Amid celebration and speculation around the world yesterday, members of the University community weighed in on the death of former Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi.
Gadhafi’s death, which Libyan officials announced yesterday, was met with uncertainty about the country’s future and joy from many Libyans and people around the world. The former dictator’s death gives Libya a greater possibility of establishing a new government, University experts said, though the country still faces many challenges.
NATO airstrikes struck a fleet of vehicles Gadhafi was reportedly in while leaving the city of Sirte yesterday. NATO’s efforts wounded Gadhafi and two of his sons — Muatassim and Seif al-Islam — in the French-led air raid in Sirte. Following the raid, Libyan officials announced the deaths of Gadhafi and Muatassim.
Gadhafi, who took over the country after a military coup in 1969, was overthrown in an armed uprising against his regime earlier this year.
Melvyn Levitsky, former U.S. ambassador to Brazil and Bulgaria and a professor in the Ford School of Public Policy, said the United States’s support of a new Libyan government will help move the country forward in these trying times.
“There is no real government,” Levitsky said. “Gadhafi didn’t leave many institutions in place. They really have to pull themselves up by the bootstraps.”
Levitsky said the U.S. military was less involved than British and French forces in NATO’s efforts to kill Gadhafi, but the U.S. will likely aid Libya in its future construction of governmental institutions and implementation of an electoral process.
“Libya is a potentially rich country,” Levitsky said. “But, they will need some help in institution building, and I think that’s where the United States and (United Nations) have some experience in the past.”
Various news sources have broadcasted videos of Gadhafi while wounded and being taken away from Sirte in the bed of a pickup truck. While many have celebrated his death, Levitsky said there is no point “expressing great joy” over Gadhafi’s death. Levitsky added that with the small triumph comes great difficulty.
“What we need to do is move on from here,” he said.
Mark Tessler, the University’s vice provost for international affairs and a professor of political science, said Libya has tough times ahead.
Tessler added that it would be incorrect to attribute the country’s victory to NATO alone since the Libyan people have actively participated in their own revolution and are now dealing with establishing a new and unified government.
“To have a government that is effective, to have a kind of national coherence and a national identity that really means something — these are all things that Libya wants and should have and has the opportunity to have,” Tessler said.
LSA senior Aisha Malek lived in Libya from 2003 to 2005 and said Gadhafi’s death means “a new start” for Libyans. Malek’s father immigrated to the U.S. to attend college when he was 17 years old, but years later brought his wife and four children back to what Malek remembers as a constrained nation. Much of Malek’s extended family still lives in the country.
“There is no freedom — well there wasn’t,” Malek said. “I guess now things are changing, but there was really no freedom of speech at all.”
Malek recalled that when she and her family first arrived in Libya, her younger sister asked her uncle what he thought about Gadhafi. Her uncle was shocked that she had even asked and told her to never speak of the dictator again.
“The rebel forces have kind of had control for a couple of months now,” Malek said. “But I think now that he’s been captured and he’s dead, too, that it finally means that it’s over — that 42 years of just a terrible oppressive regime that people suffered under, that people were killed under.”
— The Associated Press contributed to this report.