By Ed Attwood
Tripoli looks to the future as former dictator Gaddafi killed in desert shoot-out
Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s reign of terror finally ended not in exile, or in the International Criminal Court, but on a desert track a few miles outside his home town of Sirte. One of the world’s longest serving leaders, he ousted Libya’s first-ever king in a bloodless coup in 1969 while King Idris was on a trip to Turkey to undergo medical treatment. Little did the people of Libya know that in 42 years time they would be waving the flag of the Kingdom of Libya and hanging their former king’s portrait in support of the end of Gaddafi’s regime.
In the year following Gaddafi’s coup, the Libyan leader embarked on a string of significant changes. In the 1970s he laid out his political philosophy, a homegrown alternative to socialism and capitalism with some aspects of Islam, in his Green Book and in 1977 invented a system called “the state of the masses” or “Jamahiriya” in which power was meant to be held by thousands of people’s committees.
In the 1980s the Libyan leader became renowned for his support of terrorist groups operating in the West including the IRA and a number of radical Palestinian groups, culminating in the destruction of Pan Am Flight 103 and a complete split with the West. In the early 2000s, Gaddafi seemed to rejoin the international fold, and Libya briefly flourished.
But that subsequent rapprochement with the West was a false dawn. As the Arab spring engulfed neighbouring Tunisia and Egypt, Gaddafi’s attempts to crack down on his own people led to a swift and bloody civil war. After NATO joined the conflict in March, a period of stasis raised some fears that Gaddafi could somehow negotiate a way to stay in power. But the fall of Tripoli in September heralded the beginning of the end-game. After fleeing to his home-town of Sirte, the Libyan tyrant eventually found himself boxed in, with no hope of escape.