Al-Ahram Weekly Online   1 - 7 March 2012
Issue No. 1087
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Gamal Nkrumah

Libya's apocalyptic slough

Khamis Gaddafi is miraculously resuscitated and the Libyan political engine is spluttering away, recollects Gamal Nkrumah

Libyans politically remain poles apart a year after the 17 February Revolution that led to the ouster of the regime of Muammar Gaddafi and brought to an end the 42-year rule of Libya's strongman, and in turn he was brutally murdered in his hometown of Sirte. Libya's new leaders are not entirely sanguine. Amid the political vacuum, they are worried about the general state of inquietude and insecurity as well as widespread political disgruntlement. Sheikh Sadiq Al-Ghariyani, head of Al-Ifta (religious edicts) Council of Libya and the highest Sunni Muslim authority in the land, urged fighters to return to "normal" civilian lifestyles.

The Chairman of Libya's National Transitional Council (NTC) Mustafa Abdel-Jalil urged the fighters who took part in the elimination of Gaddafi and his henchmen to hand over their weapons to the official security apparatus that the NTC is trying to construct out of the ashes of Gaddafi's battlefronts. For instance, the militias of the western mountain stronghold Zintan claimed to have captured members of Gaddafi loyalists associated with the underground movement called the Green Resistance.

It is against this gruesome backdrop that news of the reappearance and recapture of Khamis Gaddafi, a son of the late Libyan leader and head of the once dreaded Khamis Brigade filtered through Tripoli's grapevine. Back from the dead Khamis is a deadly foe. Abdel-Jalil promptly dismissed the rumour. The stage is set for a scenario more nightmarish than the Apocalypse.

"We are now in dialogue with the elders of Bani Walid [a pro-Gaddafi city south of Tripoli] to surrender the pro-Gaddafi elements. If they failed to do so, force will be used to arrest them in future," Abdel-Jalil disclosed recently.

Even hawks must agree that uncertainty does nothing good for the political stability of the country. However, Abdel-Jalil was forthright and his tone uncompromising. "The revolutionaries will hit pro-Gaddafi elements with an iron fist," Abdel-Jalil warned in no uncertain manner.

Abdel-Jalil also cautioned Libya's neighbours not to harbour renegades of the Gaddafi regime, a plea that Libya's neighbours took with a pinch of salt.

"Libya will not forgive any state that provides safe haven to pre-Gaddafi criminals and must immediately hand them over to face trial," Abdel-Aziz threatened. He was presumably referring to demands to extradite senior figures in the Gaddafi regime in Tunisia, Algeria and Niger. None of Libya's neighbours has handed top officials in the Gaddafi regime, and regard the NTC as something of a paper tiger.

The NTC also this week announced that they captured Abdallah Al-Senoussi, Gaddafi's former intelligence chief and brother-in-law, in the south of the country. However, the news of Al-Senoussi's detention has not been verified. Indeed, he was supposed like Khamis to have been captured and killed last year.

The other disquieting item on the NTC's agenda is to discuss massive government spending on social welfare and economic infrastructure. Tensions are being exacerbated by financial crises, even though Libya is potentially one of the Mediterranean region's wealthiest nations. Regional disparities of income and development have created rivalries between cities that were regarded pro-Gaddafi and anti-Gaddafi. The conflicts of interest between the various militias are reflected in tensions within the NTC itself.

"The people haven't even been paid their salaries for the past five months, and that is not fair it should be given top priority," a Cairo-based Libyan pro-Gaddafi stalwart speaking on condition of anonymity told Al-Ahram Weekly.

Not all members of the NTC see eye-to-eye on policy. Key members of the NTC are in favour of tough spending curbs. "I cannot accept to be a puppet," Libyan Finance Minister Hassan Mukhtar Zaqlam openly declared his displeasure with the turn of events. "Funds are being siphoned out of the country," Zaqlam told reporters in Tripoli.

"The Central Bank of Libya has been asked by the NTC to release funds for families regarded as victims of the civil war that led to the ouster of Gaddafi. Many Libyans believe that the so-called NTC gift of $1,450 for each family is insufficient, especially in light of the fact that the Gaddafi regime had pledged to donate annual sums to the victims of the civil war. The NTC offers compare poorly with the $4,000 annually per one family offered by Gaddafi at the beginning of the fighting last year that has intensified resentment among the population at large.

The Green Resistance has metamorphosed into a movement encompassing many disfranchised elements of Libyan society. The Green Resistance has also emerged as a regional phenomenon dragging in neighbouring countries with the proliferation of arms and ammunition across the Sahelian and Sahara regions of Africa.

Unrest among the Tuareg people in northern Mali -- most of the activists are former Gaddafi fighters and mercenaries -- has led to a struggle for an independent political entity in the northern reaches of Mali, namely Azouad. The prospect of an independent militant Islamist new nation in the midst of the Sahara is unsettling as far as the countries of the region are concerned. Western powers are also sucked into the Saharan conflict.

French Foreign Minister Allain Juppé paid a visit to Mali to meet with President Amadou Toumani Touré and discuss the Tuareg rebellion. Another nation that has unwittingly found itself embroiled in the conflict is impoverished Niger where refugees from neighbouring Mali have crossed the border to seek relative safety in Niger. And yet another of Gaddafi's sons, Saadi, was granted political asylum on humanitarian grounds in Niger.

Unlike his older brother Seif Al-Islam, Khamis is not wanted for crimes against humanity by the International Constitutional Court based in The Hague, Netherlands. The authorities in Niger have refused to hand over Saadi in spite of repeated calls for them to do so. Libyans demonstrated in front of the embassy of Niger in Tripoli demanding Saadi's immediate extradition.

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