August 31, 2011
What many commentators on the Libya situation have failed to see is that Benghazi started as a civilian protest and escalated into a full blown armed revolt. From waving placards the protestors changed to wielding blazing guns. The choice of method was Gadaffi’s. It is Gadaffi’s high handed response which compelled the pro-democracy protestors to take up arms.
NATO came in because of the disproportionate force Gadaffi had at his disposal. By incapacitating Gadaffi’s air force and declaring a no-fly zone, NATO sided with the rebels. NATO was able to do this because it had the express support of the Arab League – a body long weary of Gadaffi’s arrogance and megalomaniac tendencies. Indeed Gadaffi’s claims that he is King of Kings was deemed blasphemous and heretic by Islamists.
Six months of heroic struggle by Libyans bent on liberating themselves has seen Gadaffi on the run. This was unthinkable. Gadaffi, who has meddled in the internal affairs of many countries ranging from Chad to Northern Ireland became a harsh critic of the UN backed NATO operation. Principles cannot be put on a sliding scale.
We still cannot tell what price the Libyan people and NATO have paid to ensure the eviction of Gadaffi. In dollar terms it must be in billions. In human life it must be in tens of thousands.
Yet Gadaffi apologists continue to cast the Libyan rebels as an ungrateful bunch of puppets. True, Gadaffi cast himself as a benefactor for his people. We cannot deny the fact that Gadaffi did not have any external debt. We cannot deny the many social welfare schemes Gadaffi initiated to take care of his people. We cannot deny the contribution Gadaffi made towards liberating many oppressed people. We cannot deny Gadaffi’s contribution to several Pan-African projects including the satellite project which has saved Africa millions of dollars in fees previously paid to Western companies. Gadaffi’s massive investments around the world boosted many enterprises and gave handsome returns.
But what is the use of all this without freedom? Paved roads, neat apartments and money in the bank is nothing without freedom. Gadaffi’s autocracy and tyrannical rule hang like albatross around the necks of the Libyan people. After 41 years the Libyan people were choking. They needed the fresh air of freedom.
Now Gadaffi is gone. His departure marks the end of an era. The freedom the rebels promise come with risks but it is all worth it.
As an example let’s take the case of animals in a zoo. A zoo is safe. Animals are protected from the molestation and savagery common in the wild. There is shelter for some of the more delicate species. There is food.
But were the zoo keeper to open the gates would the confined animals retreat from the freedom that beckons? Would they hesitate to take off in all directions? The zoo is safe and the wild is dangerous and full of risks but no animal can trade it’s freedom for the comfort of the zoo. Freedom is worth much more than any zoo can offer.
Gadaffi zoo is now closed. The people hitherto in bondage are now free. There is no looking back. What the Libyan rebels have done is an inspiration. All freedom lovers are now citizens of Benghazi. Benghazi is now the byword for freedom.
The writing is on the wall for all dictators. The mortality rate of tyrants has trebled with Gadaffi’s fall. All oppressed people are on the road to Benghazi. Mubarak, Moumar, Mugabe, Museveni…