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Muammar al-Gaddafi

[guh-dah-fee]
Muammar Abu Minyar al-Gaddafi1 (معمر القذافي ) (born 7 June 1942) also known as Colonel Gaddafi has been the de facto leader of Libya since a 1969 coup. Although Gaddafi holds no public office or title, he is accorded the honorifics "Guide of the First of September Great Revolution of the Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya" or "Brotherly Leader and Guide of the Revolution" in government statements and the official press. He is the fourth longest-serving head of state currently in office and longest-serving head of government.

Early life

Gaddafi was the youngest child born into a peasant family. His father is Mohammed Abdul Salam bin Hamed bin Mohammed Al-Gaddafi (Qadhafi), known as Abu Meniar (died 1985), his mother is Aisha Gaddafi. He grew up in the desert region of Sirte. He was given a traditional religious primary education and attended the Sebha preparatory school in Fezzan from 1956 to 1961. Gaddafi and a small group of friends that he met in this school went on to form the core leadership of a militant revolutionary group that would eventually seize control of the country. Gaddafi's inspiration was Gamal Abdel Nasser, president of neighboring Egypt, who rose to the presidency by appealing to Arab unity. In 1961, Gaddafi was expelled from Sebha for his political activism.

Gaddafi went on to study law at the University of Libya, where he graduated with high grades. He then entered the Military Academy in Benghazi in 1963, where he and a few of his fellow militants organized a secretive group dedicated to overthrowing the pro-Western Libyan monarchy. After graduating in 1965, he was sent to Britain for further training at the British Army Staff College, now the Joint Services Command and Staff College, returning in 1966 as a commissioned officer in the Signal Corps.

Military coup d'état

On September 1, 1969, a small group of military officers led by Gaddafi staged a bloodless coup d'état against King Idris I, while he was in Kammena Vourla, a Greek resort, for medical treatment. His nephew the Crown Prince Sayyid Hasan ar-Rida al-Mahdi as-Sanussi became King. Before the end of September 1, King Sayyid Hasan ar-Rida al-Mahdi as-Sanussi had been formally deposed by the revolutionary army officers and put under house arrest; they abolished the monarchy and proclaimed the new Libyan Arab Republic.

Unlike some other military revolutionaries, Gaddafi did not promote himself to the rank of general upon seizing power, but rather accepted a ceremonial promotion from captain to colonel and has remained at this rank. While at odds with western military ranking for a colonel to rule a country and serve as Commander-in-Chief of its military, in Gaddafi's own words Libya's utopian society is "ruled by the people", so he needs no more grandiose title or supreme military rank.

Islamic socialism and pan-Arabism

Gaddafi based his new regime on a blend of Arab nationalism, aspects of the welfare state and what Gaddafi termed "direct, popular democracy." He called this system "Islamic socialism" and while he permitted private control over small companies, the government controlled the larger ones. Welfare, "liberation," and education were emphasized. He also imposed a system of Islamic morals, outlawing alcohol and gambling. Like previous revolutionary figures of the twentieth century such as Mao and his Little Red Book, Gaddafi outlined his political philosophy in his Green Book to reinforce the ideals of this socialist-Islamic state and published in three volumes between 1975 and 1979.

In practice, however, Libya's political system is thought to be somewhat less idealistic and from time to time Gaddafi has responded to domestic and external opposition with violence. His revolutionary committees called for the assassination of Libyan dissidents living abroad in April 1980, with Libyan hit squads sent abroad to murder them. On April 26, Gaddafi set a deadline of June 11 for dissidents to return home or be "in the hands of the revolutionary committees". Nine Libyans were murdered during that time, five of them in Italy.

External relations

With respect to Libya's neighbors, Gaddafi followed Abdel Nasser's ideas of pan-Arabism and became a fervent advocate of the unity of all Arab states into one Arab nation. He also supported pan-Islamism, the notion of a loose union of all Islamic countries and peoples. After Nasser's death on September 28, 1970, Gaddafi attempted to take up the mantle of ideological leader of Arab nationalism. He proclaimed the "Federation of Arab Republics" (Libya, Egypt and Syria) in 1972, hoping to create a pan-Arab state, but the three countries disagreed on the specific terms of the merger. In 1974, he signed an agreement with Tunisia's Habib Bourguiba on a merger between the two countries, but this also failed to work in practice and ultimately differences between the two countries would deteriorate into strong animosity.

Libya was also involved in a sometimes violent territorial dispute with neighbouring Chad over the Aouzou Strip, which Libya occupied in 1973. This dispute eventually led to the Libyan invasion of the country and to a conflict that was ended by a ceasefire reached in 1987. The dispute was in the end settled peacefully in June 1994 when Libya withdrew troops from Chad due to a judgement of the International Court of Justice issued on 13 February 1994.

Gaddafi also became a strong supporter of the Palestine Liberation Organization, which support ultimately harmed Libya's relations with Egypt, when in 1979 Egypt pursued a peace agreement with Israel. As Libya's relations with Egypt worsened, Gaddafi sought closer relations with the Soviet Union. Libya became the first country outside the Soviet bloc to receive the supersonic MiG-25 combat fighters, but Soviet-Libyan relations remained relatively distant. Gaddafi also sought to increase Libyan influence, especially in states with an Islamic population, by calling for the creation of a Saharan Islamic state and supporting anti-government forces in sub-Saharan Africa.

Notable in Gaddafi's politics has been his support for liberation movements, and also his sponsorship of rebel movements in West Africa, notably Sierra Leone and Liberia, as well as Muslim groups. In the 1970s and the 1980s, this support was sometimes so freely given that even the most unsympathetic groups could obtain Libyan support; often the groups represented ideologies far removed from Gaddafi's own. Gaddafi's approach often tended to confuse international opinion. Throughout the 1970s, his regime was implicated in subversion and terrorist activities in both Arab and non-Arab countries. By the mid-1980s, he was widely regarded in the West as the principal financier of international terrorism. Reportedly, Gaddafi was a major financier of the "Black September Movement" which perpetrated the Munich massacre at the 1972 Summer Olympics, and was accused by the United States of being responsible for direct control of the 1986 Berlin discotheque bombing that killed three people and wounded more than 200, of whom a substantial number were U.S. servicemen. He is also said to have paid "Carlos the Jackal" to kidnap and then release a number of Saudi Arabian and Iranian oil ministers. Tensions between Libya and the West reached a peak during the Ronald Reagan administration, which tried to overthrow Gaddafi. The Reagan administration viewed Libya as a belligerent rogue state because of its uncompromising stance on Palestinian independence, its support for revolutionary Iran in the 1980-1988 war against Saddam Hussein's Iraq (see Iran–Iraq War), and its backing of "liberation movements" in the developing world. Reagan himself dubbed Gaddafi the "mad dog of the Middle East." In December 1981 the US State Department invalidated US passports for travel to Libya, and in March 1982 the U.S. declared a ban on the import of Libyan oil and the export to Libya of U.S. oil industry technology; European nations did not follow suit.

Libya has also been a supporter of the Polisario Front in their fight against Spanish colonialism and Moroccan military occupation.

In 1984 British police constable Yvonne Fletcher was shot outside the Libyan Embassy in London while policing an anti-Gaddafi demonstration. A burst of machine-gun fire from within the building was suspected of killing her, but Libyan diplomats asserted their diplomatic immunity and were repatriated. The incident led to the breaking-off of diplomatic relations between the United Kingdom and Libya for over a decade.

In accordance with Freedom of Navigation principles, the U.S. attacked Libyan patrol boats from January to March 1986 during clashes over access to the Gulf of Sidra, which Libya claimed as territorial waters. On April 15, 1986, Ronald Reagan ordered major bombing raids, dubbed Operation El Dorado Canyon, against Tripoli and Benghazi killing 45 Libyan military and government personnel as well as 15 civilians. This strike followed U.S. interception of telex messages from Libya's East Berlin embassy suggesting Libyan government involvement in a bomb explosion on April 5 in West Berlin's La Belle discotheque, a nightclub frequented by U.S. servicemen. Among the fatalities of the April 15 retaliatory attack by the U.S. was Gaddafi's adopted daughter, Hannah. Libya responded by firing two Scud missiles at the U.S. Coast Guard navigation station on the Italian island of Lampedusa, in its own retaliation for that day's American bombing of Tripoli and Benghazi. However, the missiles passed over the island, landing in the sea, and caused no damage.

In late 1987 a merchant vessel, the MV Eksund, was intercepted. Destined for the IRA, a large consignment of arms and explosives supplied by Libya was recovered from the Eksund. British intelligence believed this was not the first and that Libyan arms shipments had previously reached the IRA. (See Provisional IRA arms importation) For most of the 1990s, Libya endured economic sanctions and diplomatic isolation as a result of Gaddafi's refusal to allow the extradition to the United States or Britain of two Libyans accused of planting a bomb on Pan Am Flight 103, which exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland. Through the intercession of South African President Nelson Mandela - who made a high-profile visit to Gaddafi in 1997 - and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Gaddafi agreed in 1999 to a compromise that involved handing over the defendants to the Netherlands for trial under Scots law.: U.N. sanctions were thereupon suspended, but U.S. sanctions against Libya remained in force.

In August 2003, two years after Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi's conviction, Libya wrote to the United Nations formally accepting 'responsibility for the actions of its officials' in respect of the Lockerbie bombing and agreed to pay compensation of up to $2.7 billion – or up to $10 million each – to the families of the 270 victims. The same month, Britain and Bulgaria co-sponsored a U.N. resolution which removed the suspended sanctions. (Bulgaria's involvement in tabling this motion led to suggestions that there was a link with the HIV trial in Libya in which 5 Bulgarian nurses, working at a Benghazi hospital, were accused of infecting 426 Libyan children with HIV.) Forty per cent of the compensation was then paid to each family, and a further 40% followed once U.S. sanctions were removed. Because the U.S. refused to take Libya off its list of state sponsors of terrorism, Libya retained the last 20% ($540 million) of the $2.7 billion compensation package.

On June 28, 2007 Megrahi was granted the right to a second appeal against the Lockerbie bombing conviction. One month later, the Bulgarian medics were released from jail in Libya. They returned home to Bulgaria and were pardoned by Bulgarian president, Georgi Parvanov.

Recent openness

Simultaneously, Gaddafi has also emerged as a popular African leader. As one of the continent's longest-serving, post-colonial heads of state, the Libyan leader enjoys a reputation among many Africans as an experienced and wise statesman who has been at the forefront of many struggles over the years. Gaddafi has earned the praise of Nelson Mandela and others, and is always a prominent figure in various pan-African organizations, such as the Organization of African Unity (now replaced by the African Union). He is also seen by many Africans as a humanitarian, pouring large amounts of money into sub-Saharan states. Large numbers of Africans have come to Libya to take advantage of the availability of jobs there.

Gaddafi also appeared to be attempting to improve his image in the West. Two years prior to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Libya pledged its commitment to fighting Al-Qaeda and offered to open up its weapons program to international inspection. The Clinton administration did not pursue the offer at the time since Libya's weapons program was not then regarded as a threat, and the matter of handing over the Lockerbie bombing suspects took priority. Following the attacks of September 11, Gaddafi made one of the first, and firmest, denunciations of the Al-Qaeda bombers by any Muslim leader. Gaddafi also appeared on ABC for an open interview with George Stephanopoulos, a move that would have seemed unthinkable less than a decade earlier.

There are many explanations for the change of Gaddafi's politics. The most obvious is that the once very rich Libya became much less wealthy as oil prices dropped significantly during the 1990s. Since then, Gaddafi has tended to need other countries more than before and hasn't been able to dole out foreign aid as he once did. In this environment, the increasingly stringent sanctions placed by the UN and US on Libya made it more and more isolated politically and economically. Another possibility is that strong Western reactions have forced Gaddafi into changing his politics. It is also possible that realpolitik changed Gaddafi. His ideals and aims did not materialize: there never was any Arab unity, the various armed revolutionary organizations he supported did not achieve their goals, and the demise of the Soviet Union left Gaddafi's main symbolic target, the United States, stronger than ever.

Following the overthrow of Saddam Hussein by US forces in 2003, Gaddafi announced that his nation had an active weapons of mass destruction program, but was willing to allow international inspectors into his country to observe and dismantle them. US President George W. Bush and other supporters of the Iraq War portrayed Gaddafi's announcement as a direct consequence of the Iraq War by stating that Gaddafi acted out of fear for the future of his own regime if he continued to keep and conceal his weapons. Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi, a supporter of the Iraq War, was quoted as saying that Gaddafi had privately phoned him, admitting as much. Many foreign policy experts, however, contend that Gaddafi's announcement was merely a continuation of his prior attempts at normalizing relations with the West and getting the sanctions removed. To support this, they point to the fact that Libya had already made similar offers starting four years prior to it finally being accepted. International inspectors turned up several tons of chemical weaponry in Libya, as well as an active nuclear weapons program. As the process of destroying these weapons continued, Libya improved its cooperation with international monitoring regimes to the extent that, by March 2006, France was able to conclude an agreement with Libya to develop a significant nuclear power program.

In March 2004, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Tony Blair became one of the first western leaders in decades to visit Libya and publicly meet Gaddafi. Blair praised Gaddafi's recent acts, and stated that he hoped Libya could now be a strong ally in the international War on Terrorism. In the run-up to Blair's visit, the British ambassador in Tripoli, Anthony Layden, explained Libya's and Gaddafi's political change thus:

"35 years of total state control of the economy has left them in a situation where they're simply not generating enough economic activity to give employment to the young people who are streaming through their successful education system. I think this dilemma goes to the heart of Colonel Gaddafi's decision that he needed a radical change of direction.

On May 15, 2006, the US State Department announced that it would restore full diplomatic relations with Libya, once Gaddafi declared he was abandoning Libya's weapons of mass destruction program. The State Department also said that Libya would be removed from the list of nations supporting terrorism. On August 31, 2006, however, Gaddafi openly called upon his supporters to "kill enemies" who asked for political change.

In July 2007, French president Nicolas Sarkozy visited Libya and signed a number of bilateral and multilateral (EU) agreements with Gaddafi.

On 4 March 2008 Gadaffi announced his intention to dissolve the country's existing administrative structure and disburse oil revenue directly to the people. The plan includes abolishing all ministries, except those of defense, internal security, and foreign affairs, and departments implementing strategic projects

In September 2008, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visited Libya & meet with Gaddafi as part of a North African tour. This was the first visit by a US secretary of state since 1953.

Musa al-Sadr disappearance

In August 1978, the Lebanese Shia leader Musa al-Sadr and two companions departed for Libya to meet with government officials. They were never heard of again. It is widely believed that aṣ-Ṣadr was killed on Gaddafi's orders, but the motivation for why this happened is not known. Libya has consistently denied responsibility, claiming that aṣ-Ṣadr and his companions left Libya for Italy. Some others have reported that he remains secretly in jail in Libya. Aṣ-Ṣadr's disappearance continues to be a major dispute between Lebanon and Libya. Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri claimed that the Libyan regime, and particularly the Libyan leader, were responsible for the disappearance of Imam Musa Sadr, London-based Asharq Alawsat, a Saudi-run pan-Arab daily reported on August 27, 2006.

According to Iranian General Mansour Qadar, the head of Syrian security, Rifaat al-Asad, told the Iranian ambassador to Syria that Gaddafi was planning to kill aṣ-Ṣadr. On August 27, 2008, Gaddafi was indicted by the government of Lebanon for al-Sadr's disappearance.

Internal dissent

In October 1993, there was an unsuccessful assassination attempt on Gaddafi by elements of the Libyan army. In July 1996, bloody riots followed a football match as a protest against Gaddafi.

There are a number of political groups opposed to Gaddafi:

A website, actively seeking his overthrow, was set up in 2006 and lists 343 victims of murder and political assassination. The Libyan League for Human Rights (LLHR) – based in Geneva – petitioned Gaddafi to set up an independent inquiry into the February 2006 unrest in Benghazi in which some 30 Libyans and foreigners were killed.

Fathi Eljahmi is a prominent dissident who has been imprisoned since 2002 for calling for increased democratization in Libya.

Public works projects

Great Manmade River

It is the largest underground network of pipes and viaducts in the world. It consists of more than 1300 wells, most more than 500 m deep, and supplies 6,500,000 m³ of freshwater per day from beneath the Sahara Desert to the cities northward, the Benghazi region on the Mediterranean coast, Tripoli, Benghazi, Sirt and elsewhere. These aquifers are made of vast quantities of fresh water trapped in the underlying strata between 38,000 and 14,000 years ago, though some pockets are only 7,000 years old.

Construction on the first phase started in 1984, and cost about $5 billion. The completed project may total $25 billion.

Muammar al-Gaddafi has described it as the "Eighth Wonder of the World" and presented the project as a gift to the Third World.

Astronomical observatory

Libya, the native country of Eratosthenes of Cyrene, born in today's Shahhat, ancient astronomer and chief librarian of the Great Library of Alexandria, will be the seat of North Africa's largest astronomical observatory.

The Libyan National Telescope Project costing nearly 10 million euros, was ordered by Moamer Kadhafi, who has a passionate interest in astronomy.

Built by France's REOSC, the optical department of the SAGEM Group, the robotic telescope will be two metres in diameter and remote-controlled. A possible desertic site at 2200 meters above sea level near Kufra could be chosen.

It will be housed in an air-conditioned building, with a network of four weather stations deployed at a distance of 10 kilometers around it to warn of impending sandstorms that could damage its fragile optics.

Personal life and family

Gaddafi has eight children, seven of them sons. His eldest son, Muhammad Gaddafi, was born to a wife now in disfavour, but runs the Libyan Olympic Committee. The next eldest son by his second wife is Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi, who was born in 1972 and is an architect. He runs a charity (GIFCA) which has been involved in negotiating freedom for hostages taken by Islamic militants, especially in the Philippines. In 2006, after sharply criticizing his father's regime, Saif Al Islam briefly left Libya, reportedly to take on a position in banking outside of the country. He returned to Libya soon after, launching an environment-friendly initiative to teach children how they can help clean up parts of Libya. He is involved in compensation negotiations with Italy and the United States. The third eldest, Saadi Gaddafi, is married to the daughter of a military commander. Saadi runs the Libyan Football Federation and signed for various professional teams including Italian Serie A team U.C. Sampdoria, although without appearing in first team games. Gaddafi's fourth son, Moatessem-Billah Gaddafi, was a Lieutenant Colonel in the Libyan army. He fled to Egypt after allegedly masterminding an Egyptian backed coup attempt against his father. Gaddafi forgave Moatessem and he returned to Libya where he now holds the post of national security adviser and heads his own unit within the army. Saif Al Islam and Moatessem-Billah are both seen as possible successors to their father.

The fifth eldest, Hannibal Gaddafi, once worked for General National Maritime Transport Company, a company that specializes in Libyan oil exports. He is most notable for being involved in a series of violent incidents throughout Europe, including charges against him for beating up his then pregnant girlfriend, Alin Skaf. (In September 2004, Hannibal was involved in a police chase in Paris.) On July 15, 2008, Hannibal and his wife were held for two days and charged with assaulting two of their staff in Geneva, Switzerland and then released on bail on July 17. As a result, unless the Swiss government apologizes for the arrest, the government of Libya put a boycott on Swiss imports, reduced flights between Libya and Switzerland, stopped issuing visas to Swiss citizens, recalled diplomats from Bern, and forced all Swiss companies such as ABB and Nestlé to close offices and their staff arrested. General National Maritime Transport Company, which owns a large refinery in Switzerland, also halted oil shipments to Switzerland.

Gaddafi's two youngest sons are Saif Al Arab and Khamis, who is a police officer in Libya.

Gaddafi's only daughter is Aisha Gaddafi, a lawyer who had joined the defense team of executed former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. She married a cousin of her father in 2006.

His reportedly adopted daughter, Hanna, was killed in the June 1986 United States bombing of Libya. At a "concert for peace", held on April 15, 2006 in Tripoli to mark the 20th anniversary of the bombing raid, U.S. singer Lionel Richie told the audience:

"Hanna will be honoured tonight because of the fact that you've attached peace to her name.

In January 2002, Gaddafi purchased a 7.5% share of Italian football club Juventus for USD 21 million, through Lafico ("Libyan Arab Foreign Investment Company"). This followed a long-standing association with the Italian industrialist Gianni Agnelli and car manufacturer Fiat.

Gaddafi holds an honorary degree from Megatrend University in Belgrade conferred on him by former Yugoslav President Zoran Lilić.

Quotations

  • "Ronald Reagan plays with fire! He sees the world like the theater".
  • "I have nothing but scorn for the notion of an Islamic bomb. There is no such thing as an Islamic bomb or a Christian bomb. Any such weapon is a means of terrorizing humanity, and we are against the manufacture and acquisition of nuclear weapons. This is in line with our definition of—and opposition to—terrorism.
  • "Israel is a colonialist-imperialist phenomenon. There is no such thing as an Israeli people. Before 1948, world geography knew of no state such as Israel. Israel is the result of an invasion, of aggression.
  • "God damn America" - Time magazine, April 2, 1973 http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,907040-6,00.html
  • "I've got two idols in my life — President Lincoln and Dr. Sun Yat-sen.
  • "Irrespective of the conflict with America, it is a human duty to show sympathy with the American people and be with them at these horrifying and awful events which are bound to awaken human conscience. When I was five, my brother was shot by an Israeli soldier, since then I have been dedicated to uniting the Arab countries throughout the Middle East and retain a trade flow with the west." — September 11, 2001
  • "Man's freedom is lacking if somebody else controls what he needs, for need may result in man's enslavement of man.
  • "We have four million Muslims in Albania. There are signs that Allah will grant Islam victory in Europe – without swords, without guns, without conquests. The fifty million Muslims of Europe will turn it into a Muslim continent within a few decades. Europe is in a predicament, and so is America. They should agree to become Islamic in the course of time, or else declare war on the Muslims.
  • "The Libyans said they'll buy their way out of these three [terrorism] black lists. We'll pay so much, to hell with $2 billion or more. It's not compensation. It's a price. The Americans said it was Libya who did it. It is known that the president was madman Reagan who's got Alzheimer's and has lost his mind. He now crawls on all fours.
  • "Whenever I ask about Pepsi Cola or Coca Cola, people immediately say it is an American or European drink ... this is not true, the cola is African! They have taken the cheap raw material from us and produced it into a drink [that] they sell [back]for an exorbitant price! Why are Pepsi Cola and Coca Cola expensive? Because they have taken our cola and cheated us! We should produce it ourselves!"
  • "We fear that Obama, our Kenyan brother with American nationality, will feel that, because he is black with an inferiority complex, this will make him behave worse than the whites. We (shall)tell him to be proud of himself as a black and feel that all Africa is behind him." ( Following Barack Obama's expressions of solidarity with Israel.

Name

Due to the inherent difficulties of transliterating written and regionally-pronounced Arabic, Gaddafi's name can be transliterated in many different ways. An article published in the London Evening Standard in 2004 lists a total of 37 spellings; a 1986 column by The Straight Dope quotes a list of 32 spellings known at the Library of Congress. Muammar al-Gaddafi, used in this article, is the spelling used by Time magazine and the BBC. The Associated Press, CNN, and Fox News use the spelling Moammar Gadhafi, Al-Jazeera uses Muammar al-Qadhafi, the Edinburgh Middle East Report uses Mu'ammar Qaddafi and the U.S. Department of State uses Mu'ammar Al-Qadhafi. In 1986, Gaddafi reportedly responded to a Minnesota school's letter in English using the spelling Moammar El-Gadhafi.

The show

In September 2006, at the ENO in London, the UK-based electronic band Asian Dub Foundation created and did 6 performances of a show commissioned by channel 4 and based on Gaddafi's story, called "Gaddafi: A Living Myth". The title role was played by Ramon Tikaram. The book was by Shan Khan and the direction by David Freeman. The critics were generally not very flattering in the English-speaking press. Press coverage in Muslim countries was positive: see Charles T. Downey, Gaddafi: Failure or Triumph? (Ionarts, 18 September 2006).

References

See also

External links

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