It is easy to see why democracy has yet to make its way to the people of Libya in the wake of the revolution, for dictatorships are still alive and well across nearly all the countries of the Arab Spring. The dictators who fled left their shadows behind, and those who were imprisoned have been exonerated; all they have had to do is wave their hands at those who are still submissive to them, and get their way. But for a dictator to be able to wave at his people from beyond the grave, a people who are currently on the brink of a civil war, this type of presence requires closer inspection order to understand what has happened to such people them following 42 years of authoritarian rule.
It seems as though the late Libyan dictator, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi is calling to the Libyan people from his tomb. Some have even claimed that he has appeared and spoken with them. The fantasy of Gaddafi’s return is embodied in a court case that took place in a Moroccan court in March 2012, based on a lawsuit filed by Gaddafi against a Moroccan journalist who he claimed “insulted the dignity of his public persona”. The journalist in question wrote an article in 2009 on the lack of democracy in the countries of the Arab Maghreb, in which he claimed that Gaddafi had not only squandered the wealth of the Libyan people but that he had yet to fulfil any of the promises he committed to during the coup that brought him to power. Indeed, the Moroccan journalist warned the Libyan people that they would have to wait yet another 40 years before Gaddafi distributed the revenues of oil wealth among the country’s population as promised. The verdict of that case awarded Gaddafi a sum of nearly one million dirhams but asked for an extension until his death was confirmed.
Gaddafi has returned from his grave for he had never really left the realm of his beloved Zenga, the home that so many now associate him with. His ghost is dressed in his infamous clothes, and we find that he is still using the whip of torture in the Republic’s institutions. The question that prevails among many political analysts today is thus whether or not Libya is on its way to becoming a failed state or whether it is already a failed state. And if so, where do the borders of this state begin and end?
Gaddafi may have been buried after his death but his image continues to reign supreme. Old videos of him continue to resurface, such as the video of his 2010 visit to Italy in which he called on Europeans to convert to Islam. Such videos are circulating alongside translations of Gaddafi’s plans and goals not only for the Arab world and Africa, but for all of Europe as well. Rather than view these things as they are, they are being used to bring Gaddafi back into the stream of current events and to revive the prophecies of a fallen leader.
During the trip to Italy mentioned above, Italian governmental leaders described Gaddafi’s visit as nothing more than a show; for how can Gaddafi resist putting on a show? The former Libyan dictator allegedly ordered his men to give each Italian woman who attended his seminar on Islam a sum of up to €100 and a Quran as a gift. He also asked for 30 Arabian horses to accompany him wherever he went in order to mark the two-year anniversary of the Italian-Libyan peace treaty. Gaddafi also stirred sentiments of discontent when he demanded that his personal tent be set up in the lawn in front of the Academy of Rome.
In addition to these spectacles, Gaddafi also requested that everyone refer to him as the “King of African Kings” in all television interviews and official meetings. Indeed, ousted Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak referred to Gaddafi by this title during a pan-African summit in Sharm El-Sheikh in 2009. Who would have thought that the addresser and the addressee would end up on quite such different paths a few years later?
Gaddafi’s loyal men are desperately making sure that his image does not disappear from the minds of the Libyan people, a result of which being that Gaddafi is able to command, demand and stick his nose in matters far beyond his grave. These measures seek to ensure the continuation of Gaddafi’s legacy so that the revolution does not continue. Some of these individuals even seek revenge on behalf of Gaddafi himself. What Libya needs today is for someone to lift the curtain of darkness so that the people may see once again. The revolution that removed the tyrant must once again prevail and his legacy must be purged completely in the struggle for freedom in the hearts and minds of the Libyan people.
This article first appeared in Arabic on Al-Araby Al-Jadid
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.