Home PoliticsAfrica News Like a striptease’: Gadhafi’s son reemerges and hints at run for Libyan presidency

Like a striptease’: Gadhafi’s son reemerges and hints at run for Libyan presidency

by Brady Knox

Muammar Gadhafi’s second son, Seif al-Islam Gadhafi, emerged from silence and hinted at plans to reunite Libya several years after he disappeared from public view.

Author and journalist Robert Worth, writing for the New York Times, was granted an exclusive interview to the elusive son of former dictator Muammar Gadhafi, who, before the revolution that brought down the regime, was widely seen as heir-apparent. Published on Friday, the interview was the first time Seif spoke with a foreign journalist in a decade. Human Rights Watch told Worth there had been “no proof of life since 2014.”

Seif lambasted the country’s current state, blaming it on the 2011 revolution that toppled his father’s regime and hinted at a presidential run in the country’s elections in December.

“It is time for a return to the past. The country — it’s on its knees … There’s no money, no security. There’s no life here,” he said.

He presented his father’s reorganized “Green movement” as the only solution to reuniting the shattered nation.

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A photographer was brought in for the interview, and Worth described talking to Seif about the impression he wanted to make in the photos.

“I’ve been away from the Libyan people for 10 years. You need to come back slowly, slowly. Like a striptease. You need to play with their minds a little,” he said, noting he wanted the images to convey, “This is the man, but it’s not clear. He’s not clear. Like a spirit. He’s not sick; he’s strong. But he’s not clear.”

Muammar Gadhafi’s regime was one of the many Arab autocracies caught up in the 2011 Arab Spring, with the first protests in Libya occurring in February 2011, according to Human Rights Watch. Qaddafi responded to the protests with military force, turning international opinion against Qaddafi prompting NATO aircraft to conduct an air campaign in support of the growing rebels. Gadhafi’s convoy was bombed while trying to flee the capital, leaving him helpless when a mob found him in a roadside ditch, after which he was killed.

According to Seif, his convoy was ambushed by rebels around the same time. He was captured by a moderate militia and flown to a makeshift prison in the desert. After the rebel coalition collapsed into infighting, his captors became his “friends,” who saw him as an asset. He has lived under the radar with them ever since.

Following the downfall of the Qaddafi regime, Libya has deteriorated into a state of chaos. Following a period of anarchy, most of the country is split between two competing regimes: the Libyan National Army of military strongman Khalifa Haftar in the east and the internationally recognized Government of National Accord, based in the west.

Despite an arms embargo, a secret 2020 United Nations report viewed by the New York Times found that Russia, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates have been fueling the conflict by sending weapons, military advisers, and mercenaries to prop up rival regimes. Russia and the UAE have backed Haftar, while Turkey has played a decisive role in elevating the Government of National Accord. A UN-brokered ceasefire was agreed upon last year, following Haftar’s defeat at the Battle of Tripoli. An uneasy peace has remained in place since.

Constant fighting between rival militias fed instability in the country, leading to a drastic decline in living standards over the years, according to the 2020 report on Libya from Human Rights Watch. The group estimates that 392,241 people have been displaced within the country. The unstable nature of the country has made it a haven for human trafficking and migrants traveling to Europe.

This chaos has bred a feeling of nostalgia for the security of the Gadhafi era, Worth found. Although Seif is currently wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes over his role in the suppression of the 2011 demonstrations and by domestic courts (a Tripoli court sentenced him to death in absentia in 2015, according to the New York Times), Seif enjoys some popularity among the populace. One Libyan lawyer told Worth that “eight or nine out of every 10 Libyans would vote for Seif.”

According to Worth, Seif’s presidential run is taken very seriously by Libyans and international spectators. Seif supporters took part in talks to form Libya’s current government. An unnamed European diplomat told Worth that, “The Russians think Seif could win.”

Washington Examiner

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