It seemed almost inevitable that once Colonel Gaddafi went on the run from Tripoli, with the fighters of the National Transitional Council in hot pursuit, that his death would be next on the agenda of his pursuers. And when, as subsequently announced, French aircraft under NATO command strafed the convoy in which he was travelling near his birthplace of Sirte, NATO officers would have known that once he was left on the ground helpless to take flight, his pursuers would see themselves as having no alternative but to eliminate him. Pictures of what were apparently the last few hours or minutes of Gaddafi’s life indicate that he was at the mercy of his pursuers, and that in such an atmosphere, infused over decades, with hate against his regime, taking his life would be perceived by his attackers as a logical conclusion to their efforts. That, as is well known, is the logic of the intensity of civil war, as indicated, in this case, by the fact that additional reports are that fifty-three leading “Gaddafi loyalists” of the old regime were also found dead in Sirte.
So we can take the suggestions, including those emanating from the United Nations, that the International Court was really the next appropriate locus for Gaddafi, as largely pro forma. No doubt it has been felt among some of the NATO powers that the example of subjection to judicial treatment of the various defeated leaders and military men in the aftermath of the disintegration of the Yugoslav state, has set new standards for post-civil war situations. But among those concerned to ensure a speedy reconstruction of the Libyan state and its oil producing facilities in the present volatile international economic atmosphere, a more general sentiment would surely have been that a live Gaddafi, and a prolonged trial, would certainly have served as a distraction from what is referred to as a necessary process of reconciliation in Libya. The Colonel would, for them, be an ever-present focal point for Libyan citizens sympathetic to his cause. And this sentiment would almost certainly be held by those members of the National Transitional Council (NTC), the new temporary state leadership, some of whose personnel were until recently, leading functionaries of the Gaddafi Libyan state.
The NATO powers will now turn to two things. The first, ensuring a stabilization of the current temporary regime, pending arrangements for democratic elections which have not been held during the forty-two years of Gaddafi rule; and the second, within the context of that stabilization, beginning renegotiations concerning the main spoils of war – the huge oil and gas industry of the country whose wealth, for such a prolonged period, gave Gaddafi decided leverage in his dealings with the industrial states and their investors. This leverage became even greater, once the Colonel had, in the wake of President Reagan’s bombing of certain facilities in Libya in 1986, decided that discretion was the better part of valour, as far as developing some kind of nuclear capability was concerned. The more recent story of settlement by the United Kingdom authorities over the Lockerbie affair is well known; as is the pursuit by Italy, the former colonial occupier of Libya, of major investments in the country. Whether any effort will be made to overturn the arrangements negotiated by Gaddafi, whether formal commercial agreements or the release of the Lockerbie prisoner, is left to be seen, though for the most part that is unlikely. But that will really be determined by the character of the group that, in terms of the longer-term future, will be in control of the country, and the extent of differing political and religious influences within it.
For, an obvious concern of the NATO powers will, first in the short run, be whether the present combination of the ruling group will be able to maintain its coherence, as those functionaries within it who made the leap from Gaddafi, and the persons who had previously been opposed to the Colonel for some time before the civil war began, tussle for influence and control, seeking external legitimacy on the basis of their respective pasts. Obviously too, the present military leadership of the state will wish to exert influence, seeing themselves as the ultimate guarantors of stability as armies are wont to do. They will certainly seek to have an influence on the division of constitutional powers in the context of the heavily tribal and regionalist character of the country. Indications will surely emerge also, that the Islamists who have participated in the struggle against Gaddafi, particularly those in the armed militia that are in de facto control of the country will. They will, in seeking to exert major influence over the post-Gaddafi reconstitution of the Libyan state, probably be following the example of the Muslim Brotherhood in post-Mubarak Egypt.
Caricom countries will have watched developments in Libya over the last eight months with some concern, and indeed some surprise at the relatively easy demise of the Gaddafi regime which, on the face of it seemed to have some degree of solidity. Some, like Guyana, which had long established relations with the country will, prior to the recent events, previously have watched with some satisfaction as major powers like Britain, Italy and France felt it necessary to come to terms with the Colonel, and Prime Minister Blair for example, was welcomed with open arms in Tripoli. President Jagdeo’s visit to Libya in 2009 – Guyana being also a member of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) – was partly also in pursuit of an effort to obtain cancellation of a debt of about US$40M.
From the side of the Eastern Caribbean, only last year, after extended discussions with the Libyan government, the OECS governments, traditionally cautious in these matters with the early exception of the Grenada People‘s Revolutionary Government, agreed to the establishment of a Libyan embassy in St Lucia, the headquarters of the OECS. This decision was taken in conjunction with agreement of Libya to establish an investment bank in St Kitts and Nevis with a portfolio of US100M. And in the face of opposition criticisms during the course of the recent civil war, the leaderships of those countries have hesitated to accept demands that they break relations with the Libyan regime. Obviously the stakes seemed too uncertain, and the best course, as St Lucian Foreign Minister Rufus Bousquet suggested, was just to wait and see. But presently, there must be much consideration as to what is now to happen to the benefits gained from what some observers and oppositions considered their high-stakes diplomacy.