The revolutionary who turned mad and bad, has, after eight months been stopped in his tracks – literally. Everyday Libyan citizens who fought for freedom from tyranny, now have their chance. Their challenges however, are massive
The guys who went to war in their family cars have won. They have liberated Libya, with a good deal of NATO help, and are their nation’s heroes.
This liberating force will surely want a say in what happens now, but first a billion or so bullets will be shot into the air in celebration, as has become de rigueur in the Arab world revolutionary celebrations.
After that ritual, this liberated nation will have to turn to the massive task of building the institutional necessities of a state from the threads of an infrastructure deliberately unpicked by Qaddafi over the last 42 years.
He vowed to die in Libya, so at least he can be finally said to have kept his word on something. No wonder there was such a fierce defence of Sirte. It was to protect a despot who had to be dragged from a culvert on the side of the road. Not quite the hidey-hole in Saddam Hussein style, but not far from it. Finally, he and his mob of a family and protectors had run out of food, water and bullets, and in fleeing the city ran out of luck and time.
That Qaddafi is dead will be a relief to a good number of world figures who became cloyingly close to this delusional African strongman...Tony Blair, Silvio Berlusconi spring immediately to mind for various reasons.
A trial could have put into play many of the pieces of his brutal secretive and corrupt regime. A trial could equally descend into a farce...if it even got off the ground, and after 42 years the Libyans are well and truly sick of Qaddafi and probably don’t need a court to prove to them his crimes or his guilt. Perhaps a couple of the key sons will be captured alive so they can join the Mubarak boys on the appropriate side of a court room. If any of them are alive, I bet the image of a cage inside a court haunts them.
Once the euphoria across Libya has settled a little, Libyans will face a challenge in resisting the impulse to look back, conduct a witch hunt and exact revenge. It will take some fortitude to focus on the main point that the man who kept the slaughter going so as to protect the corruption and privilege of his own clan, is a gonner. That is not to dismiss the problem of what to do with the Qaddafi supporters who are now captured or yet to be.
Qaddafi’s legacy is a disaster.
His ridiculous Green Book which promoted rule by the masses for the masses was a farce, as was his Mao-like cultural revolution which just destroyed those who dared dissent, catapulted the country back in time, and cost an unknown number of lives.
Health, education, jobs and an independent judicial system would be a good start to a promising future.
There will also be much required to reconstruct the actual buildings, and given the way once picturesque towns like Sirte have been physically devestated in the war, it is just as well there is a vast financial reserve from oil sales that is no longer the personal bank account of the Qaddafi clan.
No more personalised Qaddafi pistols fashioned in gold while Libyan people live on about $2 a day and face unemployment rates of about 40%.
Qaddafi was 27 when he took over Libya – about the age of many of the men who have been hunting him down. He was a self-styled revolutionary that turned bad, was delusional and duplicitous and curried intense loyalty amongst some by paying them. Some loyalty. He was finished off by a new generation of revolutionaries – the very people Qaddafi had recently labelled drugged-up rats and cockroaches.
From the graphic footage that is now available of his capture, it would be fair to say, like any bully, he was terrified of his fate at the hands of those who cornered him.
He didn’t have to wait too long to add his name to the honour roll of deserving recipients of the old live-by-the-sword adage.
It is predictable that there will now be a general sort of unease in foreign capitals around the region and the world as to what will constitute the next Libyan government – after all this is an Islamist nation that is very conservative. Will it be Islamist, secular, democratic or a mix in recognition of the many competing backgrounds of any society.
The new Libya is highly unlikely to repeat Iran’s theocratic folly. Perhaps more of the Turkish model will suit the Libyans.
A new Libya will also have to accommodate the strong and competitive tribal structure endemic to Libyan culture and society, and built as a necessary foil to Qaddafi’s oppressive central apparatus with its very long reach.
In the meantime, those everyday guys – the bus drivers, taxi drivers, doctors, teachers, students and of course the unemployed, have to surrender their weapons and go back to their old lives.
For eight months they have put their lives on the line, and paid heavily in the process.
Retreating from the ‘thrill’ (and I use that word advisedly) of participating in the liberation of your own nation is likely to present a formidable challenge, as if they didn’t have enough to worry about.