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

Could Nemtsov Threaten Putin in Death as in Life?

Dynamic and debonair opposition leader had supported liberal economic reforms, criticized Russian president's aggression in Ukraine More

Oil Smuggling Highlights Challenges in Shutting Down IS Finances

Pentagon spokesman says Islamic State 'certainly continues to get revenue from the oil industry black market' but that airstrikes have made a dent More

India Focuses on Infrastructure, Investment to Propel Economy

Government expects economy to grow at 8 to 8.5 percent in next fiscal year 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.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More