As an African, I am concerned about the ripple effect the collapse of Moammar Gadhafi regime could have in Sub-Saharan Africa. Same mistake USA made in Iraq is being made by NATO and its allies in Libya. By this I mean, that what began as a “Humanitarian Intervention” quickly turned into “Regime Change Intervention”.
Gadhafi has ruled Libya by ‘cult-of-personality’ for four decades, and the change expected to occur, will take some years, because there are no effective political institutions in Libya at this time. In addition, the NTC leadership is heterogeneous and saddled with many problems. In situation like this, there could be revenge attacks as in “qisas”, Arabic form of Retributive Justice; ‘an eye for an eye, and tooth for a tooth’. This is in Islamic Law which is rooted in their culture. How will Libya’s new constitution address it? Therefore, “Not So Fast” for Regime Change that would guarantee stable Libya. We must remember that;“old habits die hard”. I hope for a democratic political system for Libya, but it will take some time.
We should not be blind-sighted to the fact that Moammar Gadhafi has taken decades to support various areas of conflict, in Africa, Southern Philippines, Middle East, and elsewhere in the World. He offered training, money and weapons directly to the following groups; theAbu Sayyaf of Mindanao (Philippines), Boko Haram (Nigeria, Chad), MPLA (Angola), ANC(South Africa), Frelimo (Mozambique), Janjaweed elements (Sudan), and to Compaore of Burkina Faso, etc. These former and present fighters view Gadhafi as a brother, friend, and staunch supporter of their struggle against Apartheid (Angola, South Africa, Mozambique, Zimbabwe); for Jihadists/terrorists (Philippines, Nigeria, Sudan).
I have never been a supporter of Gadhafi, but I do not accept Cheney’s ideology for Regime Change as a reasonable alternative. It is culturally biased, undemocratic and insensitive to the Secular Democracy that Arabs can understand due to Muslim religion and teaching. Cheney’s ideology, is too foreign to Libyans and sadly shallow, and therefore a recipe for more political unrest. Dick Cheney, a former vice-president of USA, is a closet ideolog, who firmly hope to promote his Regime Change ideology to the Arab World, without fully understanding that the advocates for Secular Democracy are uncompromising knuckle-heads. His ideology is viewed in Arab World with much skepticism, and as an attack on Islam. Now, NATO is making same mistake in Libya as US made in Iraq. It is like “an attractive ‘candy’, attractive on the outside but poisonous on the inside”. This is my impression on Libyan crisis and NATO intervention. Definitely, Gadhafi must relinquish power, but the problem is how to do so without bloodbath and complete destruction of a country! This is not the best way to bring about any regime change. Iraq is an example of that.
In Libya, the rebels seem to be from various background, consisting of Islamists, Salafi jihadists, members of LIFG (Libyan Islamic Fighting Group), Muslim Brotherhood; all loosely affiliated under-but-not-binding to absolute control of the National Transitional Council (NTC).
The only thing they have in common is overthrow of Gadhafi regime. Among the militants recently released from Abu Salim Prison in Tripoli, were 600 militants, known to be pro-al Qaeda; according to Mr Noman Benotman, a former senior figure in the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, but now a senior analyst at the Quilliman Foundation, in London (UK).
Mr Benotiman said that the freed prisoners are Salafists, embracing a puritanical interpretation of Islam. He further explained that most of these groups have links to groups outside Libya. This brings to mind, another major concerns! Arming and training terrorists such as Boko Haram (Nigeria), Abu Sayyaf (Southern Philippines) and others, mean that Gadhafi has long provided training, weapons and money to the Muslim secessionists in Southern Philippine Island of Mindanao (the Moro National Liberation Front & Abu SayyafGroups). I personally saw the carnage during my stay for one year in Mindanao (Tagum Regional Hospital, Davao del Sur), where the bodies were brought to the morgue. I lived in Davao City but commuted to Tagum del Sur, often. This part of the Philippines is still designated as an unsafe place for tourists. Tourists can be kidnapped for ransom or killed if ransom wasn’t paid on time.
I wouldn’t conclude yet that Gadhafi is finished. This man has many groups outside Libya that received great support and help during their struggles against Apartheid, and they wouldn’t turn their back on Gadhafi in his ‘hour of need’. This is a concern. The struggle for Libya has only just began.
Known Gadhafi contacts outside Libya
1. There is direct link of Janjaweed from Sudan to Gadhafi regime to promote Islam according to the ideology of Gadhafi (Green Book).
2. Gadhafi regime provided financial support and military training to terrorists in Palestine.
3. He supported Idi Amin during the war between Uganda and Tanzania and lost 600 of his Libyan soldiers.
4. Gadhafi financed Mengistu Haile Miriam’s military junta in Ethiopia.
5. He trained Blaise Compaore of Burkina Faso who assassinated his predecessor,President Thomas Sankara, in a military coup and became the president.
6. He helped Idriss Deby of Chad.
7. He trained and supported Charles Taylor of Liberia, who is currently facing charges of ‘crimes against humanity’ at ICC (Hague).
8. He trained and supported the late Foday Sankoh of Sierra Leone.
9. He supports Jean Bedel of Central African Republic.
10. He also supports Robert Mugabe, president of Zimbabwe.
11. He has been linked to factions in Congo crisis.
12. His Regime trained, armed and provided funds to Abu Sayyaf (Southern Philippines). The list goes on and on. This is why he is much a formidable character than Saddam Hussein was.
Moammar Gadhafi has a very wide global reach, indeed. In almost all conflicts in the continent of Africa, Gadhafi has been implicated in the training, financing and supplying of weapons to fuel and sustain the conflicts.
Gadhafi ruled Libya for four decades on a one-party autocracy, and developed a cult-like persona for himself. NATO and its allies must realize the great challenges that confront NTC leadership! It is made up of truculent factions, with zero experience in democratic rule and governance. They will need a crash course; to understand that democracy requires a spirit of compromise, of shared values and ultimate goals, of social and personal integrity. Libyans and friends-of-Libya, must know that Democracy takes time, labour, commitment and, sometimes, the willingness to fight against the forces of the past; and rarest of human commodities, honesty. Contrary to our illusions, the one thing democracy isn’t, is easy.
The Consequence of the Fall of Gadhafi Regime
Now, what happens in post-Gadhafi Libya could result in more uncertainties and more bloodshed from civil war to guerilla warfare. And certainly, destabilizing power struggles within the NTC, is a possibility. Those linked to al Qaeda, may continue to ferment troubles elsewhere in the continent. Some may return to Salafi jihadist movement, or to join Islamic Movement for Change, or other splinter groups. These nomads with radicalized religious belief, have nothing to loose except to ferment troubles, all in the name of Islam.
It is with a sense of quiet anxiety and concern that I watch crisis unfold in Libya. African continent is experiencing an era of great uncertainties, and with the recent fight for Libya, this could spin out of control through invitation of new crisis elsewhere in the continent. Al Qaeda, Taliban, Boko Haram, Al Shabaab, insurgents-for-hire, mercenaries, and other terrorist groups can find fresh recruits from Libya. Gadhafi had most of these people under rap in his Abu Salim prison. But now, they are free to regroup and form splinter groups and ferment problems as rejuvenated insurgents, terrorists, and mercenaries or become generic name for “freedom fighters”. Think about that!
I strongly feel as if a can of worms has been unleashed to the world at large by the release of these inmates at Abu Salim Prison, without accountability. I wonder if the NATO and its allies thought carefully about these issues before rushing into Libya to promote Regime Change! Not so fast, I might add, in the struggle for Libya. Gadhafi is a born nomad, and as such, can survive in roughest and toughest political condition. He is gone as a leader but left a heterogeneous and much divided country behind.
Here Is A Challenge for NTC
The Grand Objectives for the National Transition Council is to build a New Democratic Libya that is just, inclusive and sustainable, with healthy political culture; from the bottom up. It is a difficult task for political neophytes to accomplish without any ‘blueprint’ for democratic process in place. Yet, it must be done if to prevent asymmetric war(unconventional war) that could destroy Libya. The challenge is colossal, indeed!
Only future will tell if my fear is justified.