Deposed Ruler Killed in Hometown
by Eric Blix, Staff Writer
News broke this week of the capture and execution of deposed Libyan president, Muammar Gaddafi. The events transpired in Gaddafi’s hometown of Sirte, shortly after a convoy in which he was present was bombed and disrupted by French forces, said Gerard Longuet, the French Minister of Defense. This report was also confirmed by NATO, says Al Jazeera English.
Sirte, the site of Gaddafi’s final moments, is located on Libya’s Mediterranean coast, about six hours east of the North-African nation’s capital of Tripoli. Various news agencies each indicate that the leader of the toppled government was wounded before being killed by a gunshot to the head. However, it is still unclear whether Gaddafi was killed by the National Transitional Council—the de facto government made up of anti-Gaddafi forces that’s been in power since his deposition—or by his own men, which was indicated by one rebel fighter interviewed by Al Jazeera.
Gaddafi had been in power since seizing the presidential office during the Libyan Revolution of 1969. Last February, Libyans began peacefully protesting his often despotic methods of governance as part of the Arab Spring, which saw populations overthrow various longtime leaders to whom they had soured, such as Hosni Mubarak in Egypt and Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in bordering Tunisia. The latter nation is commonly cited as the epicenter of the movement, which has also seen uprisings in Yemen, Bahrain, and Syria, as well as several other Middle Eastern countries.
Gaddafi responded to these protests by issuing the use military force, using violence to quell opposition against his regime. This resulted in the deaths of several Libyan citizens as well as the injuries of numerous others, further pitting the population against the autocrat. By early March, he was run out of office and forced into hiding. After months of fighting, including the conquer of Tripoli by the NTC, rebels were able to corner the itinerant dictator, leading to his capture and subsequent execution.
While Gaddafi’s death is widely regarded as a political victory for rebels and democratic bodies around the world, it is uncertain who will take over leadership in the new Libyan government, or what this government will even look like.
One possibility is that a pro-democracy coalition will be established. This could mean that the NTC, or a variation thereof, will declare itself the governing body of Libya until a national election can be held. Otherwise, an ostensibly temporary leader could be installed by the rebel forces. If this scenario were to play out, however, it’s highly probable that the selection of a leader would be heavily influenced by Western nations that have political and economic interests in a friendly Libya, particularly the United States.
Conversely, it’s entirely possible that the power vacuum created by a temporary lack of formal political leadership will leave Libya vulnerable to a new regime that’s as bad, or even worse, than Gaddafi’s was. If any version of the NTC or another militia group is able to take power, a military dictatorship could easily take shape in political conditions as volatile as those that now exist. This could happen with Western backing, as has often happened in the past. The largest Western country with a stake in Libya, the United States, has a history of installing leaders in infant governments that later turn hostile, such as Augusto Pinochet in Chile in the early 1970′s and Saddam Hussein in Iraq in the early 1980′s.
The only thing that is certain is that Libya’s political infrastructure is in a definite state of instability. Right now we can only wait to see what comes next.
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