Libya and its lost years

Yusuf Awadh Al-Azmi
Years after the Lockerbie crisis in which Libya was implicated, several international bodies attempted to contain the crisis and set up effective solutions for ensuring an acceptable end. This was after charges were officially leveled against Libya’s regime for bombing down Pan-Am Flight 103 on the skies of Lockerbie, Scotland, which was a catastrophe unprecedented in modern history.

I remember one of the initiatives that were pioneered by the United Nations Secretary General at that time Javier Pérez de Cuéllar, who visited Tripoli several times with the aim of finding solutions, especially after the delay by Libya in taking responsibility for this horrific crime.

The regime, which was led by the late Colonel Muammar Al-Gaddafi, had the same governing structure that most of the countries apply apart from the populace rule, which Gaddafi claimed to be the rule of law in Libya where people rule through conventions and committees with the difference being in just the titles.

In short, Colonel Gaddafi did not see himself as the leader. He did not consider himself as the leader of the people of Libya. Instead, he saw himself as a strongman who does not possess the power to take decisions but that the decisions were in the hands of Libyans, when in reality, even a small boy in Libya knew that everything was in the hands of Colonel Gaddafi.

Back to the story of Javier Pérez de Cuéllar, who had set several appointments to meet the Libyan officials, but all such efforts were not fruitful. The only person who could have an effective word on the issue was Gaddafi, who continued to claim that the decision is in the hands of the people and not with him.

The day when Cuellar finally managed to meet Colonel Gaddafi and after the pompous reception he received, he was amazed by how Gaddafi agreed to everything he said. It even would have appeared as though Cuellar will score the solution without using any of the artilleries he had armed himself with in order to deal with the situation if Gaddafi had disputed on any of the points listed in the agenda concerning the Lockerbie incident.

Given that the world was waiting for this issue to be solved, and that the solution seemed to be just around the corner waiting for the end of the meeting and the announcement of the decision, Colonel Gaddafi shocked the UN Secretary General by telling him, “I totally agree with everything you have said, but the decision is not in my hands”. He said the authority is for the people and he is only managing the people but they are the ones with the final say.

The UN Secretary General effortlessly attempted to make Gaddafi realize the magnitude of the issue and convince him that only Gaddafi can settle this issue. However, all he received was hidden mockery without any actual display of effort to reason about the situation.

After the fall of Saddam Hussein, Colonel Gaddafi suddenly gave in to almost all provisions that would lead to the solving of the Lockerbie crisis, including payment of unprecedentedly huge compensations to the victims. It seemed as though Gaddafi felt he will be next after the fall of Sadaam.

Gaddafi’s preemptive moves to compensate the Lockerbie victims did not come of any help to him. In fact, it paved way for his fall in February 2011 after 40 years in power, becoming the first victim of the so-called “Arab Spring”.

The Gaddafi-Lockerbie story teaches us one important lesson – Despite the structure you choose to rule your country, the titles you give yourself and your governing structure do not mean much as far as the international community is concerned. Such titles can only dupe the populace.

Gaddafi is no more; his regime is way gone; his country is completely destroyed because of foolish and cheap politics which was based on interference in the affairs of other countries, conspiracies and support of terrorism.

I wish stability in politics, security and economy for the new Libya. It deserves stability and its people deserve the best after what they have lost between political feuds and war. I don’t know until when Libya will continue to lose itself and to what level the situation will go.

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By Yousef Awadh Al-Azmi