News / Africa

Fight, Run or Hide - What Now for Moammar Gadhafi?

Libyan leader Col. Moammar Gadhafi (file photo)
Libyan leader Col. Moammar Gadhafi (file photo)
Henry Ridgwell

With their dramatic assault on the capital Tripoli, opposition forces in Libya claim they are on the verge of defeating Colonel Gadhafi’s regime. But renewed fighting in the city suggests the Libyan leader will not give up his 42-year reign of power easily.

Gunfire and explosions can still be heard in parts of Tripoli - tempering the elation of opposition forces as they stormed the center of the capital Monday, amid claims they had captured one of the Libyan leader’s sons, Saif al-Islam.

His subsequent appearance in front of jubilant supporters on Monday night is an indication of the challenges opposition forces face in trying to oust Libya’s ruling family.

The Libyan Rebellion

  • February 15, 2011: Inspired by Arab Spring revolts in Tunisia and Egypt, riots break out in Benghazi.
  • February 26, 2011: The U.N. Security Council imposes sanctions on Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi and his family. The International Criminal Court is asked to investigate the crackdown on rebels.
  • March 19, 2011: U.S., Britain and France launch U.N.-mandated air attacks over Libya to halt advances on civilians by Gadhafi's forces.
  • March 30, 2011: Libyan Foreign Minister, Moussa Koussa, defects and flies to Britain. Other senior officials follow suit.
  • April 30, 2011: A NATO missile attack on a house in Tripoli kills Gadhafi's youngest son and three grandchildren.
  • June 27, 2011: The International Criminal Court issues arrest warrants for Gadhafi, his son Seif al-Islam and intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senussi.
  • July 15, 2011: The United States recognizes the Transitional National Council as the legitimate government of Libya.
  • July 28, 2011: Former interior minister Abdel Fattah Younes, who defected to the rebels in February and became their military chief, is killed.
  • August 20, 2011: Rebels launch their first attack on the nation's capital, Tripoli, in coordination with NATO forces.

“Frankly we just don’t know what levels of support Colonel Gadhafi still has because Libya has been repressed for so long," said Jane Kinninmont, a senior research fellow for the North Africa program at London analyst group Chatham House. "It is very different from Egypt and Tunisia, where in both countries the national army was a very strong institution. And essentially, at the end of the day the armies withdrew their support for the leader." 

"In Libya the situation is very different. Gadhafi never allowed the army itself to become that powerful precisely because he is a very smart guy who knows a lot about how to stay in power,” Kinninmont added.

In recent days opposition forces have made dramatic territorial gains - taking the strategic coastal town of Zawiyah before their assault on the capital. They - and their backers among the international community - say despite the continued fighting, the Libyan leader’s days are numbered.

Fight, run or hide

Colonel Gadhafi has vowed to fight to the death. Jane Kinninmont says his alternatives are to run or to hide.

“It’s possible he could choose to stay and hide in Libya but there are of course scenarios that wouldn’t be that appealing to him, like the Saddam Hussein scenario where he hides for a long time but is eventually caught," she said. "Or the Hosni Mubarak scenario where he decided not to leave Egypt, probably thought he would be shielded by the army but ended up going on trial. On the other hand if Gadhafi does go into exile overseas he does face two risks - he faces the risk of international prosecution through the ICC. He also faces the risk of revenge attacks.”

The International Criminal Court, or ICC, issued arrest warrants in June for Muammar Gadhafi, his son Saif al-Islam and Abdulla Al-Senussi, who is believed to head Libya’s military intelligence.

“The ICC does not have a police force of military force so we only count on the cooperation of the states," said Fadi El-Abdallah, legal outreach officer for the ICC in The Hague. "Now the Libyan authorities have the obligation, under the Resolution 1970 adopted by the unanimity of the members of the U.N. Security Council, to cooperate fully with the court including to implement the warrants of arrest, so to arrest and surrender the suspects. If the suspects go to another state that is party to the Rome statute, there is the same legal obligation to arrest the suspects and surrender them to the ICC.”

Future of Libya

If opposition forces do succeed in ousting Colonel Gadhafi, there is much uncertainty over who would take over.

“One of the big challenges for the opposition now is to try to win more people over, to try to develop a more representative and more inclusive leadership,” said Jane Kinninmont of analyst group Chatham House.

Kinninmont says the dynamics of the Libyan uprising are more complex than those seen in other parts of the Arab world - and the outcome remains unpredictable.

You May Like

Pakistan Among Developing Countries Hit Hard by Global Warming

Pakistani officials hope developed nations agree to scale back emissions, offer help in dealing with climate change

Video Speed, Social Media Shape Counterterrorism Probes

Speed is critical in effort to prevent subsequent attacks; demographics of extremists lend themselves to communicating, establishing profiles on digital platforms

Islamic State Oil Trade Seduces Friends, Foes Alike

Terrorist group rakes in up to $500 million a year in sales to customers such as Syrian government, US-supported rebels and Turkey

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

By the Numbers

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Social Media Aids Counter-Terrorism Investigationsi
Katherine Gypson
December 01, 2015 10:06 PM
In the aftermath of the Paris attacks, officials carried out waves of raids and arrests to break up terror cells. As VOA's Katherine Gypson reports, social media can be a key tool for investigators.

Video Social Media Aids Counter-Terrorism Investigations

In the aftermath of the Paris attacks, officials carried out waves of raids and arrests to break up terror cells. As VOA's Katherine Gypson reports, social media can be a key tool for investigators.

Video Russia Marks World AIDS Day With Grim News

While HIV infection rates have steadied or even declined in many European countries, the caseload has grown rapidly in Russia, as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow. Over half of the new infections were transmitted through injection drug use.

Video Pakistan Hit Hard by Global Warming

As world leaders meet in Paris to craft a new global agreement aimed at cutting climate-changing greenhouse-gas emissions, many developing countries are watching closely for the final results. While most developing nations contribute much less to global warming than developed countries, they often feel the effects to a disproportionate degree. As Saud Zafar reports from Karachi, one such nation is Pakistan. Aisha Khalid narrates his report.

Video With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video Political Motives Seen Behind Cancelled Cambodian Water Festival

For the fourth time in the five years since more than 350 people were killed in a stampede at Cambodia’s annual water festival, authorities canceled the event this year. Officials blamed environmental reasons as the cause, but many see it as fallout from rising political tensions with a fresh wave of ruling party intimidation against the opposition. David Boyle and Kimlong Meng report from Phnom Penh.

Video African Circus Gives At-Risk Youth a 2nd Chance

Ethiopia hosted the first African Circus Arts Festival this past weekend with performers from seven different African countries. Most of the performers are youngsters coming form challenging backgrounds who say the circus gave them a second chance.

Video US Lawmakers Brace for End-of-Year Battles

U.S. lawmakers are returning to Washington for Congress’ final working weeks of the year. And, as VOA's Michael Bowman reports, a full slate of legislative business awaits them, from keeping the federal government open to resolving a battle with the White House over the admittance of Syrian refugees.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video After Terrorist Attacks, Support for Refugees Fades

The terrorists who killed and injured almost 500 people around Paris this month are mostly French or Belgian nationals. But at least two apparently took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to sneak into the region. The discovery has hardened views about legitimate refugees, including those fleeing the same extremist violence that hit the French capital. Lisa Bryant has this report for VOA from the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

As Thailand takes in the annual Loy Krathong festival, many ponder the country’s future and security. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

VOA Blogs