebel movement is receiving from the west, he does not see much of a power vacuum existing when or if Gaddafi is toppled. 

"There is very little doubt that they are getting extensive assistance beyond political support and military aid; it would make sense to also conclude that Western governments would also be keen to ensure that there are no slip-ups that would give any remnants of Gaddafi's supporters any reasons to look to fill the vacuum in his absence. That notwithstanding, I do not see any easy return to normalcy in the short-term for any victorious side.

"It is fairly clear that Western governments have taken the decision that they will not have a better opportunity to get rid of Gaddafi; as such, they are determined to seize it. I cannot see them relenting until that objective is achieved. Even if he survives, his power and influence in Libya will be significantly diminished. It will never be the same," he explains.

Tom Wheeler, Research Associate at the South African Institute of International Affairs, says hopefully, the current situation will not be drawn out.

"The US and others do not need another Afghanistan, on top of Iraq, also still unresolved. But it does not look good. He (Gaddafi) seems to be determined to stick it out, to the death it seems. 

"Gaddafi refuses to leave and it may end in more bloodshed. After 40 years, he should just accept that it is time for change. And installing his sons is not necessarily the answer," he says. -BuaNews

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