Greatest Africans: Muammar Gaddafi


By Joburg Post

Muammar Gaddafi was born in a tent near Qasr Abu Hadi, a rural area outside the town of Sirte in the deserts of western Libya. His family came from a small, relatively uninfluential tribal group called the Qadhadhfa, who were Arabized Berber in heritage. His mother was named Aisha (died 1978), and his father, Mohammad Abdul Salam bin Hamed bin Mohammad, was known as Abu Meniar (died 1985) and earned a meager subsistence as a goat and camel herder. Nomadic Bedouins, they were illiterate and kept no birth records. As such, Gaddafi's date of birth is not known with certainty, and sources have set it in 1942 or in the spring of 1943, although his biographers David Blundy and Andrew Lycett noted that it could have been pre-1940. His parents' only surviving son, he had three older sisters. 

Gaddafi's upbringing in Bedouin culture influenced his personal tastes for the rest of his life. He repeatedly expressed a preference for the desert over the city and retreated to the desert to meditate. From childhood, Gaddafi was aware of the involvement of European colonialists in Libya; his nation was occupied by Italy, and during the North African Campaign of World War II it witnessed conflict between Italian and British troops. According to later claims, Gaddafi's paternal grandfather, Abdessalam Bouminyar, was killed by the Italian Army during the Italian invasion of 1911. At World War II's end in 1945, Libya was occupied by British and French forces. 

Although Britain and France intended on dividing the nation between their empires, the General Assembly of the United Nations (UN) declared that the country be granted political independence. In 1951, the UN created the United Kingdom of Libya, a federal state under the leadership of a pro-western monarch, Idris, who banned political parties and established an absolute monarchy. Muammar Mohammed Abu Minyar Gaddafi. About this sound audio c. 1942 – 20 October 2011), commonly known as Colonel Gaddafi, was a Libyan revolutionary, politician, and political theorist. He governed Libya as Revolutionary Chairman of the Libyan Arab Republic from 1969 to 1977 and then as the "Brotherly Leader" of the Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya from 1977 to 2011. He was initially ideologically committed to Arab nationalism and Arab socialism, but he came to rule according to his own Third International Theory before embracing Pan-Africanism. 

Political leadership
 
Gaddafi was the son of an impoverished Bedouin goat herder. He became involved in politics while at school in Sabha, subsequently enrolling in the Royal Military Academy, Benghazi. He founded a revolutionary cell within the military; in 1969, they seized power from the absolute monarchy of King Idris in a bloodless coup. Gaddafi became Chairman of the governing Revolutionary Command Council (RCC); he then abolished the monarchy and proclaimed the Republic, ruling by decree. He implemented measures to remove what he viewed as foreign imperialist influence from Libya, and strengthened ties to Arab nationalist governments. He was intent on pushing Libya towards "Islamic socialism", introducing sharia as the basis for the legal system and nationalising the oil industry, using the increased revenues to bolster the military, implement social programs, and fund revolutionary militants across the world. 

In 1973, he initiated a "Popular Revolution" with the formation of General People's Committees (GPCs), purported to be a system of direct democracy, but retained personal control over major decisions. He outlined his Third International Theory that year, publishing these ideas in The Green Book. In 1977, Gaddafi dissolved the Republic and created a new socialist state called the Jamahiriya ("state of the masses"), officially adopting a symbolic role in governance. He retained power as military commander-in-chief and head of the Revolutionary Committees responsible for policing and suppressing opponents. He oversaw unsuccessful border conflicts with Egypt and Chad, and his support for foreign militants and alleged responsibility for the Lockerbie bombing led to Libya's label of "international pariah". A particularly hostile relationship developed with the United States and United Kingdom, resulting in the 1986 U.S. bombing of Libya and United Nations-imposed economic sanctions. 

Gaddafi rejected his earlier ideological commitments and encouraged economic privatisation from 1999, seeking rapprochement with Western nations while also embracing Pan-Africanism and serving as Chairperson of the African Union from 2009–10. Amid the Arab Spring in 2011, an anti-Gaddafist uprising broke out, led by the National Transitional Council (NTC) and resulting in the Libyan Civil War. NATO intervened militarily on the side of the NTC, bringing about the government's downfall. Retreating to Sirte, Gaddafi was captured and killed by NTC militants. Gaddafi was a controversial and highly divisive world figure. He dominated Libya's politics for four decades and was the subject of a pervasive cult of personality. Supporters lauded his anti-imperialist stance and his support for Pan-Africanism and Pan-Arabism, and he was decorated with various awards. Conversely, he was internationally condemned as a dictator and autocrat whose authoritarian administration violated the human rights of Libyan citizens; he supported irredentist movements, tribal warfare, and terrorism in many other nations. 


Education and political activism: 1950–63
 
Gaddafi's earliest education was of a religious nature, imparted by a local Islamic teacher. Subsequently moving to nearby Sirte to attend elementary school, he progressed through six grades in four years. Education in Libya was not free, but his father thought it would greatly benefit his son despite the financial strain. During the week Gaddafi slept in a mosque, and at weekends walked 20 miles to visit his parents. Bullied for being a Bedouin, he was proud of his identity and encouraged pride in other Bedouin children. From Sirte, he and his family moved to the market town of Sabha in Fezzan, south-central Libya, where his father worked as a caretaker for a tribal leader while Muammar attended secondary school, something neither parent had done. 

Gaddafi was popular at school; some friends made there received significant jobs in his later administration, most notably his best friend Abdul Salam Jalloud. Many teachers at Sabha were Egyptian, and for the first time Gaddafi had access to pan-Arab newspapers and radio broadcasts, most notably the Cairo-based Voice of the Arabs. Growing up, Gaddafi witnessed significant events rock the Arab world, including the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, the Egyptian Revolution of 1952, the Suez Crisis of 1956, and the short-lived existence of the United Arab Republic between 1958 and 1961. Gaddafi admired the political changes implemented in the Arab Republic of Egypt under his hero, President Gamal Abdel Nasser. Nasser argued for Arab nationalism; the rejection of Western colonialism, neo-colonialism, and Zionism; and a transition from capitalism to socialism. Nasser's book, Philosophy of the Revolution, was a key influence on Gaddafi; outlining how to initiate a coup, it has been described as "the inspiration and blueprint of [Gaddafi's] revolution." Gaddafi organised demonstrations and distributed posters criticising the monarchy. 

In October 1961, he led a demonstration protesting Syria's secession from the United Arab Republic. During this they broke windows of a local hotel accused of serving alcohol. Catching the authorities' attention, they expelled his family from Sabha. Gaddafi moved to Misrata, there attending Misrata Secondary School.[30] Maintaining his interest in Arab nationalist activism, he refused to join any of the banned political parties active in the city – including the Arab Nationalist Movement, the Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party, and the Muslim Brotherhood – claiming he rejected factionalism. He read voraciously on the subjects of Nasser and the French Revolution of 1789, as well as the works of Syrian political theorist Michel Aflaq and biographies of Abraham Lincoln, Sun Yat-sen, and Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. With a group of loyal cadres, in 1964 Gaddafi founded the Central Committee of the Free Officers Movement, a revolutionary group named after Nasser's Egyptian predecessor. Led by Gaddafi, they met clandestinely and were organised into a clandestine cell system, offering their salaries into a single fund. Gaddafi travelled around Libya gathering intelligence and developing connections with sympathisers, but the government's intelligence services ignored him, considering him little threat. 

Graduating in August 1965, Gaddafi became a communications officer in the army's signal corps. In April 1966, he was assigned to the United Kingdom for further training; over 9 months he underwent an English-language course at Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, an Army Air Corps signal instructors course in Bovington Camp, Dorset, and an infantry signal instructors course at Hythe, Kent. Despite later rumours to the contrary, he did not attend the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. The Bovington signal course's director reported that Gaddafi successfully overcame problems learning English, displaying a firm command of voice procedure. Noting that Gaddafi's favourite hobbies were reading and playing football, he thought him an "amusing officer, always cheerful, hard-working, and conscientious." Gaddafi disliked England, claiming British Army officers racially insulted him and finding it difficult adjusting to the country's culture; asserting his Arab identity in London, he walked around Piccadilly wearing traditional Libyan robes. He later related that while he travelled to England believing it more advanced than Libya, he returned home "more confident and proud of our values, ideals and social character." 


Military training: 1963–66
 
Gaddafi briefly studied History at the University of Libya in Benghazi, before dropping out to join the military. Despite his police record, in 1963 he began training at the Royal Military Academy, Benghazi, alongside several like-minded friends from Misrata. The armed forces offered the only opportunity for upward social mobility for underprivileged Libyans, and Gaddafi recognised it as a potential instrument of political change. Under Idris, Libya's armed forces were trained by the British military; this angered Gaddafi, who viewed the British as imperialists, and accordingly he refused to learn English and was rude to the British officers, ultimately failing his exams. British trainers reported him for insubordination and abusive behaviour, stating their suspicion that he was involved in the assassination of the military academy's commander in 1963. Such reports were ignored and Gaddafi quickly progressed through the course. 


Legacy

His crime was Gaddafism: an ideology advocating a strong, united Africa, which prioritised the interests of the indigenous masses over the interests of the foreign corporate bourgeoisie. Muammar Gaddafi inherited one of the poorest nations in Africa; however, by the time he was assassinated, Gaddafism had turned Libya into Africa’s most prosperous nation. Libya had the highest GDP per capita and highest life expectancy in Africa. Less people lived below the poverty line than in the Netherlands. After Nato’s invasion in 2011, Libya’s economy is now in shambles. As the government’s control slips through their fingers and into to the militia fighters’ hands, oil production has all but stopped.

The fall of Gaddafi’s administration has precipitated all of the country’s worst-case scenarios: the rise of Islamists’ power, tribal massacres, genocide of black Libyans, an economy on the verge of collapse, and the concentration of oil profits in the hands of corrupt, well-connected elites. A central pillar of Gaddafism was the equal distribution of wealth and oil profits. Prior to Colonel Gaddafi, King Idriss let Standard Oil essentially write Libya’s petroleum laws. Gaddafi silenced these corrupt, foreign voices. The redistribution of oil money meant that these profits were deposited directly into every Libyan citizen’s bank account. Nowadays, the new Nato backed regime in Libya has granted Exxon Mobil and British Petroleum hefty oil concessions. Unsurprisingly, neither company appears too inclined to continue dishing out money to every Libyan. History, once again, circles back around to favour foreign corporations over citizens. Libya’s oil output has plummeted from 1.4 million barrels per day, a matter of months ago, to only 160 000 barrels per day. As the new government continues to lose control of large parts of the country, black market oil sales are skyrocketing. Libya’s prime minister has even threatened to “bomb from the air and the sea” any oil tanker trying to pick up black market oil.

For over 40 years, Gaddafism promoted economic democracy and used the nationalised oil wealth to sustain progressive social welfare programmes for all Libyans. Under Gaddafi’s rule, Libyans enjoyed not only free health care and free education, but also free electricity and interest-free loans. The International Monetary Fund is currently shredding Gaddafi’s progressive social safety nets. The IMF team, which helped the Libyan finance ministry craft its annual budget, has raised a “red flag’’ surrounding these programs. The IMF called these programmes “unsustainable pervasive discretionary subsidies.” Again, we see history circling around to secure Western power, while weakening the local populace. Another pillar of Gaddafism was the championing of women’s rights. Unlike many other Arab nations, women in Libya had the right to education, hold jobs, divorce, hold property and have an income. The United Nations Human Rights Council praised Gaddafi for his promotion of women’s rights. When Colonel Gaddafi seized power in 1969, few women went to university.

Today, more than half of Libya’s university students are women. One of the first laws Gaddafi passed in 1970 was an equal pay for equal work law. Nowadays, the new “democratic” Libyan regime is clamping down on women’s rights. Immediately after Gaddafi’s fall, Libya’s new leader, Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, declared invalid all laws not conforming to Shariah, and vowed to end limits on polygamy. With Gaddafi assassinated, the strongly patriarchal, tribal warlords and their militias have largely taken his place. The central government in Libya is weak and, under the present conditions, has little chance of controlling them. Islamist militiamen have grown more aggressive in unilaterally imposing their own strict rules on women. Just recently, a renowned Libyan poet and University lecturer, Aicha Almagrabi, was stopped and beaten by militiamen. Her offense: being alone in a car with men without a male relative as a guardian. One can only imagine what countless other women are enduring in the new “democratic” Libya. Despite Libya being a small nation, Mr Gaddafi paid one quarter of the African Union’s bills. Now the African Union has been reduced to begging the European Union for funds to keep the lights on. By losing Gaddafi, Africa may also have lost Libya. Africans, who supported the intervention in Libya, now have a similar look on their faces as the Arabs who supported the intervention in Iraq.

Perhaps, Gaddafi’s greatest crime, in the eyes of Nato, was his desire for a strong and United States of Africa. In fact, in August 2011, President Obama confiscated US$30 billion from Libya’s Central Bank, which Gaddafi had earmarked for the establishment of the African IMF and African Central Bank. Over the last decade, while China’s investment in Africa has risen 10-fold, America has used the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) to establish 10 new military bases on the continent. While China invests in free trade, America tightens its military control. We should all agree that Africa does not need more guns and soldiers; however, the one thing America still forces upon Africa is more guns and soldiers. Col Gaddafi stood as a major obstacle to Washington’s military expansion on the continent. Any African government that America offered money to host Africom, Gaddafi would offer double that amount, in order to facilitate their refusal. In stark contrast, the new regime in Libya has recently expressed interest in hosting a new US military base. Of course for Africom, it was a mission well accomplished. The objective was not to help the Libyan people, who had the highest standard of living in Africa, but to oust Gaddafi, install a Western-controlled central bank, and gain control of Libya’s natural resources. Perhaps, the greatest legacy of Gaddafi’s life was the manner of his death. He did not look for a sacrificial lamb, but instead chose to be one himself.

As Caesar Zvayi once remarked, “while Muammar Gaddafi may lie in an unmarked grave in the desert somewhere, he lives on in the hearts and minds of progressive Libyans and Africans”. Another pillar of Gaddafism was the championing of women’s rights. Unlike many other Arab nations, women in Libya had the right to education, hold jobs, divorce, hold property and have an income. The United Nations Human Rights Council praised Gaddafi for his promotion of women’s rights. When Colonel Gaddafi seized power in 1969, few women went to university. Today, more than half of Libya’s university students are women. One of the first laws Gaddafi passed in 1970 was an equal pay for equal work law. Nowadays, the new “democratic” Libyan regime is clamping down on women’s rights. Immediately after Gaddafi’s fall, Libya’s new leader, Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, declared invalid all laws not conforming to Shariah, and vowed to end limits on polygamy. With Gaddafi assassinated, the strongly patriarchal, tribal warlords and their militias have largely taken his place.

The central government in Libya is weak and, under the present conditions, has little chance of controlling them. Islamist militiamen have grown more aggressive in unilaterally imposing their own strict rules on women. Just recently, a renowned Libyan poet and University lecturer, Aicha Almagrabi, was stopped and beaten by militiamen. Her offense: being alone in a car with men without a male relative as a guardian. One can only imagine what countless other women are enduring in the new “democratic” Libya. Despite Libya being a small nation, Mr Gaddafi paid one quarter of the African Union’s bills. Now the African Union has been reduced to begging the European Union for funds to keep the lights on. By losing Gaddafi, Africa may also have lost Libya. Africans, who supported the intervention in Libya, now have a similar look on their faces as the Arabs who supported the intervention in Iraq. Perhaps, Gaddafi’s greatest crime, in the eyes of Nato, was his desire for a strong and United States of Africa. In fact, in August 2011, President Obama confiscated US$30 billion from Libya’s Central Bank, which Gaddafi had earmarked for the establishment of the African IMF and African Central Bank.

Colonel Gaddafi: Libyan revolutionary, politician, and political theorist.


Over the last decade, while China’s investment in Africa has risen 10-fold, America has used the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) to establish 10 new military bases on the continent. While China invests in free trade, America tightens its military control. We should all agree that Africa does not need more guns and soldiers; however, the one thing America still forces upon Africa is more guns and soldiers. Col Gaddafi stood as a major obstacle to Washington’s military expansion on the continent. Any African government that America offered money to host Africom, Gaddafi would offer double that amount, in order to facilitate their refusal. In stark contrast, the new regime in Libya has recently expressed interest in hosting a new US military base. Of course for Africom, it was a mission well accomplished. The objective was not to help the Libyan people, who had the highest standard of living in Africa, but to oust Gaddafi, install a Western-controlled central bank, and gain control of Libya’s natural resources. Perhaps, the greatest legacy of Gaddafi’s life was the manner of his death. He did not look for a sacrificial lamb, but instead chose to be one himself. As Caesar Zvayi once remarked, 
“while Muammar Gaddafi may lie in an unmarked grave in the desert somewhere, he lives on in the hearts and minds of progressive Libyans and Africans”. 



-JP

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