istration of Libya had started on a massive development programme for the country. Free from foreign presence and its rich oilfields again in the people’s hands, Libya had the means to develop its infrastructure, industry, agriculture, fisheries, tourism and so on. Housing and education were likewise allotted large budgets. Libyan students and others were sent abroad to acquire expertise while the Libyan economy boomed.
Understandably the Libyan people considered the Revolution momentous as it was the reason for all this success. The Revolution started being called “El Fateh”, the key or opening of progress and development in the country. This buzzword took and most activities were labelled “Fateh”. Maltese trading with Libya became familiar with the title as it was mentioned in agreements and deadlines. In Libya, great celebrations were held in commemoration of the day. Delegations from Malta and all over the world were invited to Libya for the festivities. On the day itself, a massive military parade took to the main streets of Libya’s capital Tripoli exhibiting Libya’s military might. In Malta, Libyan Representatives also used to do their part to commemorate the occasion .Throughout the years most involved in Malta remember the lavish receptions held in the island’s most well-known hotels, complete with Libyan folklore programmes.
However, in February 2011, news started leaking out of Libya about riots against the Administration of Colonel Gaddafi that people were referring to him as a Dictator and were calling for his resignation. When these riots escalated into violence, civilians were being wounded and some were killed. The situation also resulted in a great number of foreign workers, among them many Maltese being stranded in Libya. Malta on her part organized a humanitarian mission to evacuate the Maltese caught in Libya and to try to evacuate as many other nationals as possible.
Then when the leaders of the rioters asked for foreign help, France and Britain immediately showed their readiness to intervene and through NATO managed to lead a coalition force to bomb Libya. Once Gaddafi was killed, the bombing stopped and with it any further interest in the situation in Libya. The country fell into chaos as there was no one in particular who was leading the actual revolution against the regime. Members of ISIS went in and tried to take over as much as they could from the country, rival groups armed to the teeth with arms taken from the regime’s vast arsenal, fought with each other, while gangster groups roamed the streets pillaging and terrorizing the population.
Today seven years later, the situation in Libya is not much better. It is true that at least now two separate Libyan armies one led by Field Marshal Khalifa Hafar in the East of Libya and the other in the West of the country led by Faiz Saray have managed to free Libya from ISIS, which had entered the country as soon as the riots started to take place. On this, many are of the opinion that ISIS had played great part in the revolt against Gaddafi, so much so that later they started to run most of the country. It is also true that attempts had been made for a semblance of a governing body in Libya through the efforts of the United Nations. But again this was not effective as the effort involved the UN choosing Libyan candidates. Political experts with knowledge of Libyan affairs had queried the wisdom of this step which was immediately rejected by several bodies that had a semblance of organisation. Knowing the Libyan mind, it is difficult to envisage that Libyans will accept foreign intervention in the affairs of their country and time as well as lack of progress in this regard is probable proving the veracity of the notion.
For one thing, time has also shown that France and Britain’s immediate intervention in Libyan affairs as leaders of NATO’s coalition forces in 2011 at the earliest stages of the revolt did not do that much good. Political analysts today are of the opinion that it was an utter mistake, so much so that a British Parliamentary inquiry declared that Britain’s military intervention in Libya was based on “erroneous assumptions”, and on ”incomplete understanding of the rebellion against former Libyan leader Colonel Mu’Ammar Gaddafi”. The inquiry heavily criticised the then Prime Minister David Cameron “for turning a limited intervention intended to protect civilians into an opportunist policy of regime change based on inadequate intelligence”. The report continued to deride Mr Cameron for his failure to develop a coherent strategy to support the country following the overthrow of Gaddafi, which attitude had led to political and economic collapse, internecine warfare, humanitarian crisis and the rise of the Islamic State (ISIS) in North Africa as it transpired that the rebels included a “significant Islamic element”.
This report has put, in a nutshell, the actual and true reasons why Libya is going and is still going through the turmoil that has caused so much destruction. And for this not only Britain but also France are to blame as well as other members of NATO’s coalition force. All of them sought a reason to attack Libya without carrying out a proper analysis of the nature of the revolt against Gaddafi, so much so that despite his threatening rhetoric, it transpired that Gaddafi did not have any records of large-scale attacks on Libyan civilians. But also on the pretext of a call by the Arab League and authorisation of the UN Security Council, they went ahead with the attack to force the downfall of Gaddafi. But what was even worse, this policy did not envisage a strategy to support Libya after Gaddafi had gone and neither to help in its reconstruction as none of the countries involved in the attacks had shown any intention of doing so. And Libya devastated by bombing, fighting between opposite groups, taken over by ISIS and by gangster militias, was left to fend on its own.
And today, seven years later, Libya does not seem to have made much headway although there have been some developments as efforts are being made to bring together rival groups to seek a solution and a ray of hope seems to be the fact that rival Libyan factions meeting in Paris last May have agreed to hold parliamentary and presidential elections on 10 December this year with the aim of trying to solve Libya’s crisis. A significant gesture is also the fact that Gaddafi’s son Seif Al Islam and other personnel who served in Gaddafi’s administration have been released from jail mainly on humanitarian grounds. All in all it is now time to wait and see. It is also a time where foreign intervention must take a step back and, as Prime Minister Joseph Muscat who attended the Paris conference put it: “Let us hope and help them to keep this important commitment.” The First of September 1969 has gone forever but as Aristotle once said “Something new always comes from Libya”. We just have to wait and see.
Women soldiers on parade
PM Alfred Sant
Dr Borg Olivier welcomed by the Libyan Ambassador
A delegation from the university in Libya