Thursday, June 30, 2011

Gaddafi Has Overstayed His Welcome

 His unconditional ouster is critical for Libyans to devote themselves to the challenging task of nation-building
 By Joseph A. Kechichian
It took the presiding International Criminal Court (ICC) judge, Sanji Monageng of Botswana, a mere 30 minutes to conclude that there were "reasonable grounds" to issue arrest warrants for Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, his son Saif Al Islam, and his chief of intelligence, Abdullah Al Senussi.
The charges were ominous, of the ‘crimes against humanity' variety, which included inter alia murder and persecution. Confronted by relentless military attacks, and slowly running out of fuel and food, the lopsided stalemate created by confused Nato commanders will not last.
If Gaddafi is not killed by one of the many bombing raids that target him on a daily basis, chances are excellent that he will either flee Tripoli, or be unceremoniously apprehended. Moreover, and while the ICC issued a similar warrant three years ago for the Sudanese President Omar Al Bashir, critics should not conclude that Gaddafi will escape and enjoy presidential trappings like the Khartoum resident who, and this much needs to be underscored, is about to lose half of his country.
Both Charles G. Taylor of Liberia and Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia were arrested and transferred to The Hague for trial and, if he survives, Gaddafi might join them though probably without his infamous tent.
Ironically, chances are excellent that Gaddafi's next visit to Europe will not be a festive occasion, crowned by lucrative contracts that enriched the morally challenged. Henceforth, few will laugh at his convoluted humour, or cynically admire his female bodyguards. Even fewer will express regret over what might have been for the ‘King of Kings of Africa'.
Yet, because the Libyan was not about to surrender, freedom fighters may have little choice but to capture the three suspects, and extradite them over to the ICC. Of course, this was easier said than done because Gaddafi was determined to hang on and, equally important, because capturing the heavily defended capital cannot be a cakewalk.
Still, there should be little doubt what the final outcome will be, as Libyan freedom fighters gradually transform the Jamahiriya into a far more democratic system.
End of fantasy rule
Incredulously, western officials may doubt that members of the Libyan Interim National Council (LINC) might not be sufficiently committed to basic human rights, as they repeatedly call on chairman Mustafa Mohammad Abdul Jalil and vice-chairman Abdul Hafiz Ghoga to uphold such rights.
Perhaps Jalil, Ghoga and the 11 other LINC members ought not be viewed as Jeffersonian democrats but to conclude that Libya will be mired in inter-tribal conflicts that will last for decades was also wrong. After four decades of fantasy rule that impoverished the vast majority of Libyans, Jalil, Ghoga and others will surely initiate the healing process, which will allow citizens to dream of, and gradually practice, normalcy. Likewise, to say that the Libyan military will play a negative role in the nascent regime, or that LINC will settle on a dictatorial government, might also be premature. While LINC death squads operate in the liberated zones today, one should distinguish between war and post-war conditions, before determining who might do what to whom under extenuating circumstances.
Regrettably, Libyans were denied basic emancipation that prevented them from developing the wherewithal of a relatively free country, where democratic aspirations could be respected.
Like many Arab countries, Tripoli failed to create a strong civil society, or an effective middle class that acted as a wealth engine. Therefore, to conclude that Libya or other Arab countries seldom fathomed democratic traditions was both unfair and untrue. Unfair because such attributes could not see the light of day under dictatorships, and untrue because despite major hurdles in a few countries, entrepreneurship thrived.
Hyper-cultivated and savvy Arabs in Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon and throughout the Gulf states functioned rather well under strict conditions, even if their output could have been exponentially higher if freedom prevailed.
Without predicting the impossible — free and wealthy societies — observers who envisage gloom and doom will look back to the 2011 Arab uprisings with humility. In fact, five or ten years from now, the world will have fewer tyrants ruling with impunity. That is not to say that pseudo-democracy and chaos will be replaced by liberal democratic regimes. Rather, that Arabs will surely enjoy more freedoms than at any other time throughout their long histories.
In the case of Libya, the overthrow of a tyrant who simply forgot to serve his nation will be celebrated for what it was, the happy end of a wasted rulership that gambled on false promises. That is why a ceasefire that will keep Gaddafi in power — to avoid "political chaos and [a] collapse into a kind of warlordism" as anticipated by the Brussels-based International Crisis Group — will not work. Similarly ill-advised "face-saving" schemes will achieve even less especially if Gaddafi were to hand power to one of his sons in any interim unity government.
Gaddafi, whose "all my people love me" declaration was eminently balanced by his mind-boggling assertion that Libyans who did not love him did not deserve to live, will soon be a historical footnote. Only then will Libyans embark on the slog that nation-building tasks require.
-This commentary was published in The GULF NEWS on 30/06/2011
-Dr Joseph A. Kechichian is a commentator and author of several books on Gulf affairs

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