The history of Libya under Muammar Gaddafi spanned a period of over four decades from 1969 to 2011. Gaddafi became the de facto leader of the country on 1 September 1969 after leading a group of young Libyan military officers against King Idris I in a bloodless coup d'état. After the king had fled the country, the Libyan Revolutionary Command Council (RCC) headed by Gaddafi abolished the monarchy and the old constitution and proclaimed the new Libyan African Republic, with the motto "freedom, socialism, and unity".
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|History of Libya|
The history of Libya under Muammar Gaddafi spanned a period of over four decades from 1969 to 2011. Gaddafi became the de facto leader of the country on 1 September 1969 after leading a group of young Libyan military officers against King Idris I in a bloodless coup d'état. After the king had fled the country, the Libyan Revolutionary Command Council (RCC) headed by Gaddafi abolished the monarchy and the old constitution and proclaimed the new Libyan African Republic, with the motto "freedom, socialism, and unity".
After coming to power, the RCC government initiated a process of directing funds toward providing education, health care and housing for all. Despite the reforms not being entirely effective, public education in the country became free and primary education compulsory for both sexes. Medical care became available to the public at no cost but providing housing for all was a task the RCC government was not able to complete. Under Gaddafi, per capita income in the country rose to more than US $11,000, the fifth highest in Africa. The increase in prosperity was accompanied by a controversial foreign policy, with increased political repression at home.
The name of the country was changed several times during Gaddafi's tenure as the leader. At first, the name was the Libyan Arab Republic. In 1977, the name was changed to Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, where Jamahiriya is a term coined by Gaddafi, usually translated as "state of the masses". The country was renamed again in 1986 to the Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya. During the 1980s and 1990s, Gaddafi openly supported independence movements like Nelson Mandela's African National Congress, the Palestine Liberation Organization, the Irish Republican Army and the Polisario Front (Western Sahara), which led to a deterioration of Libya's foreign relations with several countries and that culminated in the US bombing of Libya in 1986. After the 9/11 attacks, however, the relations were mostly normalised.
In early 2011, a civil war broke out in the context of the wider "Arab Spring". The anti-Gaddafi forces formed a committee named the National Transitional Council, on 27 February 2011. It was meant to act as an interim authority in the rebel-controlled areas. After a number of atrocities were committed by the government, with the threat of further bloodshed, a multinational coalition led by NATO forces intervened on 21 March 2011 with the aim to protect civilians against attacks by the government's forces. At the same time, the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant against Gaddafi and his entourage on 27 June 2011. Gaddafi was ousted from power in the wake of the fall of Tripoli to the rebel forces on 20 August 2011, although pockets of resistance held by forces loyal to Gaddafi's government held out for another two months, especially in Gaddafi's hometown of Sirte, which he declared the new capital of Libya on 1 September 2011. The fall of the last remaining cities under pro-Gaddafi control and Sirte's capture on 20 October 2011, followed by the subsequent killing of Gaddafi, marked the end of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya.
The discovery of significant oil reserves in 1959 and the subsequent income from petroleum sales enabled the Kingdom of Libya to transition from one of the world's poorest nations to a wealthy state. Although oil drastically improved the Libyan government's finances, resentment began to build over the increased concentration of the nation's wealth in the hands of King Idris. This discontent mounted with the rise of Nasserism and Arab nationalism/socialism throughout North Africa and the Middle East.
On 1 September 1969, a group of about 70 young army officers known as the Free Officers Movement and enlisted men mostly assigned to the Signal Corps, seized control of the government and in a stroke abolished the Libyan monarchy. The coup was launched at Benghazi, and within two hours the takeover was completed. Army units quickly rallied in support of the coup, and within a few days firmly established military control in Tripoli and elsewhere throughout the country. Popular reception of the coup, especially by younger people in the urban areas, was enthusiastic. Fears of resistance in Cyrenaica and Fezzan proved unfounded. No deaths or violent incidents related to the coup were reported.
The Free Officers Movement, which claimed credit for carrying out the coup, was headed by a twelve-member directorate that designated itself the Revolutionary Command Council (RCC). This body constituted the Libyan government after the coup. In its initial proclamation on 1 September, the RCC declared the country to be a free and sovereign state called the Libyan Arab Republic, which would proceed "in the path of freedom, unity, and social justice, guaranteeing the right of equality to its citizens, and opening before them the doors of honorable work." The rule of the Turks and Italians and the "reactionary" government just overthrown were characterized as belonging to "dark ages", from which the Libyan people were called to move forward as "free brothers" to a new age of prosperity, equality, and honor.
The RCC advised diplomatic representatives in Libya that the revolutionary changes had not been directed from outside the country, that existing treaties and agreements would remain in effect, and that foreign lives and property would be protected. Diplomatic recognition of the new government came quickly from countries throughout the world. United States recognition was officially extended on 6 September.
In view of the lack of internal resistance, it appeared that the chief danger to the new government lay in the possibility of a reaction inspired by the absent King Idris or his designated heir, Hasan ar Rida, who had been taken into custody at the time of the coup along with other senior civil and military officials of the royal government. Within days of the coup, however, Hasan publicly renounced all rights to the throne, stated his support for the new government, and called on the people to accept it without violence. Idris, in an exchange of messages with the RCC through Egypt's President Nasser, dissociated himself from reported attempts to secure British intervention and disclaimed any intention of coming back to Libya. In return, he was assured by the RCC of the safety of his family still in the country. At his own request and with Nasser's approval, Idris took up residence once again in Egypt, where he had spent his first exile and where he remained until his death in 1983.
On 7 September 1969, the RCC announced that it had appointed a cabinet to conduct the government of the new republic. An American-educated technician, Mahmud Sulayman al-Maghribi, who had been imprisoned since 1967 for his political activities, was designated prime minister. He presided over the eight-member Council of Ministers, of whom six, like Maghrabi, were civilians and two – Adam Said Hawwaz and Musa Ahmad – were military officers. Neither of the officers was a member of the RCC. The Council of Ministers was instructed to "implement the state's general policy as drawn up by the RCC", leaving no doubt where ultimate authority rested. The next day the RCC decided to promote Captain Gaddafi to colonel and to appoint him commander in chief of the Libyan Armed Forces. Although RCC spokesmen declined until January 1970 to reveal any other names of RCC members, it was apparent from that date onward that the head of the RCC and new de facto head of state was Gaddafi.
Analysts were quick to point out the striking similarities between the Libyan military coup of 1969 and that in Egypt under Nasser in 1952, and it became clear that the Egyptian experience and the charismatic figure of Nasser had formed the model for the Free Officers Movement. As the RCC in the last months of 1969 moved vigorously to institute domestic reforms, it proclaimed neutrality in the confrontation between the superpowers and opposition to all forms of colonialism and "imperialism". It also made clear Libya's dedication to Arab unity and to the support of the Palestinian cause against Israel. The RCC reaffirmed the country's identity as part of the "Arab nation" and its state religion as Islam. It abolished parliamentary institutions, all legislative functions being assumed by the RCC, and continued the prohibition against political parties, in effect since 1952. The new government categorically rejected communism – in large part because it was atheist – and officially espoused an Arab interpretation of socialism that integrated Islamic principles with social, economic, and political reform. Libya had shifted, virtually overnight, from the camp of conservative Arab traditionalist states to that of the radical nationalist states.
|Libyan Arab Republic
الجمهورية العربية الليبية
Al-Jumhūrīyah Al-ʿArabiyyah Al-Lībiyyah (Arabic)
Repubblica Araba Libica (Italian)
God is the Greatest
|Chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council|
|Historical era||Cold War|
|-||Coup d'état||1 September 1969|
|-||Jamahiriya established||2 March 1977|
Following the formation of the Libyan Arab Republic, Gaddafi and his associates insisted that their government would not rest on individual leadership, but rather on collegial decision making.
The first major cabinet change occurred soon after the first challenge to the government. In December 1969, Adam Said Hawwaz, the minister of defense, and Musa Ahmad, the minister of interior, were arrested and accused of planning a coup. In the new cabinet formed after the crisis, Gaddafi, retaining his post as chairman of the RCC, also became prime minister and defense minister. Major Abdel Salam Jallud, generally regarded as second only to Gaddafi in the RCC, became deputy prime minister and minister of interior. This cabinet totaled thirteen members, of whom five were RCC officers. The government was challenged a second time in July 1970 when Abdullah Abid Sanusi and Ahmed al-Senussi, distant cousins of former King Idris, and members of the Sayf an Nasr clan of Fezzan were accused of plotting to seize power for themselves. After the plot was foiled, a substantial cabinet change occurred, RCC officers for the first time forming a majority among new ministers.
From the start, RCC spokesmen had indicated a serious intent to bring the "defunct regime" to account. In 1971 and 1972 more than 200 former government officials—including seven prime ministers and numerous cabinet ministers—as well as former King Idris and members of the royal family, were brought to trial on charges of treason and corruption in the Libyan People's Court. Many, who like Idris lived in exile, were tried in absentia. Although a large percentage of those charged were acquitted, sentences of up to fifteen years in prison and heavy fines were imposed on others. Five death sentences, all but one of them in absentia, were pronounced, among them, one against Idris. Fatima, the former queen, and Hasan ar Rida were sentenced to five and three years in prison, respectively.
Meanwhile, Gaddafi and the RCC had disbanded the Sanusi order and officially downgraded its historical role in achieving Libya's independence. He also attacked regional and tribal differences as obstructions in the path of social advancement and Arab unity, dismissing traditional leaders and drawing administrative boundaries across tribal groupings.
The Free Officers Movement was renamed "Arab Socialist Union" (ASU) in 1971, modeled after Egypt's Arab Socialist Union, and made the sole legal party in Gaddafi's Libya. It acted as a "vehicle of national expression", purporting to "raise the political consciousness of Libyans" and to "aid the RCC in formulating public policy through debate in open forums". Trade unions were incorporated into the ASU and strikes outlawed. The press, already subject to censorship, was officially conscripted in 1972 as an agent of the revolution. Italians and what remained of the Jewish community were expelled from the country and their property confiscated in October 1970.
As months passed, Gaddafi, caught up in his apocalyptic visions of revolutionary pan-Arabism and Islam locked in mortal struggle with what he termed the encircling, demonic forces of reaction, imperialism, and Zionism, increasingly devoted attention to international rather than internal affairs. As a result, routine administrative tasks fell to Major Jallud, who in 1972 became prime minister in place of Gaddafi. Two years later Jallud assumed Gaddafi's remaining administrative and protocol duties to allow Gaddafi to devote his time to revolutionary theorizing. Gaddafi remained commander in chief of the armed forces and effective head of state. The foreign press speculated about an eclipse of his authority and personality within the RCC, but Gaddafi soon dispelled such theories by his measures to restructure Libyan society.
After the September coup, U.S. forces proceeded deliberately with the planned withdrawal from Wheelus Air Base under the agreement made with the previous government. The last of the American contingent turned the facility over to the Libyans on 11 June 1970, a date thereafter celebrated in Libya as a national holiday. As relations with the U.S. steadily deteriorated, Gaddafi forged close links with the Soviet Union and other Eastern Bloc countries, all the while maintaining Libya's stance as a nonaligned country and opposing the spread of communism in the Arab world. Libya's army—sharply increased from the 6,000-man prerevolutionary force that had been trained and equipped by the British—was armed with Soviet-built armor and missiles.
The economic base for Libya's revolution has been its oil revenues. However, Libya's petroleum reserves were small compared with those of other major Arab petroleum-producing states. As a consequence, Libya was more ready to ration output in order to conserve its natural wealth and less responsive to moderating its price-rise demands than the other countries. Petroleum was seen both as a means of financing the economic and social development of a woefully underdeveloped country and as a political weapon to brandish in the Arab struggle against Israel.
The increase in production that followed the 1969 revolution was accompanied by Libyan demands for higher petroleum prices, a greater share of revenues, and more control over the development of the country's petroleum industry. Foreign petroleum companies agreed to a price hike of more than three times the going rate (from US$0.90 to US$3.45 per barrel) early in 1971. In December, the Libyan government suddenly nationalized the holdings of British Petroleum in Libya and withdrew funds amounting to approximately US$550 million invested in British banks as a result of a foreign policy dispute. British Petroleum rejected as inadequate a Libyan offer of compensation, and the British treasury banned Libya from participation in the sterling area. In 1973, the Libyan government announced the nationalization of a controlling interest in all other petroleum companies operating in the country. This step gave Libya control of about 60 percent of its domestic oil production by early 1974, a figure that subsequently rose to 70 percent. Total nationalization was out of the question, given the need for foreign expertise and funds in oil exploration, production, and distribution.
Insisting on the continued use of petroleum as leverage against Israel and its supporters in the West, Libya strongly urged the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to take action in 1973, and Libyan militancy was partially responsible for OPEC measures to raise oil prices, impose embargoes, and gain control of production. On 19 October 1973, Libya was the first Arab nation to issue an oil embargo against the United States after US President Richard Nixon announced the US would provide Israel with a $2.2 billion military aid program during the Yom Kippur War. Saudi Arabia and other Arab oil producing nations in OPEC would follow suit the next day. While the other Arab nations lifted their oil embargoes on 18 March 1974, the Gaddafi regime refused to do so. As a consequence of such policies, Libya's oil production declined by half between 1970 and 1974, while revenues from oil exports more than quadrupled. Production continued to fall, bottoming out at an eleven-year low in 1975 at a time when the government was preparing to invest large amounts of petroleum revenues in other sectors of the economy. Thereafter, output stabilized at about two million barrels per day. Production and hence income declined yet again in the early 1980s because of the high price of Libyan crude and because recession in the industrialized world reduced demand for oil from all sources.
Libya's Five-Year Economic and Social Transformation Plan (1976–80), announced in 1975, was programmed to pump US$20 billion into the development of a broad range of economic activities that would continue to provide income after Libya's petroleum reserves had been exhausted. Agriculture was slated to receive the largest share of aid in an effort to make Libya self-sufficient in food and to help keep the rural population on the land. Industry, of which there was little before the revolution, also received a significant amount of funding in the first development plan as well as in the second, launched in 1981.
The "remaking of Libyan society" contained in Gaddafi's ideological visions began to be put into practice formally beginning in 1973 with a so-called cultural or popular revolution. This revolution was designed to combat bureaucratic inefficiency, lack of public interest and participation in the subnational governmental system, and problems of national political coordination. In an attempt to instill revolutionary fervor into his compatriots and to involve large numbers of them in political affairs, Gaddafi urged them to challenge traditional authority and to take over and run government organs themselves. The instrument for doing this was the people's committee. Within a few months, such committees were found all across Libya. They were functionally and geographically based and eventually became responsible for local and regional administration.
People's committees were established in such widely divergent organizations as universities, private business firms, government bureaucracies, and the broadcast media. Geographically based committees were formed at the governorate, municipal, and zone (lowest) levels. Seats on the people's committees at the zone level were filled by direct popular election; members so elected could then be selected for service at higher levels. By mid-1973 estimates of the number of people's committees ranged above 2,000.
In the scope of their administrative and regulatory tasks and the method of their members' selection, the people's committees purportedly embodied the concept of direct democracy that Gaddafi propounded in the first volume of The Green Book, which appeared in 1976. The same concept lay behind proposals to create a new political structure composed of "people's congresses." The centerpiece of the new system was the General People's Congress (GPC), a national representative body intended to replace the RCC.
|Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya
الجماهيرية العربية الليبية الشعبية الإشتراكية العظمى
al-Jamāhīrīyah al-‘Arabīyah al-Lībīyah ash-Sha‘bīyah al-Ishtirākīyah al-‘Uẓmá
God is Great
Sirte (2011 de facto)
|Brotherly Leader and Guide of the Revolution|
|Historical era||Cold War · War on Terror|
|-||People's Authority||2 March 1977|
|-||Fall of Tripoli||28 August 2011|
|-||Gaddafi killed||20 October 2011|
On 2 March 1977, the GPC, at Gaddafi's behest, adopted the "Declaration of the Establishment of the People's Authority" and proclaimed the Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya (Arabic: الجماهيرية العربية الليبية الشعبية الاشتراكية al-Jamāhīrīyah al-‘Arabīyah al-Lībīyah ash-Sha‘bīyah al-Ishtirākīyah). In the official political philosophy of Gaddafi's state, the "Jamahiriya" system was unique to the country, although it was presented as the materialization of the Third International Theory, proposed by Gaddafi to be applied to the entire Third World.
Gaddafi was designated the "Leader" (Qā’id) of the Libyan state and was accorded the honorifics "Brotherly Leader and Guide to the First of September Great Revolution of the Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya".
The Libyan government stated that the Libyan Jamahiriya was a direct democracy without any political parties, governed by its populace through local popular councils and communes (named Basic People's Congresses). Official rhetoric disdained the idea of a nation state, tribal bonds remaining primary, even within the ranks of the military of Libya. In practice, Gaddafi exercised absolute control over the country, even though he held no formal political office after 1979.
Jamahiriya (Arabic: جماهيرية jamāhīrīyah) is an Arabic term generally translated as "state of the masses"; Lisa Anderson  has suggested "peopledom" or "state of the masses" as a reasonable approximations of the meaning of the term as intended by Gaddafi. The term does not occur in this sense in Muammar Gaddafi's Green Book of 1975. The nisba-adjective jamāhīrīyah ("mass-, "of the masses") occurs only in the third part, published in 1981, in the phrase إن الحركات التاريخية هي الحركات الجماهيرية (Inna al-ḥarakāt at-tārīkhīyah hiya al-ḥarakāt al-jamāhīrīyah), translated in the English edition as "Historic movements are mass movements".
The word jamāhīrīyah was derived from jumhūrīyah, which is the usual Arabic translation of "republic". It was coined by changing the component jumhūr — "public" — to its plural form, jamāhīr — "the masses". Thus, it is similar to the term People's Republic. It is often left untranslated in English, with the long-form name thus rendered as Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya.
After weathering the 1986 bombing by the Reagan administration, Gaddafi added the specifier "Great" (العظمى al-‘Uẓmá) to the official name of the country.
The changes in Libyan leadership since 1976 culminated in March 1979, when the GPC declared that the "vesting of power in the masses" and the "separation of the state from the revolution" were complete. Gaddafi relinquished his duties as general secretary of the GPC, being known thereafter as "the leader" or "Leader of the Revolution." He remained supreme commander of the armed forces. His replacement was Abdallah Ubaydi, who in effect had been prime minister since 1979.
The GPC also adopted resolutions designating Gaddafi as its general secretary and creating the General Secretariat of the GPC, comprising the remaining members of the defunct RCC. It also appointed the General People's Committee, which replaced the Council of Ministers, its members now called secretaries rather than ministers.
All legislative and executive authority was vested in the GPC. This body, however, delegated most of its important authority to its general secretary and General Secretariat and to the General People's Committee. Gaddafi, as general secretary of the GPC, remained the primary decision maker, just as he had been when chairman of the RCC. In turn, all adults had the right and duty to participate in the deliberation of their local Basic People's Congress (BPC), whose decisions were passed up to the GPC for consideration and implementation as national policy. The BPCs were in theory the repository of ultimate political authority and decision making, being the embodiment of what Gaddafi termed direct "people's power." The 1977 declaration and its accompanying resolutions amounted to a fundamental revision of the 1969 constitutional proclamation, especially with respect to the structure and organization of the government at both national and subnational levels.
Continuing to revamp Libya's political and administrative structure, Gaddafi introduced yet another element into the body politic. Beginning in 1977, "revolutionary committees" were organized and assigned the task of "absolute revolutionary supervision of people's power"; that is, they were to guide the people's committees, "raise the general level of political consciousness and devotion to revolutionary ideals". In reality, Gaddafi's revolutionary committees were used to survey the population and repress any political opposition to Gaddafi's autocratic rule. Reportedly 10 to 20 percent of Libyans worked in surveillance for these committees, a proportion of informants on par with Saddam Hussein's Iraq or Kim Jong Il's North Korea.
Filled with politically astute zealots, the ubiquitous revolutionary committees in 1979 assumed control of BPC elections. Although they were not official government organs, the revolutionary committees became another mainstay of the domestic political scene. As with the people's committees and other administrative innovations since the revolution, the revolutionary committees fit the pattern of imposing a new element on the existing subnational system of government rather than eliminating or consolidating already existing structures. By the late 1970s, the result was an unnecessarily complex system of overlapping jurisdictions in which cooperation and coordination among different elements were compromised by ill-defined grants of authority and responsibility.
The RCC was formally dissolved and the government was again reorganized into people's committees. A new General People's Committee (cabinet) was selected, each of its "secretaries" becoming head of a specialized people's committee; the exceptions were the "secretariats" of petroleum, foreign affairs, and heavy industry, where there were no people's committees. A proposal was also made to establish a "people's army" by substituting a national militia, being formed in the late 1970s, for the national army. Although the idea surfaced again in early 1982, it did not appear to be close to implementation.
Remaking of the economy was parallel with the attempt to remold political and social institutions. Until the late 1970s, Libya's economy was mixed, with a large role for private enterprise except in the fields of oil production and distribution, banking, and insurance. But according to volume two of Gaddafi's Green Book, which appeared in 1978, private retail trade, rent, and wages were forms of "exploitation" that should be abolished. Instead, workers' self-management committees and profit participation partnerships were to function in public and private enterprises. A property law was passed that forbade ownership of more than one private dwelling, and Libyan workers took control of a large number of companies, turning them into state-run enterprises. Retail and wholesale trading operations were replaced by state-owned "people's supermarkets", where Libyans in theory could purchase whatever they needed at low prices. By 1981 the state had also restricted access to individual bank accounts to draw upon privately held funds for government projects.
Gaddafi's efforts also improved the average health of Libyans. In 2009, the CIA's World Factbook showed the average life expectancy of a Libyan to be 77 years (only one year less than that of an American citizen).
However, the measures created resentment and opposition among the newly dispossessed. The latter joined those already alienated, some of whom had begun to leave the country. By 1982, perhaps 50,000 to 100,000 Libyans had gone abroad; because many of the emigrants were among the enterprising and better educated Libyans, they represented a significant loss of managerial and technical expertise.
The government also built a trans-Sahara water pipeline from major aquifers to both a network of reservoirs and the towns of Tripoli, Sirte and Benghazi in 2006–2007, ending the city's water shortages, caused by the rising urban population. It is part of the Great Manmade River project, started in 1984. It is pumping large resources of water from the Nubian Sandstone Aquifer System to both urban populations and new irrigation projects around the country.
Libya continued to be plagued with a shortage of skilled labor, which had to be imported along with a broad range of consumer goods, both paid for with petroleum income. This same oil revenue, however, made possible a substantial improvement in the lives of virtually all Libyans. During the 1970s, the government succeeded in making major improvements in the general welfare of its citizens. By the 1980s Libyans enjoyed much improved housing and education, comprehensive social welfare services, and general standards of health that were among the highest in Africa.
As early as 1969, Gaddafi waged a campaign against Chad. Part of his hostility was apparently because Chadian President François Tombalbaye was Christian. 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.
Libyan military adventures in Chad failed when the prolonged foray of Libyan troops into the Aozou Strip in northern Chad began in 1976 was finally repulsed in 1987, when extensive U.S. and French help to Chadian rebel forces and the government headed by former Defence Minister Hissein Habré finally led to a Chadian victory in the so-called Toyota War. Gaddafi dispatched his military across the border to Egypt in 1977, but Egyptian forces fought back in the Libyan–Egyptian War, both nations agreed to a ceasefire under the mediation of the President of Algeria Houari Boumediène.
In 1972, Gaddafi created the Islamic Legion as a tool to unify and Arabize the region. The priority of the Legion was first Chad, and then Sudan. In Darfur, a western province of Sudan, Gaddafi supported the creation of the Arab Gathering (Tajammu al-Arabi), which according to Gérard Prunier was "a militantly racist and pan-Arabist organization which stressed the 'Arab' character of the province." The two organizations shared members and a source of support, and the distinction between the two is often ambiguous.
This Islamic Legion was mostly composed of immigrants from poorer Sahelian countries, but also, according to a source, thousands of Pakistanis who had been recruited in 1981 with the false promise of civilian jobs once in Libya. Generally speaking, the Legion's members were immigrants who had gone to Libya with no thought of fighting wars, and had been provided with inadequate military training and had sparse commitment. A French journalist, speaking of the Legion's forces in Chad, observed that they were "foreigners, Arabs or Africans, mercenaries in spite of themselves, wretches who had come to Libya hoping for a civilian job, but found themselves signed up more or less by force to go and fight in an unknown desert."
At the beginning of the 1987 Libyan offensive into Chad, it maintained a force of 2,000 in Darfur. The nearly continuous cross-border raids that resulted greatly contributed to a separate ethnic conflict within Darfur that killed about 9,000 people between 1985 and 1988.
In 1972 Gaddafi tried to get the People's Republic of China to sell him a nuclear bomb. He then tried to get a bomb from Pakistan, but Pakistan severed its ties before it succeeded in building a bomb. In 1978, Gaddafi turned to Pakistan's rival, India, for help building its own nuclear bomb. In July 1978, Libya and India signed a memorandum of understanding to cooperate in peaceful applications of nuclear energy as part of India's Atom of Peace policy. In 1991, then Prime Minister Navaz Sharif paid a state visit to Libya to hold talks on the promotion of a Free Trade Agreement between Pakistan and Libya. However, Gaddafi focused on demanding Pakistan's Prime Minister sell him a nuclear weapon, which surprised many of the Prime Minister's delegation members and journalists. When Prime minister Sharif refused Gaddafi's demand, Gaddafi disrespected him, calling him a "Corrupt politician", a term which insulted and surprised Sharif. The Prime minister cancelled the talks and immediately returned to Pakistan and expelled the Libyan Ambassador from Pakistan.
Thailand reported its citizens had helped build storage facilities for nerve gas. Germany sentenced a businessman, Jurgen Hippenstiel-Imhausen, to five years in prison for involvement in Libyan chemical weapons. Inspectors from the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) verified in 2004 that Libya owned a stockpile of 23 metric tons of mustard gas and more than 1,300 metric tons of precursor chemicals.
When Libya was under pressure from international disputes, on 19 August 1981, a naval dogfight occurred over the Gulf of Sidra in the Mediterranean Sea. U.S. F-14 Tomcat jets fired anti-aircraft missiles against a formation of Libyan fighter jets in this dogfight and shot down two Libyan Su-22 Fitter attack aircraft. This naval action was a result of claiming the territory and losses from the previous incident. Again, a second dogfight happened on 4 January 1989; U.S. carrier-based jets also shot down two Libyan MiG-23 Flogger-Es in the same place, adding up to a disastrous loss of the enemy's air force.
A similar action took place on 23 March 1986; while patrolling the Gulf, U.S. naval forces attacked a sizable enemy naval force and various SAM sites defending Gaddafi's territory. U.S. fighter jets and fighter-bombers destroyed SAM launching facilities and sank various naval vessels, killing 35 seamen. This was a reprisal for terrorist hijackings between June and December 1985.
On 5 April 1986, Libyan agents bombed "La Belle" nightclub in West Berlin, killing three and injuring 229. Gaddafi's plan was intercepted by several national intelligence agencies and more detailed information was retrieved four years later from Stasi archives. The Libyan agents who had carried out the operation, from the Libyan embassy in East Germany, were prosecuted by the reunited Germany in the 1990s.
In response to the discotheque bombing, joint United States Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps air-strikes took place against Libya on 15 April 1986 and code-named Operation El Dorado Canyon and known as the 1986 bombing of Libya. Following the 1986 bombing of Libya, Gaddafi intensified his support for anti-American government organizations. He financed Jeff Forts Al-Rukn faction of the Chicago Black P. Stones gang, in their emergence as an indigenous anti-American armed revolutionary movement. Members of Al-Rukn were arrested in 1986 for preparing to conduct strikes on behalf of Libya, including blowing up U.S. government buildings and bringing down an airplane; the Al-Rukn defendants were convicted in 1987 of "offering to commit bombings and assassinations on U.S. soil for Libyan payment." In 1986, Libyan state television announced that Libya was training suicide squads to attack American and European interests. He began financing the IRA again in 1986, to retaliate against the British for harboring American fighter planes.
Gaddafi sent thousands of troops to fight against Tanzania on behalf of Idi Amin. About 600 Libyan soldiers lost their lives attempting to defend the collapsing presidency of Amin. Amin exiled from Uganda to Libya before settling in Saudi Arabia.
Gaddafi opposed apartheid in South Africa and forged a good relationship with Nelson Mandela, who named his grandson after Gaddafi and called Gaddafi one of the 20th century’s greatest freedom fighters, and insisted the eventual collapse of the apartheid system owed much to Gaddafi and Libyan support. In turn, Mandela later played a key role in helping Gaddafi gain mainstream acceptance in the Western world later in the 1990s. Over the years, Gaddafi came to be seen as a hero in much of Africa due to his revolutionary image.
Gaddafi's World Revolutionary Center (WRC) near Benghazi become a training center for groups backed by Gaddafi. Graduates in power as of 2011 include Blaise Compaoré of Burkina Faso and Idriss Déby of Chad.
Gaddafi trained and supported Liberian dictator Charles Taylor, who was indicted by the Special Court for Sierra Leone for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during the conflict in Sierra Leone. Foday Sankoh, the founder of Revolutionary United Front, was also Gaddafi's graduate. According to Douglas Farah, "The amputation of the arms and legs of men, women, and children as part of a scorched-earth campaign was designed to take over the region's rich diamond fields and was backed by Gaddafi, who routinely reviewed their progress and supplied weapons".
Gaddafi intervened militarily in the Central African Republic in 2001 to protect his ally Ange-Félix Patassé. Patassé signed a deal giving Libya a 99-year lease to exploit all of that country's natural resources, including uranium, copper, diamonds, and oil.
Gaddafi's strong military support and finances gained him allies across the continent. He had himself crowned with the title "King of Kings of Africa" in 2008, in the presence of over 200 African traditional rulers and kings, although his views on African political and military unification received a lukewarm response from their governments. His 2009 forum for African kings was canceled by the Ugandan hosts, who believed that traditional rulers discussing politics would lead to instability. On 1 February 2009, a 'coronation ceremony' in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, was held to coincide with the 53rd African Union Summit, at which he was elected head of the African Union for the year. Gaddafi told the assembled African leaders: "I shall continue to insist that our sovereign countries work to achieve the United States of Africa."
In 1986, 2000, and the months prior to the 2011 civil war, Gaddafi announced plans for a unified African gold dinar currency, to challenge the dominance of the US$ and Euro currencies. The African dinar would have been measured directly in terms of gold.
In 1971 Gaddafi warned that if France opposes Libyan military occupation of Chad, he will use all weapons in the war against France including the "revolutionary weapon". On 11 June 1972, Gaddafi announced that any Arab wishing to volunteer for Palestinian terrorist groups "can register his name at any Libyan embassy will be given adequate training for combat". He also promised financial support for attacks. On 7 October 1972, Gaddafi praised the Lod Airport massacre, executed by the communist Japanese Red Army, and demanded Palestinian terrorist groups to carry out similar attacks.
Reportedly, Gaddafi was a major financier of the "Black September Movement" which perpetrated the Munich massacre at the 1972 Summer Olympics. In 1973 the Irish Naval Service intercepted the vessel Claudia in Irish territorial waters, which carried Soviet arms from Libya to the Provisional IRA. In 1976 after a series of terror activities by the Provisional IRA, Gaddafi announced that "the bombs which are convulsing Britain and breaking its spirit are the bombs of Libyan people. We have sent them to the Irish revolutionaries so that the British will pay the price for their past deeds".
In the Philippines, Libya backed the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which continues to carry out acts of violence in an effort to establish a separatist Islamic state in the southern Philippines. Libya has also supported the New People's Army and Libyan agents were seen meeting with the Communist Party of the Philippines. Islamist terrorist group Abu Sayyaf has also been suspected of receiving Libyan funding.
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.
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.
In 1981 Gaddafi was found talking about assassinating new American President Ronald Reagan. In October 1981 Egypt's President Anwar Sadat was assassinated. Gaddafi applauded the murder and remarked that it was a "punishment".
In April 1984, Libyan refugees in London protested against execution of two dissidents. Communications intercepted by MI5 show that Tripoli ordered its diplomats to direct violence against the demonstrators. Libyan diplomats shot at 11 people and killed British policewoman Yvonne Fletcher. The incident led to the breaking off of diplomatic relations between the United Kingdom and Libya for over a decade.
After December 1985 Rome and Vienna airport attacks, which killed 19 and wounded around 140, Gaddafi indicated that he would continue to support the Red Army Faction, the Red Brigades, and the Irish Republican Army as long as European countries support anti-Gaddafi Libyans. The Foreign Minister of Libya also called the massacres "heroic acts".
In 1986, Libyan state television announced that Libya was training suicide squads to attack American and European interests.
Gaddafi claimed the Gulf of Sidra as his territorial waters and his navy was involved in a conflict from January to March 1986.
On 5 April 1986, Libyan agents were alleged with bombed "La Belle" nightclub in West Berlin, killing three people and injuring 229 people who were spending evening there. Gaddafi's plan was intercepted by Western intelligence. More-detailed information was retrieved years later when Stasi archives were investigated by the reunited Germany. Libyan agents who had carried out the operation from the Libyan embassy in East Germany were prosecuted by reunited Germany in the 1990s.
Germany and the U.S. claimed that the bombing in West Berlin had been ordered from Tripoli. On 14 April 1986, the U.S. carried out Operation El Dorado Canyon against Gaddafi and members of his government. Air defenses, three army bases, and two airfields in Tripoli and Benghazi were bombed. The surgical strikes failed to kill Gaddafi but he lost a few dozen military officers. Gaddafi then spread propaganda how it had killed his "adopted daughter" and how victims had been all "civilians". Despite the absurdity and variations of the stories, the campaign was so successful that a large proportion of the Western press reported the government's stories as facts.
Gaddafi announced that he had won a spectacular military victory over the U.S. and the country was officially renamed the "Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriyah". However, his speech appeared devoid of passion and even the "victory" celebrations appeared unusual. Criticism of Gaddafi by ordinary Libyan citizens became more bold, such as defacing of Gaddafi posters. The raids against Libyan military had brought the government to its the weakest point in 17 years.
Many Western European countries took action against Libyan terrorism and other activities following years.
In late 1987 French authorities stopped a merchant vessel, the MV Eksund, which was delivering a 150 ton Libyan arms shipment to European terrorist groups. In Britain, Gaddafi's best-known political political subsidiary is the Workers Revolutionary Party.
Gaddafi fueled a number of Islamist and communist groups in the Philippines, including the New People's Army of the Communist Party of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
In Australia, there were several cases of attempted radicalisation of Australian Aborigines, with individuals receiving paramilitary training in Libya. Libya put several left-wing unions on the Libyan payroll, such as the Food Preservers Union (FPU) and the Federated Confectioners Association of Australia (FCA). Labour Party politician Bill Hartley, the secretary of Libya-Australia friendship society, was long-term supporter of Gaddafi and Saddam Hussein.
In the 1980s, the Libyan government purchased advertisements in Arabic-language newspapers in Australia asking for Australian Arabs to join the military units of his worldwide struggle against imperialism. In part,because of this, Australia banned recruitment of foreign mercenaries in Australia.
Some publications were financed by Gaddafi. The Socialist Labour League's Workers News was one such publication: "in among the routine denunciations of uranium mining and calls for greater trade union militancy would be a couple of pages extolling Gaddafi's fatuous and incoherent green book and the Libyan revolution."
Libya was accused in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland; UN sanctions were imposed in 1992. UN Security Council resolutions (UNSCRs) passed in 1992 and 1993 obliged Libya to fulfill requirements related to the Pan Am 103 bombing before sanctions could be lifted, leading to Libya's political and economic isolation for most of the 1990s. The UN sanctions cut airline connections with the outer world, reduced diplomatic representation and prohibited the sale of military equipment. Oil-related sanctions were assessed by some as equally significant for their exceptions: thus sanctions froze Libya's foreign assets (but excluded revenue from oil and natural gas and agricultural commodities) and banned the sale to Libya of refinery or pipeline equipment (but excluded oil production equipment).
Under the sanctions Libya's refining capacity eroded. Libya's role on the international stage grew less provocative after UN sanctions were imposed. In 1999, Libya fulfilled one of the UNSCR requirements by surrendering two Libyans suspected in connection with the bombing for trial before a Scottish court in the Netherlands. One of these suspects, Abdel Basset al-Megrahi, was found guilty; the other was acquitted. UN sanctions against Libya were subsequently suspended. The full lifting of the sanctions, contingent on Libya's compliance with the remaining UNSCRs, including acceptance of responsibility for the actions of its officials and payment of appropriate compensation, was passed 12 September 2003, explicitly linked to the release of up to $2.7 billion in Libyan funds to the families of the 1988 attack's 270 victims.
In 2002, Gaddafi paid a ransom reportedly worth tens of millions of dollars to Abu Sayyaf, a Filipino Islamist militancy, to release a number of kidnapped tourists. He presented it as an act of goodwill to Western countries; nevertheless the money helped the group to expand its operation.
In December 2003, Libya announced that it had agreed to reveal and end its programs to develop weapons of mass destruction and to renounce terrorism, and Gaddafi made significant strides in normalizing relations with western nations. He received various Western European leaders as well as many working-level and commercial delegations, and made his first trip to Western Europe in 15 years when he traveled to Brussels in April 2004. Libya responded in good faith to legal cases brought against it in U.S. courts for terrorist acts that predate its renunciation of violence. Claims for compensation in the Lockerbie bombing, LaBelle disco bombing, and UTA 772 bombing cases are ongoing. The U.S. rescinded Libya's designation as a state sponsor of terrorism in June 2006. In late 2007, Libya was elected by the General Assembly to a nonpermanent seat on the United Nations Security Council for the 2008–2009 term. Currently, Operation Enduring Freedom - Trans Sahara is being fought in Libya's portion of the Sahara Desert.
In 1994, the General People's Congress approved the introduction of "purification laws" to be put into effect, punishing theft by the amputation of limbs, and fornication and adultery by flogging. Under the Libyan constitution, homosexual relations are punishable by up to five years in jail.
Throughout his long rule, Gaddafi had to defend his position against opposition and coup attempts, emerging both from the military and from the general population. He reacted to these threats on one hand by maintaining a careful balance of power between the forces in the country, and by brutal repression on the other. Gaddafi successfully balanced the various tribes of Libya one against the other by distributing his favours. To forestall a military coup, he deliberately weakened the Libyan Armed Forces by regularly rotating officers, relying instead on loyal elite troops such as his Revolutionary Guard Corps, the special-forces Khamis Brigade and his personal Amazonian Guard.
Dissent was illegal under Law 75 of 1973. Reportedly 10 to 20 percent of Libyans worked in surveillance for Gaddafi's Revolutionary Committees, a proportion of informants on par with Saddam Hussein's Iraq or Kim Jong Il's North Korea. The surveillance took place in government, in factories, and in the education sector.
Following an abortive attempt to replace English foreign language education with Russian, in recent years English has been taught in Libyan schools from a primary level, and students have access to English-language media. However, one protester in 2011 described the situation as: "None of us can speak English or French. He kept us ignorant and blindfolded".
Prisons are run with little or no documentation of the inmate population or of such basic data as prisoner's crime and sentence.
During the late 1970s, some exiled Libyans[who?] formed active opposition groups. In early 1979, Gaddafi warned opposition leaders to return home immediately or face "liquidation." When caught, they could face being sentenced and hanged in public.
A wave of assassinations of prominent Libyan exiles, mostly in Western Europe, followed. Few opponents responded to the 1979 call to "repentance" or to a similar one issued in October 1982 in which Gaddafi once again threatened liquidation of the recalcitrant, the GPC having already declared their personal property forfeit.
Internal opposition came from elements of the middle class who opposed Gaddafi's economic reforms and from students and intellectuals who criticized his ideology. He also incurred the anger of the Islamic community for his unorthodox interpretations of the doctrine and traditions of Islam, his challenge to the authority of the religious establishment, and his contention that the ideas in The Green Book were compatible with and based upon Islam. Endowed Islamic properties (habus) were nationalized as part of Gaddafi's economic reforms, and he urged "the masses" to take over mosques.
The most-serious challenges came from the armed forces, especially the officers' corps, and from the RCC. Perhaps the most-important one occurred in 1975 when Minister of Planning and RCC member Major Umar Mihayshi and about thirty army officers attempted a coup after disagreements over political economic policies. The failure of the coup led to the flight of Mihayshi and part of the country's technocratic elite. In a move that signaled a new intolerance of dissent, the government executed twenty-two of the accused army officers in 1977, the first such punishment in more than twenty years.
Further executions of dissident army officers were reported in 1979, and in August 1980 several hundred people were allegedly killed in the wake of an unsuccessful army revolt centered in Tobruk.
It is the Libyan people's responsibility to liquidate such scums who are distorting Libya's image abroad.—Gaddafi talking about exiles in 1982.
Gaddafi employed his network of diplomats and recruits to assassinate dozens of his critics around the world. Amnesty International listed at least twenty-five assassinations between 1980 and 1987.
Gaddafi's agents were active in the U.K., where many Libyans had sought asylum. After Libyan diplomats shot at 15 anti-Gaddafi protesters from inside the Libyan embassy's first floor and killed a British policewoman, the U.K. broke off relations with Gaddafi's government as a result of the incident.
Even the U.S. could not protect dissidents from Libya. In 1980, a Libyan agent attempted to assassinate dissident Faisal Zagallai, a doctoral student at the University of Colorado at Boulder. The bullets left Zagallai partially blinded. A defector was kidnapped and executed in 1990 just before he was about to receive U.S. citizenship.
There is indication that between the years of 2002 and 2007, Libya's Gaddafi-era intelligence service had a partnership with western spy organizations including MI6 and the CIA, who voluntarily provided information on Libyan dissidents in the United States and Canada in exchange for using Libya as a base for extraordinary renditions. This was done despite Libya's history of murdering dissidents abroad, and with full knowledge of Libya's brutal mistreatment of detainees.
In the 1990s, Gaddafi's rule was threatened by militant Islamism. In October 1993, there was an unsuccessful assassination attempt on Gaddafi by elements of the Libyan army. In response, Gaddafi used repressive measures, using his personal Revolutionary Guard Corps to crush riots and Islamist activism during the 1990s. Nevertheless, Cyrenaica between 1995 and 1998 was politically unstable, due to the tribal allegiances of the local troops.
A renewed serious threat to the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya came in February 2011, with the Libyan civil war. The novelist Idris Al-Mesmari was arrested hours after giving an interview with Al Jazeera about the police reaction to protests in Benghazi on 15 February.
Inspiration for the unrest is attributed to the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, connecting it with the wider Arab Spring. On 22 February, The Economist described the events as an "uprising that is trying to reclaim Libya from the world's longest-ruling autocrat." Gaddafi had referred to the opposition variously as "rats", "cockroaches", and "drugged kids" and accused them of being part of al-Qaeda.
In the east, the National Transitional Council was established in Benghazi.
Gaddafi's son, Khamis, controlled the well-armed Khamis Brigade and alleged to possess large number of mercenaries. Some Libyan officials had sided with the protesters and requested help from the international community to bring an end to the massacres of civilians. The government in Tripoli had lost control of half of Libya by the end of February, but as of mid-September Gaddafi remained in control of several parts of Fezzan. On 21 September, the forces of NTC captured Sabha, the largest city of Fezzan, reducing the control of Gaddafi to limited and isolated areas.
Many nations condemned Gaddafi's government over its use of force against civilians. Several other nations allied with Gaddafi called the uprising and intervention a "plot" by Western powers to loot Libya's resources. The United Nations Security Council passed a resolution to enforce a no-fly zone over Libyan airspace on 17 March 2011.
The UN resolution authorised air-strikes against Libyan ground troops and warships that appeared to threaten civilians. On 19 March, the no-fly zone enforcement began, with French aircraft undertaking sorties across Libya and a naval blockade by the British Royal Navy. Eventually, the aircraft carriers USS Enterprise and Charles de Gaulle arrived off the coast and provided the enforcers with a rapid-response capability. U.S. forces named their part of the enforcement action Operation Odyssey Dawn, meant to "deny the Libyan regime from using force against its own people". said U.S. Vice Admiral William E. Gortney. More than 110 "Tomahawk" cruise missiles were fired in an initial assault by U.S. warships and a British submarine against Libyan air defences.
The last government holdouts in Sirte finally fell to anti-Gaddafi fighters on 20 October 2011, and, following the controversial death of Muammar Gaddafi, Libya was officially declared "liberated" on 23 October 2011, ending 42 years of Gaddafi's leadership in Libya.
Political scientist Riadh Sidaoui suggested in October 2011 that Gaddafi "has created a great void for his exercise of power: there is no institution, no army, no electoral tradition in the country", and as a result, the period of transition would be difficult in Libya.
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