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Saturday, 29 October 2011

Prisoner of Regime Change - Part II (Guest Blog)

In the previous article Regime Change: The Fires of the Maghreb I briefly discussed the objectives of the NATO led mission in Libya and the expectations of the Libyan people and the region. The events in Libya have since moved at a faster rate than anticipated and have culminated in the death of Gaddafi in circumstances being alleged by the International Criminal Court (ICC) as a summary execution after being caught alive by the National Transition Council (NTC) forces. From the a neutral point of view one can only speculate how Gaddafi would have dealt with his enemies if the roles were reversed given the fact that the Colonel was well known for absolute brutality against opponents. If it turns out that NATO war planes deliberately bombed the convoy that allowed the Libyan NTC troops to capture Gaddafi then NATO went beyond the resolution 1973. The UN resolution 1973 is a mandate that in principle allowed NATO to enforce a NO flying zone to stop the escalation of the conflict to separate the two sides and secure humanitarian protection. However, Russia, China, the African Union (AU) and many other countries have since argued that what essentially happened in Libya was a military operation by NATO aimed squarely at supporting the NTC forces while limiting the capability of Gaddafi royalists. In other words, NATO overstepped their boundaries defined by the Security Council framework which was strictly civilian protection and created deliberate pre-conditions for regime change. I am sure the interpretation of the UN resolution 1973 and the actions of NATO will be subject to a fierce debate over the coming months and years. The removal of Gaddafi also raises the issue of the validity of continued NATO operations in Libya under the current mandate 1973. However, if post-Gaddafi instability materialises that would mean that it would be necessary and imperative for NATO to return to the UN for a new mandate.

The removal of the Gaddafi regime from power is surely welcome as it brings to an end the tyrannical rule in Libya, however, the manner in which it was done confirms a number of things: first some dictators are more preferred than others, for instance, in Syria, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Algeria and Yemen there is no freedom of speech and opposition is brutally crushed and suppressed but I doubt if one will ever see a resolution calling for military intervention in these countries because what might replace the current regimes in those countries might be the stuff of nightmares for the western countries i.e. worse than the current friendly dictators in those countries. It also helps if leaders of these countries have European or American connections through marriage or descent as is the case with Syria, Jordan, Morocco and many others in the region. When asked about Nicaraguan dictator Somoza, Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) former president of the USA allegedly said ‘we know that he is a brutal dictator and a pain in the backside of everyone but he is our pain in the backside’ (paraphrased). From this statement it is reasonable to conclude that certain dictators are accepted because they serve a purpose. The statement by FDR embodies a principle which has become a cornerstone of international relations and politics for most countries today. In addition, the direct intervention by NATO shows the weakness of the UN as a world body. If military intervention was of the utmost urgency why not a UN force or NATO force under UN command, to opponents a UN lead Libyan mission would have left no room to doubt the objectives of protecting civilians. Furthermore, if protecting civilians was the major objective why didn’t NATO and her allies ask for the UN mandate to protect civilians in Bahrain, Syria, Yemen, Zimbabwe, Sudan, and Egypt? The operations in Libya shows that sometimes even powerful nations such as the US, UK, France have scores to settle. It is common knowledge that Gaddafi was perceived a thorn in the backside of the west for decades due to his alleged support for terrorism in the west in the 1980s and 90s, WMD programme which he eventually abandoned, his anti-west rhetoric and growing influence in Sub-Sahara.

It is true that the death of Gaddafi has sent shockwaves in Libya and around the world sociological and psychological. For the last 42 years, Libyans have been under the rule of a single minded despot who modelled the country in his own visions of self grandeur and ruled the country with an iron fist. However, unlike other countries Libya can claim under Gaddafi to be the only country in Africa where citizens had free education to university level, social security and free health care. Now that Gaddafi is dead, Libyans will turn their attention turns to promises and expectations of the revolution. People want the expectation to be met for the revolution to have a meaning to them otherwise the hard fought war to remove Gaddafi would have been for nothing. Therefore, managing expectations and promises of the new Libya especially those of young men and women with high hopes presents the biggest challenge for the post-Qaddaffi Libyan leaders. If not managed well, the young will revolt and turn their frustration toward the new leaders. Gaddafi had a lukewarm relationship with fellow Arab dictators and hence he turned his attention to Sub-Sahara where he enjoyed popularity and allowed black African to work in Libya. However, now that Gaddafi is dead non-Arab immigrants who enjoyed relative inclusion are now seen as no more than mercenaries to some extent that some have been killed and other beaten. The plight of black Africans post Gaddafi has been raised by the Head of UN humanitarian affairs Baroness Amos.

The death of Gaddafi has wider business implication as time has come for sharing the spoils of war or rather time to be rewarded for the effort of removing Gaddafi. In Britain, USA and France the media is already calling for NTC to give preferential treatment to businesses from NATO countries when it comes to Oil/Gas deals and national reconstruction contracts. Others may use this to argue that this goes to show the real purpose for NATO intervention in Libya. Prior to the capture and death of Gaddafi the official stance on Libya by UK and France was that it was necessary to prevent an escalation of violence and humanitarian catastrophe on the door steps of Europe as the consequences of complacency far outweighs the cost of intervention. However, what was not overtly discussed was the business component post Gaddafi Libya. I explicitly stated in the previous article that no government supports another for free and soon the NTC will find out that time has now come to pay the liberators. Libya is a country segmented by tribes and Gaddafi found a way to moderate tribal rivalries through a mixture of careful coercion, financial inducements and social incentives. Absence of attention to the tribal dynamics will have an impact on the social structure and relationship within Libya. The alleged victims of the Gaddafi regime in their thousands and some part of the NTC will call for justice and retribution once the guns and gears of war are silenced. The debate is whether the NTC will opt for reconciliation and national unity given that the despot is dead. How the NTC deals with the remnant of the previous regime and manage Libyan expectations will not just impact relationships within Libyan but between Libya and other countries. The NTC will perhaps opt to rekindle the relationship with the Arab league, NATO, strengthen EU ties and have a lukewarm participation in the African Union. Whatever actions the NTC takes will set the stage for the type of government and direction in which Libya should go.

A PDF version of the article can be found here


Dr Mpundu Mukanga is the Principal Director of Visum Global UK and Kurgus Investment Zambia. He is the Zambian Economist resident expert on African geo-politics. Website: Email:

Zambian Economist encourages special contributions from leading thinkers on matters relevant to Zambia's national development. The purpose of these notes is to stimulate discussion and ensure logic and impartial critique plays a leading role in shaping public debate. Special contributions for publications should be submitted via email -


  1. The decision by NATO and NTC to execute Colonel Gaddafi is a humuliation to the AU and in my view calls for the urgency for organizing to oppose the remilitarization of Africa or else the next stop is Sudan and anyone with oil in Africa.

  2. NATO decision was a good decision because Gadaffi used war planes on the civilian people. But the only issue here that NATO should have done the same when there were disputed election in the Ivory Coast, Zimbabwe and Kenya. As long as Libya's oil remained an interest for America and it's NATO alies then the other countries who are still under oppression go unchecked.

  3. Kunda KM,

    No people on the planet will exchange their own leadership for transnational corporations and NATO bombing raids.

    Do you really want to see US or UK bombing raids over Zimbabwe, so that the MDC can be installed, the diamond and platinum mines can be given to Anglo-American De Beers, parastatals can be sold for cents on the dollar like ZAMTEL, and free education can be abolished?

    I hope you don't believe the propaganda against Zimbabwe. Nothing in the mainstream media that has been said about Zimbabwe can be believed.

  4. Tawergha, Libya, Black City, reported depopulated
    Posted on 15 September 2011.

    The Wall Street Journal Tuesday also reported that the Transitional National Council’s (TNC) “prime minister” Mahmoud Jibril, referring to the reported atrocities in Tawergha by rebels, said: “Regarding Tawergha my own viewpoint is that nobody has the right to interfere in this matter except the people of Misurata.”

  5. Rep. Jackson took exception to Jibril’s remarks.

    “Racism in the form of ethnic cleansing, killing and genocide is wrong anytime, anyplace and against anybody in the world,” Rep. Jackson said, today. “And it appears as though the Rebel leader, Mahmoud Jibril, is using the American idea that the South used to protect the institution of slavery – the 10th Amendment in our Constitution – to say, in essence, ‘it’s a states’ right and local control issue.’”

    He added, “Well it’s not a local issue and it’s a moral outrage. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’ As a senior member of the Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee, I intend to raise this issue with my colleagues and condition any financial support for the reconstruction of Libya and its transition to a democratic society.”


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