Former Libyan head of state Muammar Gaddafi was killed under uncertain circumstances near his hometown of Sirte last Thursday. Christopher McAuley, an associate professor of black studies, spoke to the Daily Nexus about the implications of Gaddafi’s death.
News outlets worldwide announced Colonel Gaddafi’s capture and death on Oct. 20, depicting the fallen leader’s inexplicably grotesque, bloodied and battered corpse in the hands of jubilant rebel fighters.
The former head of state fled the North African’s Libyan capital of Tripoli after the rebel army captured the city in August. Gaddafi — who continued to broadcast against the Libyan National Transitional Council’s claims of authority until his death — travelled in a convoy with his supporters until militia fighters discovered its location.
Despite public concerns claiming Gaddafi deserved a fair trial and his death constitutes murder, McAuley said the rebels’ decision to eliminate the dictator served a greater political strategy.
“It was easier to kill him because if there is a public trial it gives him a forum to say certain things. He could then become embarrassing if in fact there were secret negotiations between him and U.S. or European officials,” McAuley said. “You know, dead men don’t talk.”
The transitional government aims to hold democratic elections for a constitutional parliament within the next eight months.
McAuley said the results could spark further international disagreement if the Islamist parties win the elections.
“If you are trying to introduce a democratic system, you have to respect the results of the election,” McAuley said. “In many cases, the Islamist parties are very well organized. I suspect that they are better organized than some of the secular parties at this point, so the issue is, if in fact they win pluralities, then do you respect that?”
Libya’s abundant supply of oil and NATO’s military aid to rebels leaves the new government vulnerable to Western pressure for oil revenue.
The Libyan administration’s compliance to foreign demands could jeopardize the revolution’s socio-economic reforms, McAuley said.
“I would be curious to see to what degree this new government is going to allow foreign ownership in oil resources, and then what kind of mechanism is going to be put into place to funnel money into the basic needs of Libyans. The bottom line is — particularly when you are talking about places with significant resources — there is no free lunch. You remove the dictator and the folks who helped you remove the dictator are not going to be snubbed when it comes to investment opportunities.”
According to McAuley, the rebel’s success could foster major shifts in revolutionaries’ actions against the region’s autocrats.
“I think it actually puts a lot of autocrats on alert,” McAuley said. “Their cozy relationship with some of the major powers could change at any minute. This means that they have the option of introducing some reforms or becoming more hard-lines. For many opposition parties and movements and leaders across the continent who are trying to remove autocrats, this has got to be very promising. Although they would have a problem with [revolution] coming as a joint venture between the European powers and the U.S., because then there is always the issue of at what price?”