Muammar Gaddafi

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Muammar Muhammad Abu Minyar al-Gaddafi (Arabic: مُعَمَّر القَذَّافِي‎ June 1942 – 20 October 2011), commonly known as Muammar Gaddafi or Colonel Gaddafi, was the autocratic ruler of Libya from 1969 when he seized power in a military coup until 2011 when his government was overthrown in a civil war. His 42-year rule prior to the uprising made him the fourth longest-ruling non-royal leader since 1900, as well as the longest-ruling Arab leader. He variously styled himself as ‘the Brother Leader’, ‘Guide of the Revolution’, and the ‘King of Kings’.

After seizing power in 1969, he abolished the Libyan Constitution of 1951 and civil liberties enshrined in it. He imposed laws based on the political ideology he had formulated, called the Third International Theory and published in The Green Book. Gaddafi and his relatives took over much of the economy. Gaddafi started several wars and acquired chemical weapons. Gaddafi also supplied weapons to the Provisional Irish Republican Army, a listed terrorist organisation in the United Kingdom and other countries. The United Nations called Libya under Gaddafi a pariah state. In the 1980s, countries around the world imposed sanctions against Gaddafi. Six days after the capture of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein by United States troops, Gaddafi renounced Tripoli’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs and welcomed international inspections to verify that he would follow through on the commitment. A leading advocate for a United States of Africa, he served as Chairperson of the African Union (AU) from 2 February 2009 to 31 January 2010.

During Gaddafi’s period of rule many of Libya’s human development indicators improved significantly. By 2010, Libya had the highest GDP per capita, Education Index, and Human Development Index in Africa as well as some of the best health indicators in the continent.

In February 2011, following revolutions in neighbouring Egypt and Tunisia, protests against Gaddafi’s rule began. These escalated into an uprising that spread across the country, with the forces opposing Gaddafi establishing a government based in Benghazi named the National Transitional Council(NTC). This led to the 2011 Libyan Civil War, which included a military intervention by a NATO-led coalition to enforce a UN Security Council Resolution 1973 calling for a no-fly zone and protection of civilians in Libya. The assets of Gaddafi and his family were frozen, and both Interpol and the International Criminal Court issued arrest warrants on 27 June for Gaddafi, his son Saif al-Islam, and his brother-in-law Abdullah al-Senussi, concerning crimes against humanity. Gaddafi and his forces lost the Battle of Tripoli in August, and on 16 September 2011 the NTC took Libya’s seat at the UN, replacing Gaddafi. Gaddafi retained control over parts of Libya, most notably the city of Sirte, to which it was presumed that he had fled. Although Gaddafi’s forces initially held out against the NTC’s advances, Gaddafi was killed as Sirte fell to the rebel forces on 20 October 2011, thus proving that he had fled to Sirte.

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Early Life

Muammar al-Gaddafi was raised in a bedouin tent in the desert near Sirte (Sidra). According to many biographies, his family belongs to a small tribe of Arabs, the Qadhadhfa. They are mostly herders that live in the Hun Oasis. According to Gaddafi, his grandfather, Abdessalam Bouminyar, fought against the Italian occupation of Libya and died as the “first martyr in Khoms, in the first battle of 1911″. Gaddafi attended a Muslim elementary school far from home in Sabha, during which time he was profoundly influenced by major events in the Arab world. He was passionate about the success of the Palestinians and was deeply disappointed by their defeat by Israeli forces in 1948. He admired Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser and looked to him as a hero during his rise to power in 1952. In 1956 Gaddafi took part in anti-Israeli protests during the Suez Crisis. In Sabha he was was briefly a member of Scouting. He finished his secondary school studies under a private tutor in Misrata, concentrating on the study of history.

Gaddafi entered the Libyan military academy at Benghazi in 1961, and graduated in 1966. Both towards the end of his course and after graduation, Gaddafi pursued further studies in Europe. False rumours have been propagated with regards to this part of his life, for example, the rumour that he attended the United Kingdom’s Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. He did in fact receive four months further military training in the United Kingdom, and spent some time in London. After this, as a commissioned officer he joined the Signal Corps. Although often referred to as “Colonel Gaddafi”, he was in fact only a Lieutenant when he seized power in 1969. He was, nonetheless, a holder of the honorary rank of Major General, conferred upon him in 1976 by the Arab Socialist Union’s National Congress. Gaddafi accepted the honorary rank, but stated that he would continue to be known as ‘Colonel’ and to wear the rank insignia of a Colonel when in uniform.

2011 Libyan civil war

On 17 February 2011, major political protests began in Libya against Gaddafi’s government. During the following week these protests gained significant momentum and size, despite stiff resistance from the Gaddafi government. By late February the country appeared to be rapidly descending into chaos, and the government lost control of most of Eastern Libya. Gaddafi fought back, accusing the rebels of being “drugged” and linked to al-Qaeda. His military forces killed rebelling civilians, and relied heavily on the Khamis Brigade, led by one of his sons Khamis Gaddafi, and on tribal leaders loyal to him. He imported foreign mercenaries to defend his government, reportedly paying Ghanaian mercenaries as much as US$2,500 per day for their services. Reports from Libya also confirmed involvement with Belarus, and the presence of Ukrainian and Serbian mercenaries.

Gaddafi’s violent response to the protesters prompted defections from his government. Gaddafi’s “number two” man, Abdul Fatah Younis, Mustafa Abdel-Jalil and several key ambassadors and diplomats resigned from their posts in protest. Other government officials refused to follow orders from Gaddafi, and were jailed for insubordination.

At the beginning of March 2011, Gaddafi returned from a hideout, relying on considerable amounts of Libyan and US cash that had apparently been stored in the capital. Gaddafi’s forces had retaken momentum and were in shooting range of Benghazi by March 2011 when the UN declared a no fly zone to protect the civilian population of Libya. On 30 April the Libyan government claimed that a NATO airstrike killed Gaddafi’s sixth son and three of his grandsons at his son’s home in Tripoli. Government officials said that Muammar Gaddafi and his wife were visiting the home when it was struck, but both were unharmed. Gaddafi son’s death came one day after the Libyan leader appeared on state television calling for talks with NATO to end the airstrikes which have been hitting Tripoli and other Gaddafi strongholds since the previous month. Gaddafi suggested there was room for negotiation, but he vowed to stay in Libya. Western officials remained divided over whether Gaddafi was a legitimate military target under the United Nations Security Council resolution that authorized the air campaign. US Defense Secretary Robert Gates said that NATO was “not targeting Gaddafi specifically” but that his command-and-control facilities were legitimate targets—including a facility inside his sprawling Tripoli compound that was hit with airstrikes 25 April.

Crimes against humanity arrest warrant

The UN referred the massacres of unarmed civilians to the International Criminal Court. Among the crimes being investigated by the prosecution was whether Gaddafi purchased and authorized the use of Viagra-like drugs among soldiers for the purpose of raping women and instilling fear. His government’s heavy-handed approach to quelling the protests was characterized by the International Federation for Human Rights as a strategy of scorched earth. The acts of “indiscriminate killings of civilians” was charged as crimes against humanity, as defined in Article 7 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) issued arrest warrants on 27 June 2011 for Gaddafi, his son Saif al-Islam, and his brother-in-law Abdullah al-Senussi, head of state security for charges, concerning crimes against humanity. According to Matt Steinglass of The Financial Times the charges call for Gaddafi, and his two co-conspirators, to “stand trial for the murder and persecution of demonstrators by Libyan security forces since the uprising based in the country’s east that began in February.”

Libyan officials rejected the ICC’s authority, saying that the ICC has “no legitimacy whatsoever” and that “all of its activities are directed at African leaders”. A Libyan government representative, justice minister Mohammed al-Qamoodi, responded by saying, “The leader of the revolution and his son do not hold any official position in the Libyan government and therefore they have no connection to the claims of the ICC against them …” This makes Gaddafi the second still-serving state-leader to have warrants issued against them, the first being Omar al-Bashir of Sudan.

Russia and other countries, including China and Germany, abstained from voting in the UN and have not joined the NATO coalition, which has taken action in Libya by bombing the government’s forces. Mikhail Margelov, the Kremlin special representative for Africa, speaking in an interview for Russian newspaper Izvestia, said that the “Kremlin accepted that Col Gaddafi had no political future and that his family would have to relinquish its vice-like grip on the Libyan economy.” He also said that “It is quite possible to solve the situation without the colonel.”

Loss of international recognition

In connection with the Libyan uprising, Gaddafi’s attempts to influence public opinion in Europe and the United States came under increased scrutiny. Since the beginning of the 2011 conflict a number of countries pushed for the international isolation of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya. On 15 July 2011, at a meeting in Istanbul, more than 30 governments recognised the Transitional National Council (TNC) as the legitimate government of Libya.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, “The United States views the Gaddafi regime as no longer having any legitimate authority in Libya … And so I am announcing today that, until an interim authority is in place, the United States will recognize the TNC as the legitimate governing authority for Libya, and we will deal with it on that basis.” Gaddafi responded to the announcement with a speech on Libyan national television, in which he said “Trample on those recognitions, trample on them under your feet … They are worthless”.

On 25 August 2011, with most of Tripoli having fallen out of Gaddafi’s control, the Arab League proclaimed the anti-Gaddafi National Transitional Council to be “the legitimate representative of the Libyan state”, on which basis Libya would resume its membership of the League.

Battle of Tripoli

During the Battle of Tripoli, Gaddafi lost effective political and military control of Tripoli after his compound had been captured by Rebel forces. Rebel forces entered Green Square in the city center, tearing down posters of Gaddafi and flying flags of the rebellion. As of 27 August 2011 his location was unknown, but it is has been alleged that he fled to Zimbabwe. He continued to give addresses through radio, calling upon his supporters to crush the rebels.

The capture of Tripoli led to several discoveries about Gaddafi. On 24 August 2011, after the capture of his stronghold of Bab al-Aziziya by loyalist forces, a photo album filled with pages of pictures of Condoleezza Rice was discovered inside the compound; the discovery was confirmed by an AP reporter, though it could not be confirmed that the album had actually belonged to Gaddafi. In a 2007 television interview, Gaddafi had previously praised Rice, saying “I support my darling black African woman. I admire and am very proud of the way she leans back and gives orders to the Arab leaders… Leezza, Leezza, Leezza… I love her very much.” During Rice’s visit to Libya as Secretary of State, the wealthy Gaddafi showered her with gifts, including a diamond ring in a wood box, a locket with his photograph and a DVD with a musical instrument, with a total value of $212,225 (2008 value). During the visit, Gaddafi also showed the photo album to Rice, who described it then as “not standard diplomatic practice.”

In September, an underground chamber was discovered beneath Tripoli’s Al Fatah University, the largest university in the city, containing (among other things) a bedroom, a Jacuzzi, and a fully equipped gynecological operating chamber. Only Gaddafi and his top associates had been allowed access to it in the past. In the 1980′s, several students were hanged in public on the university campus premises. On at least one of these occasions, young high school students were brought by the bus loads to witness the hanging. The victims were typically accused of pursuing activities against the Al Fatah Revolution and the Libyan People.

Capture and death

On 20 October 2011, a National Transitional Council (NTC) official told Al Jazeera that Gaddafi had been captured that morning by Libyan forces near his hometown of Sirte, in a tunnel west of the town (lat long: N 31.195614 E 16.521364 ). He had been in a convoy of vehicles that was targeted by a French air strike on a road about 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) west of Sirte, killing dozens of loyalist fighters. Gaddafi survived but was wounded and took refuge with several of his bodyguards in a drain underneath the road west of the city. NTC fighters found the group and took Gaddafi prisoner. Shortly afterwards, he was shot dead. An NTC spokesman told Sky News that Gaddafi’s body was being flown to Misrata.

Libya’s Prime Minister and several NTC figures have confirmed Gaddafi’s death, caused by wounds suffered during his capture. Al Jazeera aired a graphic video claiming to be of Gaddafi’s bloodied body after capture.



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