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By Peter Webster
“One man is more concerned with the impression he makes on the rest of mankind, another with the impression the rest of mankind makes on him” – Arthur Schopenhauer
“Everything that glitters is not gold” – Proverb
“A well painted rotten house can also look good, but it is still rotten to the core” – Anon
Oh what short memories we have! There is a video clip shared by Zaineb on SMA circulating in the social media, which paints a pretty picture of Gaddafi’s Libya as a paradise, while totally ignoring its rot.
Libya, with a population of 3 million and huge oil revenues (US$150 billion per annum) which amounted to US$50,000.00 for every man, woman and child in the country every year, was in effect the richest country in the World on a per capita basis. So while Gaddafi can be credited with redistribution of some of its wealth especially to his extended family members, this was miniscule in terms of what should have happened.
The reality was that Gaddafi was unable to withstand the tide of popular feeling that had already swept away his two authoritarian neighbours (Mubarak in Egypt and Ben Ali in Tunisia) in a momentous year (2011) for the Arab world. The news of Gaddafi’s death on October 20, 2012 sparked wild celebrations across Libya because 42 years of his rule and misrule had truly come to a close. Yet the author of this video clip completely ignores these celebrations. If Gaddafi had achieved such great things and created such a paradise in Libya why then was there such a celebration of his death by his own people?
Gaddafi was variously described as unpredictable, eccentric, and maverick and noted for his outrageously blunt rhetoric and unconventional behaviour. In the early 1970s he set out to prove himself a leading political philosopher, developing something called the third universal theory, outlined in his infamous Green Book. The theory claims to solve the contradictions inherent in capitalism and communism (the first and second theories), in order to put the world on a path of political, economic and social revolution, and set oppressed peoples free everywhere.
In fact, this Green Book is little more than a series of fatuous diatribes, and it is bitterly ironic that a text, whose professed objective is to break the shackles imposed by the vested interests dominating political systems, was used instead to subjugate his own people.
The result of Gaddafi’s theory, underlined with absolute intolerance of dissent or alternative voices, ended up eradicating all vestiges of constitutionality, civil society and authentic political participation from Libyan society. So the long-suffering Libyan masses were dragooned into attending popular congresses vested with no power, authority or budgets, with the knowledge that anyone who spoke out of turn and criticised the regime could be carted off to prison.
A set of draconian laws was enacted in the name of upholding security, further undermining Gaddafi’s claim to be a champion of freedom from oppression and dictatorship. Legal penalties included: death for anyone who spread theories aiming to change the constitution; and life imprisonment for disseminating information that tarnished the country’s reputation.
Records abound in Libya of torture, lengthy jail terms without a fair trial, executions and disappearances (extrajudicial killing). Many of Libya’s most educated and qualified citizens chose exile, rather than pay lip service to the lunacy. Why would these Libyans choose exile over the “paradise” espoused by the video if, that is, it was “paradise”.
Unchecked by any of the normal restraints of governance, Gaddafi was able to take his anti-imperialist campaign around the world, funding and supporting (with the Libyan people’s money) militant groups and resistance movements wherever he found them. He also targeted Libyan exiles, dozens of whom were killed by assassins believed to belong to a global Libyan intelligence network.
Gaddafi helped finance the following wars: Libyan-Egyptian war; Ugandan-Tanzanian war; Chadian-Libyan war; First Liberian civil war; Second Congo War; and Ethiopian civil war.
The bombing of Pan-Am flight 103 over the Scottish town of Lockerbie in 1988 was a significant example of this terrorism, causing the deaths of 270 people in the air and on the ground, the worst single act of terrorism ever witnessed in the UK.
Gaddafi’s personal assets that were plundered/stolen from the Libyan people and squirreled away in many countries around the World in his extended families’ names (and now frozen for the Libyan people) amounted to $100s of millions.
Imagine what could have been achieved by a proper Libyan leader!
Round and round we go, like water in a sink-hole vortex!
Peter Webster is a retired Portfolio Manager of the Caribbean Development Bank and a former Senior Agricultural Officer in the Ministry of Agriculture.