The world woke up on August 22 to news that to many would have seemed completely unbelievable a few months ago. Most Libyans, and indeed people everywhere in the world, have the image of Moammar Qaddafi, the eccentric and ruthless ruler of the country, etched firmly into their minds as the head of the world’s 12th largest oil-producing country. For almost 42 years, he has held on to power without so much as a wobble. But following a rebel rush on Tripoli on August 21, in a move being termed ‘Operation Mermaid’, with Nato airplanes offering aerial support, Qaddafi’s time in power may have run out. His younger son, Saif alIslam is reported to have been captured by rebels. Saif, like his father, is wanted by the International Criminal Court at the Hague for crimes against humanity. Qaddafi’s elder son, Mohammad alQaddafi has surrendered. The whereabouts of the world’s longest serving dictator are unclear, but it is believed his last audio addresses may have been made from a hospital. It seems very possible his days of absolute rule are over. If this is not the end, it is certainly the beginning of the end.
The scenes of joyous celebration in Tripoli and Benghazi, cities that rebels say are now almost entirely in their hands, replicate the footage that emerged from other Arab capitals as a dramatic surge for change swept across the region. It is unknown, however, how long fighting may continue; a spokesman for Qaddafi has spoken of a violent war and the dictator himself has urged Libyans to fight the rebels. Still less certain is the future of Libya. The rebels have no clear leader and assessments suggest a tussle for power between various factions is possible. The rebel National Transitional Council says it has a plan, but the nature of this is unclear. The reports that the US has set up a task force in Dubai to ‘stabilise’ Libya are also worrying in that the voice and aspirations of the Libyan people, who have for over six months waged a valiant battle for freedom, must come through, without any overseas manipulation or ‘guidance’. They must now be permitted to determine their own destiny without outside intervention as ‘freedom day’ for a long-oppressed country draws nearer.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 23rd, 2011.