Rebel Libyan troops advanced into Tripoli Monday, prompting world leaders to declare that the 42-year reign of dictator Moammar Gadhafi is nearing its end.
While such declarations may be premature — the self-proclaimed “King of Kings of Africa” is, after all, still in hiding — it appears Libya, like Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen before it, will soon succeed in deposing a despotic leader whose penchant for violence and terrorism played a part in some 2 million of its 6 million citizens living in poverty despite the million gallons of crude it produced every day.
It’s a reign that couldn’t end soon enough.
Gadhafi came into power in 1969 as a brash 27-year-old captain in the Libyan army who helped plot and carry out the overthrow of then-King Idris. He took undisputed power and became a symbol of anti-Western defiance during a regime that was noted for its stark contrasts.
Gadhafi sponsored terrorism, yet he condemned the Sept. 11 attacks in New York and Washington. He was a brutal dictator who bulldozed a jail wall to free political prisoners. He was an Arab nationalist who derided the Arab League. He preached “people power,” yet when his own people took to the streets to protest against him he ordered his army to fire upon them, vowing to hunt down detractors “inch by inch, room by room, home by home and alleyway by alleyway.”
The reaction around the world to the Libyan rebels’ advance into the nation’s capital has been swift and of one accord. President Obama said Monday, “The Gadhafi regime is coming to an end, and the future of Libya is in the hands of its people.” British Prime Minister David Cameron said, “His regime is falling apart and in full retreat. Gadhafi must stop fighting, without conditions.”
Cameron also announced that his country would soon release $20 billion in Libyan assets it had frozen in response to actions by Gadhafi, and German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said it would do the same with $10.1 billion in assets once Gadhafi’s regime is officially ousted.
“The Libyan people are entitled to this money,” Westerwelle said.
Elsewhere, the European Union, which has given $215 million in humanitarian aid to Libya during its eight-months-long civil war, vowed to “keep supporting the country in its democratic transition and economic reconstruction, based on social justice, inclusiveness and territorial integrity.”
Leaders throughout the world have encouraged Gadhafi to end violence in his country by turning himself in to the International Criminal Court, which has already indicted him and his son Seif al-Islam, whom Gadhafi has been grooming as his heir to Libya’s seat of power, on charges of crimes against humanity.
Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt said, “It’s a very dangerous situation with various militia groups of young, angry men on the loose and armed with weapons. It would be best if the regime simply surrenders and we get a cease-fire and rid of the weapons.”
Gadhafi had vowed when rebels started their U.N.-backed uprising in February to maintain his power and punish those who opposed him. It appears now that those were threats he couldn’t back up.
The world now awaits what leaders are saying is Gadhafi’s inevitable defeat. We’ll join the people who have lived under his reign of terror for so long and the rest of the free world in celebrating that defeat when it becomes official.