- North Africa
- Conflicts - Demonstration - Governance
Libya: The Gaddafis in panic mode?
The political ‘revolution’ that changed Egypt and Tunisia continue to sweep through the rest of North Africa and the Middle East as Libyan protesters seek to oust the Gaddafi regime. Hundreds of people have been gunned down by security forces. Libyan officials say the number of casualties have been overstated. In a televised address, Saif el-Islam Gaddafi, the Libyan leader’s second son, enumerated a long list of dangers that could befall the country should his father is deposed. Analysts argue that it is a desperate move.
Last week, protesters in Libya’s second largest city, Benghazi rallied together to condemn the four-decade reign of Muammar Gaddafi. They were met with live round bullets and about eighty already confirmed dead. Latest figures revealed by the Human Rights Watch from hospital sources, which put the total number of dead at 233 on Sunday, conflicted with government estimates which said 14 people had died in Tripoli and 84 in Benghazi. Al Jazeera cites witnesses as saying that at least 61 people had been killed in clashes in Tripoli, alone, on Monday.
But in an address on Libyan national television, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the Libyan leader’s second-oldest son suggested that a set of democratic reforms be quickly implemented to "spare the blood" in what he believes could turn into "a fierce civil war" and encourage a return to colonialism, widespread poverty, emigration, strive, battles over resources, etc, in a country divided along tribal lines "based on alliances".
While Libyan observers have expressed anger over the leader’s son’s suggestion that the North African country could be crippled by divisions without the protection of his father’s rule, analysts believe that the urgency of Saif al-Islam Gaddafi’s plea to the Libyan people and acknowledgment of "mistakes" by security forces conflict with his claims that the international media has exaggerated the extent of the violence.
The cities of Benghazi, Al Bayda and Sabha were reportedly taken over by protesters with pockets of the military switching allegiance to the protesters. "There are people inside Libya who are opposing us" Saif al-Islam Gaddafi says whilst insisting that the brains behind the popular revolt are "illegal immigrants".
Several sources indicate that the use of weapons and artillery in the revolt is gaining ground, confirming Saif al-Islam Gaddafi’s claims that some people had taken possession of weaponry. Sunday, a car loaded with explosives was sent into the direction of one of the city’s military barracks. Other reports say a group of protesters attempted to break into a military camp after taking control of a tank.
"Either we agree today and we say we are Libyans this is our country, we want reform, freedom, democracy… it is going to take place anyway. We ask now as a final solution before its too late, five million people will take arms, we are not Egypt, we are not Tunisia, we will have weapons. Every one has access to weapons, instead of crying over 84 people killed, we’ll be crying over thousands, blood will flow, rivers of blood, in all the cities of Libya. And you will emigrate from Libya because petrol will stop and tomorrow all petrol companies will stop. And from tomorrow there won’t be any petrol, there won’t be any money, we won’t find a piece of bread," warned the leader’s son.
But whilst the Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi who has ruled the North African country for 40 years continues to be portrayed as a very popular man on national television, analysts argue that the fact that his son, — who has promised to assemble various leaders to begin work on a new national constitution in two days — with no official powers, was designated to come and plead with the Libyan people the way he did shows a sign of panic. He "is in a state of panic now", Al Jazeera quotes Awad Elfeituri from the Libyan Information Centre in Qatar as saying. " I think he is trying to send a message to the west, I don’t think he was talking to the Libyan people".
Libya has enjoyed military trading with the United Kingdom and the British authorities have contemplated if some of its military products have been used to violate human rights. The British authority has now said it is reviewing all military export licenses with Libya and other Middle Eastern countries.