By Ebi Kesiena
Ten years ago, Muammar Gaddafi was killed by Libyan rebels and the North African country is still struggling to emerge from the violence sparked by his overthrow.
Gaddafi became the de facto leader of Libya on September 1, 1969 after leading a group of young Libyan Army officers against King Idris I in a bloodless coup d’état. After the king had fled the country, the Revolutionary Command Council (RCC) headed by Gaddafi abolished the monarchy and the old constitution and established the Libyan Arab Republic, with the motto ‘freedom, socialism and unity’.
Popularly known as Colonel Gaddafi, he governed Libya as Revolutionary Chairman from 1969 to 1977, and then as the Brotherly Leader of the Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, from 1977 until the revolt against him and eventual killing in 2011. Gaddafi’s domestic popularity stemmed from his overthrow of the monarchy, his removal of the Italian settlers and both American and British air bases from Libyan territory, and his redistribution of the country’s land on a more equitable basis.
As a leader with freedom as his motto, Gaddafi made great contributions to Libya and was mourned as a hero by many across Sub-Saharan Africa. While he was also a dictator, Gaddafi was the most benevolent in a region that only knew dictatorship, and was a great man that looked out for his people which made them the envy of all of Africa.
Libya Under Gaddafi’s Rule
Surprisingly, under his 42-year rule, Libya was one of the fastest growing economy power house and was often termed as the ‘Middle East of Africa’. It was a tourist destination to many. During Gaddafi’s tenure, all education to university level was paid by the government. Those who were not able to access their desired education courses in Libya were funded to pursue them abroad by the government. This helped increase the literacy rate from 25% to 87%.
Under Gaddafi, the GDP per capita for Libya was at all-time high, at about $15,000, medical treatment in Libyan public hospitals was free. In cases of specialized treatment abroad, the government took care of that too. Shelter was considered a natural human right for every Libyan citizen. Homes in Libya were owned by individuals and families, and were not supposed to be owned by others for renting. This helped to combat homelessness in the country. Electricity was free in Libya under Gaddafi, absolutely free, meaning that there were no electricity bills.
Gaddafi carried out the largest irrigation system in the world that was meant to make water available to every home in Libya. The project was funded by Gaddafi himself and often called ‘the eighth wonder of the world’.
If any citizen had interest in starting a farming business, then the government would provide land, seeds, house and livestock free of charge. There was bursary package for pregnant mothers. When they gave birth, the government gave each $5,000 for mother and child upkeep.
Price of petrol in Libya under Gaddafi was the lowest in the world at $0.14 per litre. When people married, they were given $50,000 by the government to start their lives. In adherence to the Sharia Law in Islam, there were no interests charged on loans. There was subsidies on cars, so that when a person wanted to buy a car, the government subsidized its price up to 50%.
Furthermore, the price of commodities in Libya under Gaddafi were extremely low, to ensure no person would lack anything or sleep hungry. There was no external debt during Gaddafi’s era, while the country also had reserves amounting to $150 billion. Also, graduates were given unemployment fee, a form of grant, by the government for their use until they find a job.
Just Before his death, Gaddafi was trying to introduce a single common African currency linked to gold. This move was greatly opposed by western nations, as this could have made Africa less dependent on external debts and aids. Libya’s economy was growing at double digits. In 2010, just a year before the revolution and Gaddafi’s death, the economy had a 10% growth rate.
Libya 10 Years After
The reports emanating from present day Libya is that of a failed state. 10 years after seems very tough, as Libya is struggling to recover from international interference. The country also requires an end to negative foreign involvement in its internal affairs.
Ironically, Gaddafi’s death has failed to bring democracy or stability. Instead, Libya has fractured along regional and ideological lines, with an assortment of mafia-like militias and their foreign backers vying for control of the oil-rich country.
With a Presidential poll set for December 24 and Legislative elections in January, will Libya finally turn the page on a decade of chaos? Only time will tell.