News / Africa

Eccentricity, Repression Marked Gadhafi's Rule

 Colonel Moammar Gadhafi died Wednesday, ending his months-long fight against transitional fighters. To the end, he refused to step down, a stubbornness that reflects his 40-year dictatorship. He was the Arab world’s longest ruling leader and was just a 27-year-old army officer when he took power in 1969 after a military coup against Libya's king.

He quickly gained an outspoken reputation, highly critical of the West. He no longer wore a military uniform, played up his Arab pride and tried to unite the Arab world. Later, his flashy assessories, rambling speeches and female bodyguards made him an eccentric leader on the world stage.

"We tend to focus on his eccentricities, but having said that, for the most part he has been a really rather effective, especially on international platforms and can be quite charming but he certainly is rather peculiar," said Jerrold Post, the director of the political psychology program at George Washington University.

Gadhafi created a social, political and economic system called "Jamahiriya," Arabic for state of the masses.  He outlined his philosophy in his famous Green Book. He called for a country without institutions, run by the people and led by him.  But Daniel Serwer of the Middle East Institute says it never worked that way.

"He was somebody who taught the Libyans that they should form councils to govern themselves. He didn't allow them to govern themselves. It was one man rule," he said.

'Symbol of unity'


Serwer says Libya's oil and gas wealth gave Gadhafi influence at home and abroad. He stashed away the riches for himself and his closest allies.

“He also became a symbol of unity of Libya, which had been kind of cobbled together from different pieces."

Ties to terrorism tarnished Gadhafi's international image. The U.S. blamed him for a German nightclub bombing in 1986 that killed two U.S. servicemen.

In 2003, Gadhafi took steps to reconcile with the West. He admitted responsibility for the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103 that killed 270 people in Lockerbie, Scotland. He also renounced weapons of mass destruction and terrorism.  In turn, the U.S. removed components of Libya's nuclear program from the country, dropped sanctions and restored diplomatic ties. 

Final days

But at home earlier this year, thousands of Libyans rebelled against Gadhafi's authoritarian rule.

They joined the Arab Spring and demanded he step down. He responded with a violent crackdown.

Soon much of the world was against him, too. The United Nations issued sanctions. NATO launched air strikes.

But Gadhafi refused to leave.

"There is a conspiracy to control the Libyan oil, to control the Libyan land and to colonize Libya again. This is impossible, impossible and we will fight until the last man and woman to defend Libya," the Libyan said

It was always about him, says Jerrold Post. “He has this internal image of himself, perhaps another way of saying this is that his major audience is the mirror on his wall. And he is saying, 'Mirror, mirror on the way, who is the greatest Pan-African, Muslim, third world leader of them all?' And he finds ways of reassuring himself that the answer keeps going back, 'You are Moammar.'”

Daniel Serwer has similiar views. "It will be a legacy of autocracy, of resistance to democracy. Of really foolishness and delusional foolishness for many people," he said.

In the end, Moammar Gadhafi, the young army officer of nomadic parents, who touted himself as a unifier, unified many Libyans against him.

You May Like

Multimedia US Defense Secretary: Iraqi Forces Lack 'Will to Fight'

Ash Carter criticizes Iraq's reaction to Islamic State; National Security Advisor Susan Rice echoed Carter's concerns in an interview on CBS More

Boko Haram Surrounds Havens With Land Mines

Chad and Cameroon say huge numbers of land mines planted by Boko Haram fighters along Cameroon's border with Nigeria are a danger to people, livestock and soldiers More

Women Activists for Peace Cross Korean DMZ

Governments of Koreas give international delegation of women peace activists permission to pass through heavily fortified border, but some critics say symbolic crossing only benefits Pyongyang More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs