Lament for Libya
The pictures coming out of Libya in recent weeks have been spellbinding, shocking and extraordinary. A nation with a rich history that once boasted the fourth highest gross domestic product of any country in North Africa is being shattered and divided by a bitter civil war.
Civilians are dying in large numbers, the country’s oncelucrative oil industry is at a standstill, and its public services have been shut down for many weeks. There have even been reports of government forces massacring innocent civilians in an effort to stamp out the rebellion.
As of late last week, the country’s authoritarian chief of state, Col. Moammar Gadhafi, was in hiding and forces loyal to him were continuing to put up stiff resistance against a widespread public revolt — with the help of NATO bombing from the air — intent on freeing the country from Gadhafi’s 40-year rule.
A new government promising greater freedoms and human rights was slowly taking control of the country, and there were calls for the international community to release billions of dollars that had been frozen in recent months to allow for the rebuilding process and the healing to begin.
We have been captivated by images of rebel fighters swarming into Gadhafi’s compound — a fortress once accessible to only a select few — and coming away with heavy weapons and other treasures that once belonged to their eccentric and flamboyant leader. Gadhafi was reduced to airing defiant radio messages, calling for those loyal to him to continue their resistance.
It’s quite a fall from grace for a man that ruled Libya’s 6.4 million people for so long, and along the way accumulated a massive fortune, mostly at the expense of his people. Gadhafi has proven himself to be a survivor, and managed to stay in power even after admitting nearly a decade ago that officials in his government played a role in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerie, Scotland, resulting in the deaths of some 270 people.
He was engaged in a long-running and sometimes violent dispute with the United States, yet managed to escape air attacks and widespread condemnation from the international community.
The unrest that has been sweeping Libya in recent months is eerily familiar. Much of the Arab world has been in a restive mood this year, with longstanding leaders such as Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak having been ousted from power.
Based on his past, however, it’s not surprising that Gadhafi remains so defiant in the face of such a revolt.
But it’s obvious the Libyan people have had enough. What we’ve seen is “people power” at its finest.
Gadhafi and his cronies deserve to face up to their wrongdoings, but this is also a test for those who seek to replace him.
They should seek justice, but in a merciful and honourable manner. Revenge and retaliation is not the way to restore Libya to its rightful place in the world.