By Jamie Dettmer - Tuesday, May 29, 2012 - 0 Comments
Maclean’s reports from Tripoli
TRIPOLI — At the ripe age of 118, Nuwara Faraj Fahajan has become the poster-child of Libya’s upcoming general elections. Photographers from all over the world snapped frantically when she held up her registration card after signing up to vote in the town of Zliten, some 100 kilometres east of Tripoli.
It is anyone’s guess, though, whether the frail centenarian will still be around when the country actually picks its new leader.
Libya’s election commission has recently announced voting initially slated for June 19 may be delayed by several weeks. And even those elections would merely pick a constituent assembly to replace the current transitional leadership and oversee the drafting of a new constitution.
The time when Libyans will choose a new president and parliament is still months away, and an air of uncertainty is hanging over the country.
By Michael Petrou - Wednesday, May 23, 2012 at 11:58 AM - 0 Comments
Libya and the International Criminal Court are at war—over who gets to stage a trial for Saif al-Islam Gadhafi
Saif al-Islam Gadhafi, the son and once presumed heir of deposed Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi, says he would rather face the death penalty from a trial in Libya than be tried in an international court that would spare his life.
The International Criminal Court has charged Gadhafi with crimes against humanity related to his alleged role in the suppression of last year’s uprising against his father’s regime. It has ordered Libya’s National Transitional Council to surrender him into its custody in The Hague, in the Netherlands. But the Libyan government insists it will try Gadhafi, and has asked the international court to drop its case against him and his co-accused, former intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senussi, who is now in Mauritania.
Gadhafi sided with the former rebels he once described as “drunkards and thugs” when ICC investigators visited him in Zintan last month; he has been held by an anti-regime militia in the tiny Libyan city since they caught him apparently trying to flee to Niger. “I hope I can be tried here in my country, whether they execute me or not,” he reportedly said.
By Jamie Dettmer - Monday, May 21, 2012 at 8:13 AM - 0 Comments
Maclean’s reports from Tripoli
TRIPOLI — For most Libyans, the death from prostate cancer of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, closes an embarrassing chapter–the only man convicted of the 1988 Lockerbie bombing, which killed 270 people, was a reminder of a past they would rather forget.
The circumstances of Megrahi’s long-anticipated death–when he left prison in August 2009 he had been given just three months to live–were a far cry from the hero’s welcome he received on his arrival in Colonel Moammar Gadhafi’s Libya.
Since Gadhafi’s overthrow in the third revolution of the Arab Spring, Megrahi and his immediate family had maintained a low profile and were increasingly ostracized, even by elders of their own tribe, the Megraha. They remained holed up in a luxury villa in Tripoli, lavished on them by the former dictator. Its thick walls kept out journalists eager to record one last interview with the ailing bomber.
Megrahi was reportedly worried about mistreatment by the rebels, and his family concerned that the new Libyan authorities might strike a deal to have him a returned to jail in the U.K. or dispatched to the U.S. for trial, as some U.S. lawmakers have demanded.
By Colby Cosh - Sunday, January 22, 2012 at 7:45 AM - 0 Comments
Abstract: This paper helps explain the variation in political turmoil observed in the MENA [Middle East and North Africa] during the Arab Spring. The region’s monarchies have been largely spared of violence while the “republics” have not. A theory about how a monarchy’s political culture solves a ruler’s credible commitment problem explains why this has been the case. Using a panel dataset of the MENA countries (1950-2006), I show that monarchs are less likely than non-monarchs to experience political instability, a result that holds across several measures. They are also more likely to respect the rule of law and property rights, and grow their economies. Through the use of an instrumental variable that proxies for a legacy of tribalism, the time that has elapsed since the Neolithic Revolution weighted by Land Quality, I show that this result runs from monarchy to political stability. The results are also robust to alternative political explanations and country fixed effects.
I wouldn’t suggest taking this classic bit of political science too seriously, with its everything-but-the-kitchen-sink regressions on a small data set and its inherently dubious use of an “instrumental variable” to ferret out causation. That said: Victor Menaldo’s basic observations would be hard to refute. Monarchies in the Middle East and North Africa have been stable relative to their republican neighbours; the replacement of a monarchy with a republic rarely if ever makes the people better off; and the monarchies in the region tend to be more liberal economically, even if they don’t have particularly liberal political structures.
In the ci-devant monarchies of the Arab and Persian world, nostalgia for overthrown Western-friendly regimes of the past seems fairly common. When the Libyans got rid of Gadhafi last year, for instance, they promptly restored the old flag of the Kingdom of Libya (1951-69), and some of the anti-Gadhafi protesters carried portraits of the deposed late king, Idris. From the vantage point of Canada, constitutional monarchy looks like a pretty good solution to the inherent problems of governing ethnically divided or clan-dominated places. And in most of the chaotic MENA countries, including Libya, there exist legitimist claimants who could be used to bring about constitutional restorations.
The most natural locale for such an experiment would have been Afghanistan, where republican governments have made repeated use of the old monarchical institution of the loya jirga or grand council. The U.S. met with overwhelming pressure from Afghans to include ex-king Zahir Shah in the first post-Taliban loya jirga in 2002, but twisted the old man’s arm to ensure that his participation would be no more than ceremonial. At least one South Asia analyst, Shireen Burki, thinks this was a regrettable missed opportunity that can only be attributed to reflexive suspicion of monarchism by U.S. officials.
“We don’t do kings,” Secretary of State Madeleine Albright once said when she was asked if restoration could help solve the problems of the south Slavs. “Pity you don’t,” the happy Commonwealth realms and the peaceable kingdoms of northern Europe might have added. The U.S. turned out to be more interested in easily-overwhelmed American clients like Ahmed Chalabi and Hamid Karzai; and how has that turned out?
By Erica Alini - Tuesday, September 6, 2011 at 9:00 AM - 0 Comments
Is the Venezuelan president really spooked by the markets or just shoring up finances?
In a move that he’s portraying as financial prudence in the face of market turmoil, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has ordered over $6 billion in cash reserves to be relocated from accounts in Britain and Switzerland to China, Brazil and Russia, and over 200 tonnes of gold repatriated. The measure, he said, is aimed at sheltering Venezuela from “a crisis of uncertainty” in the global economy. Admittedly, with the world on the brink of a possible double dip into recession, Britain struck by riots on top of a sluggish economy, and even Switzerland recently engaging in dubious manoeuvring to force a depreciation of the Swiss franc, Chávez may have a point. Some critics, though, suspect the Venezuelan autocrat is simply shoring up resources as he heads into a difficult presidential election this fall after recently being diagnosed with cancer. Interestingly, others argue that Chávez was spooked by the fate of his close friend Col. Moammar Gadhafi, whose financial assets in the West were frozen at the outset of the Libyan revolution.
By Ruth Sherlock - Friday, September 2, 2011 at 8:00 AM - 2 Comments
‘Power is in our hands’
It was the narrative of the victorious. As rebel fighters swept into Col. Moammar Gadhafi’s private compound in Tripoli, the Libyan capital, the chairman of the country’s interim National Transitional Council (NTC), Mustafa Abdul Jalil from Benghazi, bade farewell to the regime’s 42-year rule. “The era of Gadhafi is over,” said Jalil, standing before the tricolour rebel flag. “Congratulations to all the people of Libya on this historic victory.”
Tracer fire and fireworks lit up Tripoli’s night sky as rebels both celebrated and continued their fight to “cleanse” the capital of the last pockets of loyalist cells. The atmosphere was a heady mix of danger and euphoria. For days, the bloodied corpses of regime loyalists had been lying on a central roundabout where they were killed, after rallying in support of the “Brother Leader.” Nearby, a large statue commemorating The Green Book, Gadhafi’s strange guide to life and politics, lay toppled in the road, covered, now, in graffitied expletives. Curious residents explored ransacked Gadhafi homes, feared internal security buildings, and prisons—black holes into which thousands, over the decades, had disappeared without a trace.
At the secretive Gadhafi compound of Bab al-Aziziya, a party broke out. “Today is a great day—everything has been turned upside down,” said Ahmed Ali Ghariyani. “The power is in our hands.” He stood in a building bombed during the U.S.’s 1986 Operation El Dorado Canyon. Gadhafi used the attack to whip up anti-Western sentiment, and famously conducted his speeches from its charred remains. Outside, he built a statue of a giant golden fist crushing a model of an American warplane.
By Colby Cosh - Monday, March 21, 2011 at 12:50 PM - 18 Comments
I was impressed and humbled with the performance of the al-Jazeera news network during the recent revolution in Egypt. As CNN floundered and Fox News simply ceased to have even vestigial relevance, al-Jazeera seemed, for a moment, to be living up to its promise as a bridge between the Arab world and the West—if not transcending that promise and becoming something greater: a tribune of the Arab peoples and their neighbours; an influential, omnipresent witness of precisely the sort that the students in Tiananmen Square lacked; and, perhaps, one of the world’s essential institutions of news.
That potential is still there. The world is certainly a very much better place with al-Jazeera than without; it would be better still with five al-Jazeeras. But the time has come to raise an abstruse, nitpicky ethical point that reflects back on some of the Western journalists who have gone to work for al-Jazeera, and some of the Western leaders who have praised it so effusively. It’s this: is it quite all right for a news agency to have its own army?
I ask because it is a little difficult to disentangle al-Jazeera, which is owned by the Qatar Media Corporation, from the autocratic Qatari state. Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani is as nice as absolute dictators get—a man arguably in the tradition of the enlightened despots of Europe’s quite recent past, who shared outstanding personal qualities, a common commitment to education and equality, and a dedication to advancing liberal ideals, albeit by undemocratic means. It’s traditional, in enlightened autocracies, for the required oppression to officially be deemed temporary, and for this pretence of temporariness to be kept up at all costs. Official U.S. sources, keen on avoiding offence to an important ally, advance Qatar’s claim to already be a “constitutional monarchy”. (Since the current emir took power in a coup, and permits no democratic national assembly, political parties, or elections, this is the grossest imaginable insult to an actual constitutional monarchy like our own. But since our planes sometimes need places to land in that part of the world, perhaps it is best to shrug it off.)
Al-Jazeera may represent Skeikh Hamad’s ultimate defence at the bar of history, as Bach’s Musical Offering and Lagrange’s Mécanique analytique are Frederick the Great’s. The channel is described as the personal brainchild of the emir, the head of Qatar Media Corporation is one of his cousins, and the whole shebang is funded by a series of “loans”, which may or may not ever be paid back, from the Qatari treasury. It treads softly in covering Qatar’s domestic affairs, while being brave and unflinching and professional, as we have seen, in covering the more momentous ones of its neighbours. That’s a good deal for the Western consumer, and al-Jazeera is being looked at by U.S. cable companies now, thanks to a sudden spontaneous demand for its perspective.
But now Qatar has gone to war with one of the major subjects of al-Jazeera’s recent reporting.
Doha, March 20 (BNA)–Qatari Premier and Minister of Foreign Affairs Shaikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr Al Thani said Qatar would take part in the military operation being carried out against Libya. He also added in an interview with Al Jazeera following Paris summit yesterday that the aim of the Qatari decision is to stop mass killing of citizens in Libya. “Qatar will take part in the military operation out of belief in the need for Arab states to contribute for the situation has become unbearable in Libya,” he said describing the situation as a declared war and urging to stop it very quickly.
This Sheikh Hamad is not to be confused with Sheikh Hamad the emir, his uncle, or Sheikh Hamad the head of QMC, a cousin from a cadet branch of the al-Thani ruling family. And, yes, the names are a hint that al-Jazeera is tied up with the Qatari state and its vendettas in a way that, say, the BBC is decidedly not with the government in Westminster. Pro-government forces in Libya have killed at least one al-Jazeera journalist and have detained four more. The on-air talent was already starting to lose its well-bred reserve before the boss scrambled the jets:
While some people ask where are the Arab jets, the international coalition – for now at least – has a more powerful weapon on its side: the al-Jazeera television channel.
The Qatar-owned al-Jazeera had highlighted the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq as American aggression against Muslims, but in the case of Libya, the popular channel has supported the revolution.
Presenters refer to those killed by the Libyan regime as “martyrs” and to the air strikes as “western military operations” by an international coalition.
No worse journalistically than the worst of Fox News, you say? Well, Fox News doesn’t have its own air force. Yet. As much as we enjoy having our Western liberal pieties confirmed by al-Jazeera—without thinking too much about how the sausage is made—there are obvious questions about the viability of a news network whose owner can ring the palace and order up a bombing.
One would be “Can you rightly call it a ‘news network’ at all, except in the vestigial sense in which one might use the term to apply to the North Korean Central News Agency or the old Soviet-era TASS?” Another would be “Isn’t this the sort of thing that is likely to compromise al-Jazeera’s vaunted access to Muslim regimes pretty quickly?” And the most awkward of all: “If the reporting activity of al-Jazeera correspondents is implicitly backed up by the threat of hellfire from the sky, isn’t it justifiable for governments to regard and treat those people as enemy agents?”
By Stephanie Findlay - Thursday, July 1, 2010 at 9:40 AM - 3 Comments
Col. Moammar Gadhafi unoffically adopts Antrodoco
When Libya’s Col. Moammar Gadhafi took a back-road route to travel to the earthquake-hit province of L’Aquila, Italy, for last year’s G8 summit, he stumbled across a town that he loved so much he’s unofficially adopted it. Wary of structurally weakened tunnels through the main motorway that connects Rome with L’Aquila, Gadhafi had decided to criss-cross through the mountains. His scenic route led him to the tiny town of Antrodoco, where he stopped for a break and was overcome by the generosity of the locals. “You have entered my heart and I won’t forget you,” said Gadhafi to the villagers, La Repubblica reported.