Was Gaddafi Really That Cruel?

We’ve all heard of Muammar Al-Gaddafi or Col. Gaddafi, who ruled over Libya for more than forty years. With admiration for his role model- Gamal Abdel Nasser- and an enthusiasm to change things for the better, Gaddafi came to power in 1969 at the age of 27. His dictatorship, widely quoted as “quixotic and brutal”, is still remembered by the Westerners as a dreadful time. He supported radical and violent groups, did not believe in the freedom of expression and was blamed for the Lockerbie bombing. Despite this, can we still argue that Col. Gaddafi was a good leader?

Gaddafi was strictly against foreign domination over national property. Libya had rich oil resources, but all of these were owned by foreign companies. He made it a point to re-negotiate the ownership of these oil reserves and threatened to stop production if terms weren’t agreed to. He also set the prices of oil so that they were beneficial to the rightful citizens of Libya. This also enabled them to earn a fair share of the revenue that the oil reserves generated. Soon, Libya’s oil production matched that of the Gulf states. With the added benefit of having a small population, it became supremely rich in black gold reserves.

“Libya was also one of the biggest contributors to the budget of the African Union, the 53-country body which is supposed to function along the lines of the EU”. A senior Libyan diplomat said that, “Libya was one of five countries – with Algeria, Egypt, Nigeria and South Africa – which covered 75 percent of the union’s budget.”

Given the dry and water- scarce conditions of the region, Gaddafi undertook the world’s largest irrigation project, known as the “Great Man-Made River project”, to make water a readily available resource to its people so as to undertake various activities.

Col. Gaddafi had humble beginnings as he was born into a poor Bedouin family in 1942. This led him to realise that welfare and basic livelihood was necessary for all. Thus, he stood by the political philosophy of “government of the masses”. One of his major mass welfare policies was declaring “homes as a human right in Libya” and “providing free electricity to all its citizens”.

Education and health were also given prime importance during his regime. It is believed that before Gaddafi came to power, the literacy rate was only 25%. However, after the implementation of his policies, this figure rose to being as high as 83%. Not only were educational and health facilities free in Libya, the government provided additional benefits as well. For citizens who couldn’t find the facilities they needed in their home country, the government funded them and granted allowances so as to study/avail health care facilities abroad.

Gaddafi also tried to protect people’s sources of income and livelihood. If, under any circumstance, a Libyan wasn’t able to secure a job after graduation, he was paid the average salary of a profession till he secured an actual job. In fact, a portion of Libyan oil sales was directly credited to the bank accounts of all citizens. If Libyans wanted to take up farming, they received land, a farm house, equipment, seeds and livestock – all for free.

However, the westerners (particularly the United States) have always eyed the oil-rich states in the Middle East. The US has repetitively used its tactic of being the “harbinger of democracy” for “politically unstable nations”. While the US built a facade of being the saviour of the oppressed people under a dictatorship, people undermined the benefits they availed under Gaddafi’s rule. Therefore, they automatically fell prey to what Gaddafi feared the most— foreign domination and interference — bringing his long drawn tenure as a leader to a halt. He met his ignominious and grisly end, when NTC forces found him hiding in a tunnel following a NATO air strike on his convoy as he tried to make a break from his last stronghold in the city of Sirte.

While the west celebrated the end of a 42 year long misrule, the question still remains of whether Libyans were robbed of proper justice or not.

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Do your research before writing
Do your research before writing
2 years ago

1. Gaddafi favored his home region of Tripolitania (Qadhadhfa) in distributing oil revenues. He literally took resources from the oil-rich east and used it to enrich his own factions. 2. Libya was not a huge contributor to the AU. Refer to AU budget breakdown archives (primary source) instead of some regime official’s quote (non trustworthy secondary source). 3. His policy of “government for the masses” *(Jamahiriya) involved dissolving actual local government institutions in favor of local secret police that regulated what citizens could do and say and reported directly to him. 5. Advances in Libya’s education and income are purely propaganda, and are actually statistically BEHIND african countries of its size due to the Qaddafi regime. NATO actions in Libya were not perfect and American involvement in the MENA in highly problematic, but so is romaticising murderous tyrants who stole from their people. Do your research. — Arabic speaker who has worked on and published on North Africa, including Libya

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