My Country was Hijacked

Gaddafi built his criminal and tyrant regime using the time honored game of “divide and rule” Now it is up to the Libyans and their leaders to agree on their political system, they will need technical and political support and advice as requested.

The world is familiar with the hijacking of planes, and other means of public transportation. What is not commonly understood is that a whole country can be hijacked.

In fact Libya was taken hostage with its own people 42 years ago. The hijackers were junior officers of the national army. They promised the hostages a free, prosperous and happy life under their revolutionary regime. Their promise was widely welcomed by Libyans who were highly concerned regarding the survival of the monarchy due to uncertainty of who would succeed the ailing King Idriss.

It took only a few years for the leader of the hijackers, Moamar Gaddafi to consolidate his control of the resources and freedom of the people before they realized that they were hostages in their own country. That situation continued for more than four decades during which there were several attempts by some hostages to free the country. However, they were all crushed with brutal force, while world powers were more concerned with their business interests with the hijackers than with the fate of the hostages. This state of affairs continued until the 17th of February 2011 after the Tunisian and the Egyptian people succeeded in over throwing their repressive regimes lead by Bin Ali and Hosni Mubarak.

The Libyan uprising began peacefully and on a small scale in Benghazi. Initially it included mainly family members of the victims of Abu Salim prison who were massacred in 1996. Their demand was to free the lawyer who was pursuing the investigation of that huge crime against humanity. Apparently, the time was right for that limited protest to gather mass support which was met with the usual force and repression. But what was unusual this time, was the determination of the protesters to continue their struggle for freedom and liberation regardless of the high cost.

The peaceful uprising spread from Benghazi to other cities and towns in the east and west of the country. They were chanting peacefully and they were stating “no foreign intervention, please”. But all this did not refrain the regime of the hijackers from using brutal force to put an end to the mass movement that spread throughout the country. This continued for more than one month before international intervention on the 19th of March that saved Benghazi and its people from the total destruction that Gaddafi promised to accomplish. From that time on, international support began for the continuation of what became a truly popular revolution to overthrow the brutal rule of Moamar Gaddafi, his family and close supporters, who have gotten used to regarding Libya as their private property with its people as their slaves. All this was done under the fiction of popular democracy.

The Italian government changed its policy from pro to anti Gaddafi after the popular uprising consolidated its territorial gains in the east of Libya and managed to spread to Misurata and Zentan in the west of the country. Before that, its relations with Libya have been rather lucrative but neither normal nor sustainable. Gaddafi conducted his external relations with the aim of personal glorification at the expense of the country. The rather strange relation that developed between Italy’s current prime minister and Gaddafi was evident in both countries. I still do not know the secret behind that relationship. I also still remember how a good Italian friend of mine summed up his impression of Italy’s relationship with Libya under Gaddafi. That was almost 10 years ago when he said” “Look Ali, while we feel sorry for the Libyan people we never had so good relations with your country”. He was referring to lucrative deals in the oil and gas industry as well as trade and investments in Italy.

Libyans were watching (in dismay and suppressed anger) the daily procession of world leaders from all continents to Gaddafi’s tent to seek business deals, or personal favors. It was like as if the hostages were watching those who should help to free them come instead to pay their respect and conduct business with the Chief hijacker. For me, it was distressful to watch how Gaddafi used oil money to bring world leaders to his tent and even humiliate them; yet they kept returning for more deals. Understandably Gaddafi’s tyrant regime could not have lasted until now without the use of the country’s oil wealth to buy his security.

Italy should now seek to re-establish healthy relations with post Gaddafi Libya based on mutual interests of both countries. For historical and practical consideration, Italy and Libya already have plenty of common ground where they can be partners for the benefit of both countries. All that is required of Italy is to fully respect the sovereignty and independence of Libya and use its geographic advantage to compete for an effective role in the reconstruction of Libya. Its recent anti-Gaddafi policy is a credit for its future relations with the Libyan people. While it is up to the Libyans and their leaders to agree on their political system, they will need technical and political support and advice as requested. No country should push its own vision on the proud Libyans.

Gaddafi built his criminal and tyrant regime using the time honored game of “divide and rule”. He consolidated his control of the people by playing tribes, cities and regions against each other at discretion. But fortunately, I expect that the very high human and material cost of the relatively long Libyan revolution has created a new sense of national unity among the people especially the youth. Only time will tell where all this will lead, but I am optimistic. A truly democratic process of governance will rapidly diminish the divisive issues of tribal rivalries. New pressure groups and political parties will be created on the basis of regional and national programs competing for elections at different levels. That should reduce but not eliminate tribal politics.
Right now, what Libya needs most is security and stabilization as pre-request for building a new nation to replace the Gaddafi legacy of tyranny, chaos, corruption and brutal dictatorship in the false name of the “Great Libyan Arab Peoples Social Jamahiria”. Libyan decided to put an end to the pathetic myth that characterized Gaddafi’s regime from the beginning.

For me personally, the Gaddafi regime destroyed my promising efforts and dreams for the peaceful development of the human and natural resources of Libya. As a Minister of Economic and Social Planning under King Idriss’s reign, I supervised the implementation of the first five year plan and the preparation of the second plan for the period 1969-1974. The Gaddafi regime abandoned that plan and went on its over chaotic ways of destroying the country’s human and natural resources. I went into the private sector and was the founding Chairman of the Libyan Investment Company and the General Manager of the largest Libyan Insurance Company as well as the Chairman of the Libyan Hotel and Tourism Company for more than three years until they were all nationalized in 1973.

Moreover, the Gaddafi regime seized all the private property of Libyans including mine. It was unbearable for me to watch that irrational if not insane policy. At that point, I decided to choose voluntarily exile for nearly 40 years, except for occasional short family visits. Several members of my close and extended family have suffered under the Gaddafi regime. My youngest brother, who is Italian trained criminal lawyer, was imprisoned several times for many years. We are all very happy to see the end of the Gaddafi dark and brutal era and are all hopeful that the young Libyans who have fought so bravely for their liberation will succeed in building their country for a better future. May we all pray for that outcome.

(29 August, 2011)

Ali A. Attiga

Ali A. Attiga is a former Minister of Economic and Social Planning under King Idriss’s reign.