Dateline asks who will run Libya now, and what Gaddafi's departuremeans for the whole region and its international relations.
Sunday, August 28, 2011 - 20:32

The protests that have spread across the Arab world have claimed another dictator this week, Libya's Muammar Gaddafi.

The fight back against his 40 year rule took hold in February, and Dateline was in the eastern city of Benghazi as it celebrated liberation.

Now, the jubilant scenes have moved to the streets of the capital, Tripoli, as rebels take control of traditionally pro-Gaddafi areas, including the leader's compound.

Dateline has expert analysis of the upheaval as Yalda Hakim asks who will run Libya now? And what does it mean for the whole region and its international relations?

Plus we look back at our 2010 interview with Gaddafi, when he confidently insisted that the people were with him and dismissed the title of 'dictator' as stupid.

WATCH - Get the latest on the situation in Libya.

BEHIND THE SCENES - Yalda and Executive Producer Peter Charley talk about putting together this report and their experiences reporting from Libya.

PHOTO GALLERY - See more of the images of the uprising in Tripoli that have made headlines around the world.

GADDAFI BIOGRAPHY - Read about Muammar Gaddafi's life and his time as Libyan leader.

INTERACTIVE - Use our interactive map to find out more about the unrest across North Africa and the Middle East.

- SBS News has a special site with the latest stories on the Libya Uprising.

REPLAY - Look at Dateline's Libya factfile and recent stories on the country's changing politics, including our 2010 interview with Gaddafi.


Photos: Getty


You can also click here to see all of Dateline's stories on the unrest across the Middle East and North Africa.

Gaddafi Biography

Gaddafi was born to a desert Bedouin tribe in 1942.

He started university studies but dropped out to join the Libyan military in 1961.

At 27 years of age, Gaddafi staged a successful, bloodless revolution in 1969 against Libya's King Idris.

Colonel Gaddafi never promoted himself to the rank of General after seizing power, as he says that Libya is 'ruled by the people' and thus he needs no higher rank.

There are even reports that he was inspired by Argentine Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara.

Gaddafi funded and armed many political groups, some said to be radical, who could prove their commitment to fighting Western imperialism.

As a result, notable leaders who have since been convicted of war crimes were funded by Gaddafi, such as Liberian despot Charles Taylor and Sierra Leonean rebel commander Foday Sankoh.

He was also linked to the verbal and financial support of groups including the IRA and Palestinian Liberation Organisation.

Gaddafi's regime was often criticised for political repression of its people, executing dissidents publically, as well as harbouring nuclear and chemical weapons. However in 2003 Gaddafi officially relinquished his supply of weapons of mass destruction.

US President Ronald Reagan called him a 'mad dog; and ordered bombers to strike Libya's capital Tripoli in 1986.

Perhaps his most famous involvement in controversial affairs was the Lockerbie bombing. The international community shunned Libya for decades after Abdelbaset al-Megrahi masterminded the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over the Scottish town, killing 270 people.

Gaddafi's regime eventually took responsibility for the attack, and paid compensation to the families of those who died. Al-Megrahi was controversially released in 2009.

'Coming in from the cold'

The 1990s saw the leader attempt to mend ties with the West and other Arab leaders with whom he had a distant - often hostile - relationship. He made a series of policy decisions - such as the redistribution of oil wealth amongst Libyans - that improved his international standing, and met with a series of major world leaders.

He was elected Chairman of the Africa Union body in 2009, where he spoke of his dreams for a 'United States of Africa'.

He visited the United States for the first time in 2009 to address the United Nations. His speech went for over one and a half hours, where he criticised the UN for failing to prevent 65 wars, defending the Taliban and Somali pirates as a reaction to Western exploitation of their countries.

Gaddafi was interviewed by Dateline in 2010, when he confidently insisted that the people were with him and dismissed the title of 'dictator' as stupid.

But in 2011, mass anti-government protests and a political uprising erupted in Libya, spreading quickly around the country.

The eastern city of Benghazi soon fell to rebels, followed in August by the capital, Tripoli, where rebels took control of pro-Gaddafi areas, including the leader's compound.

At the time of his fall, he was the longest-serving leader in both Africa and the Arab world.

Personal life

Gaddafi is married to Safia Farfash, a former nurse and his second wife.

He has eight biological children, and two adopted children.

The two most prominent of these are Saif and Al-Saadi.

Gaddafi has claimed that an unknown adopted daughter of his called 'Hanna' was killed in the US bombing of Libya.

His family are rumoured to have a personal fortune of roughly $US60 billion.

Quirky facts

Gaddafi has a fear of flying over water.

He previously did not travel anywhere without his Ukrainian nurse, who was evacuated on February 28th 2011 due to the political unrest.

The leader has an all-female contingent of 30-40 bodyguards, known as the Amazonian Guard. The women reportedly must be virgins to qualify for duty and are personally selected by Gaddafi.

He is said to sleep in a Bedouin tent at home and abroad, guarded by the Amazonian Guard.

He is extremely concerned with his public image - having ordered the assassination of dozens of his critics around the world in the 1970s and 80s. His dress sense has been described as flamboyant and he is often seen in his characteristic safari suits and opaque sunglasses.

He is also famous for his long, often rambling speeches, that can go for hours and are often unscripted.

Click here to take a look at our photo gallery of Gaddafi's life and read about why there are so many different spellings of Gaddafi's name.

Sources: BBC, Al Jazeera and agencies



It is the middle of the day in Tripoli where rebels say, they have tightened their grip on the city, but food, water, fuel and medicine is in very short supply. The hospitals are overflowing as are the morgues and the hunt continues for Colonel Gaddafi. For a long time it had seemed the battle for Libya was going nowhere fast, while the controlled the east of the country... Gaddafi's forces were showing no signs of weakening elsewhere. But when the end came, it came quickly, with the rebels suddenly sweeping into the capital last Saturday night.

REPORTER: Yalda Hakim

CROWD: Freedom, Freedom

In the early hours of Monday, rebel fighters seized Tripoli's Green Square. By dawn the siege of Tripoli was well underway with both sides also fighting a propaganda war. The rebels announced they'd caught Gaddafi's son, Seif al-Islam but, a day later, he greeted his supporters.

SEIF-AL-ISLAM (Translation): As we agreed, carry weapons. Arm yourselves today!

Seif insisted that the rebels had fallen into a trap and Tripoli was safe in government hands. But, on Tuesday morning the rebels took Gaddafi's compound, Bab al-Aziziya, seat of his power and claimed victory.

MAN: I was like, oh my God - I'm in Gaddafi's room.

Crucial to the rebel's success was NATO's aerial fire power. Having played the silent partner NATO was now triumphant.

OANA LUNGESCU, NATO SPOKESPERSON: What is clear to everyone is that Gaddafi is history and the sooner he realises it, the better.

Gaddafi was far from conceding defeat. He released a message saying that he had walked to Tripoli unchallenged.

MUAMMAR GADDAFI (Translation): Eradicate the traitors and rats. They will slaughter you and desecrate your bodies.

Street fighting raged on in parts of the capital though the rebels claimed that the number of Gaddafi loyalists was dwindling. There have been thousands of casualties and doctors warn more will die if their pleas for medical supplies aren't heard. Food and bottled water are also scarce. In a sign that they'd gained the upper hand, rebels raided the Gaddafi family's lavish homes. But Gaddafi's whereabouts remained a mystery.

MAN: Where is he? We're looking for you, where are you? Where are you?

Out of desperation the rebel leadership placed a bounty on Gaddafi's head.

ABDUL JALIL, REBEL LEADER (Translation): Businessmen in Benghazi have posted a bounty of two million dinars.

This undignified end must have come as a shock to the self-styled 'Brother Leader', after 40 years of absolute rule. When Dateline interviewed Colonel Gaddafi last year in Tripoli, he was serene and confident insisting he was nothing more than an instrument of the Libyan people.


GEORGE NEGUS: So what about the people who see you as a dictator? Is that a word that you will not tolerate?

MUAMMAR GADDAFI (Translation): Of course not. Whoever says that is ignorant and stupid.

GEORGE NEGUS: Will there be a Gaddafi dynasty? You have sons, is it automatic that one of your sons will succeed you?

MUAMMAR GADDAFI (Translation): The authority is with the people, in the end. Authority lies with the Libyan people who rule and so all other options are out.

GEORGE NEGUS: So it wouldn't really upset you if they said "We don't like the Gaddafi system"?

MUAMMAR GADDAFI (Translation): For 40 years I have not been the ruler, the authority. Authority has been with the people, they take nothing from me or add anything to me.

When the Arab Spring swept into Libya in February this year, the hollowness of Gaddafi's words was quickly apparent. Far from ceding to the people's authority, he ordered his troops to crush the uprising

When I got to Libya in May, the rebels were firmly in control of the country's east and the rage against Gaddafi was spilling out of everyone even 83 year olds like Noura Jibreel.

NOURA JIBREEL (Translation): He is an unjust dog, a thief and a killer - he and his sons are devils - he has destroyed us. God willing, we can be free now.

As the fighting went on, the city of Benghazi had become a safe haven for those fleeing the violence elsewhere.

WOMAN (Translation): Let Muslims be united - God is great. God is greater than him, God is greater than the unjust. God is greater than the powerful and the aggressors.

Too afraid to give her name this woman had fled the fighting in Misrata with her 7 children.

WOMAN (Translation): When we left at 6p.m. We were under rocket attack, we did not know where the rockets would fall, they were right over head - it was black with smoke.

REPORTER: So is there any news of the women who have been left behind?

WOMAN (Translation): Rapes and kidnappings really did happen - none of what you heard was a lie.

Her husband and one son had stayed behind to fight with the rebel army and we lent her our sat phone to make contact with them.

WOMAN (Translation): Nasser, they say there have been attacks - how is Muhammad - I want to talk to him - don't let him go to the front line!

I could only hope that this family's sacrifice would be worthwhile. The liberation of Benghazi was also revealing fresh horrors.

MAN (Translation): Three were killed here and nine in the kitchen, with their hands bound. They had refused their orders - we got corpses from barrels too.

In Gaddafi's prisons, opponents were sometimes held in squalid tunnels. As the regime collapsed, the victors set them free.

MAN (Translation): When we got them out - they were blind. We got out ten men from underground - they were held there for years.

This revolution has the chance to remake Libyan society and it quickly became apparent to me that women were seizing that opportunity. By now Benghazi was home to Libya's transitional government, and even here at the highest levels I found a woman, Salwa Digali, on the National Council.

SALWA DIGALI (Translation): Women have played a vital role in the revolution together with the men from the start. Women were there from the start in the streets beside the men. And now they are working alongside the men in the hospitals, in nursing and rescue. There is no difference.

While the people of Tripoli are still celebrating the future is unclear. The National Transitional Council is preparing to run the country, but they'll need a lot of support.


For the latest analysis of the situation, I spoke to Alia Brahimi, an operative on Libya from the London School of Economics.

REPORTER: Alia, you have met Colonel Gaddafi and his family - in fact, you have been criticised for that. They are hunting all over Libya for him now, where do you think he is likely to be?

ALIA BRAHIMI, LONDON SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS: Well, I think Colonel Gaddafi's personality is characterised by a mix of erraticism and denial and I think the erraticism would suggest that he could be anywhere and do anything. But the denial element would suggest that he is still in Libya. I think that he would assume that the situation is still salvageable for him and indeed, that is the reasoning he has taken all along which is that Libya is his and that any form of transition will of course involve him.

Reports from this morning suggest that his spokespeople have offered for Colonel Gaddafi to finally become involved in a transitional process and of course the denial element comes in again because Libya is already in a process of transition and distinctly, without Gaddafi.

REPORTER: The rebels have claimed victory, but would you say this is too early considering that fighting is continuing in certain other areas?

ALIA BRAHIMI: I think the rebel strategy all along has been to present the regime with legitimacy - to build up it's support base, to build up it's efficiency and to build up it's fighting capabilities and slowly take control of areas and to essentially put the writing on the wall for Colonel Gaddafi. I think that this is part of their strategy and actually it is working. I don't think there is any hope for Colonel Gaddafi to remain in power. The impression that the National transitional Council is now giving is that not only are the people now ruling most of Libya, but in fact, Colonel Gaddafi himself is just a sideshow.

REPORTER: The Transitional Council is now recognised by a significant number of nations. But do you really think they represent the people?

ALIA BRAHIMI: I think that is a tall order for a newly formed a government body that has sprung up in the midst of such civil conflict, but is it striving to be representative? I think so. I think you were to be critical at the moment you might depict the National Transitional Council as comprised mainly of Eastern elites and also of course of defected regime officials. They are very much trying to spread their mandate across Libya and of course they have to do so in order to survive.

Certain fighting brigades, such as the one in Misrata, have actually taken a lot of credit for the battle, particularly for the battle for Tripoli and I think that these elements will probably want to be represented more. I think there are lots of issues that need to be ironed out in terms of representation but if you look at the principles by which the Transitional Council is founded, it is about consensus and inclusiveness. As long as they stick to that it is perfectly possible that they can become incredible interim representative of the Libyan people.

REPORTER: What are they saying about elections, just briefly?

ALIA BRAHIMI: I think the hope is for elections in the next 12 to 24 months. The latest date offered by the council is 2013. As of now, that is very much the hope. The hope is to transition to elections within the next couple of years. There are enormous tasks and challenge is to be dealt with before then. Not least, the humanitarian one that is looming in Tripoli and the fact that we also have a very heavily armed population in Libya. The emphasis of course will be on disarmament and of dealing with the looming crisis and of course the focus will switch dramatically to governance issues. The international community will hold that issue very much to the fore.

REPORTER: Alia, thank you very much for your time.

There's more on Libya from me and our Executive Producer Peter Charley on our website, with a behind the scenes look at our experiences there, including Peter's meeting with Gaddafi himself. We've also updated our interactive guide to the unrest, and put together a photo gallery of those amazing scenes in Tripoli.









Original Music composed by Vicki Hansen

28th August 2011