Tem­ber 1969?

The Malta Independent on Sunday - - CINEMA -

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.

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