Gadhafi gone

Gadhafi gone

With Libya’s capital Tripoli falling to Nato-backed rebels, Muammar Gadhafi’s 42-year-rule has ended. Gadhafi ruled Libya with an iron hand. So weak was political opposition to his rule – he had ruthlessly suppressed it for decades – that few would have believed even a year ago that the Libyan strongman could be shaken let alone overthrown. But the ousting of dictators in Tunisia and Egypt changed that.

Suddenly it seemed that even the most entrenched of dictators could be removed from power. Libya’s opposition unlike that in Egypt was able to draw on robust western help. Nato backed it vigorously by supplying them with weapons. It also bombed military installations to weaken Gadhafi and bombarded cities to facilitate the advance of rebels. Forces loyal to Gadhafi put up a strong fight but in the end could do little in the face of Nato’s superior fire power.

The ‘king of kings of Africa’ as Gadhafi liked to be called is no more Libya’s strongman. However, it would be premature to write him off.  Rebel claims appear rather overstated. They said they had Gadhafi’s son Saif-ul Islam in their custody but the latter surfaced before the international media in Tripoli on Monday.

Besides, while it is true that Tripoli fell to the rebels without much resistance from Gadhafi’s forces, the latter may have retreated rather than been routed. This means they could have melted away only to strike again later. It is possible therefore that the scenario unfolding in Libya is similar to the one that emerged in Iraq after the fall of Baghdad in 2003. Post-Gadhafi Libya could be convulsed in violence. Thanks to militarisation of the country and now Nato’s generous supply of arms to the rebels, Libya is awash with weaponry.

With Gadhafi gone, the unifying goal of ousting him that held rebels together hitherto too has gone. They can be expected to begin fighting among themselves. The main group, the National Transitional Council, which was last month recognised by Britain, France and the US as the legitimate representative body of the Libyan people, has said it will establish a new democratic government. Its tasks are not easy. It will have to act quickly not only to establish control over the levers of power but also improve the lives of ordinary Libyans.

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