Muammar al-Gaddafi, the last to fall in the series of Nasser-inspired officers who snatched power from the colonial era monarchists of the Arab world, was lynched last week by the combatants loosely assembled around Libya’s Transitional National Council (TNC) in his hometown Sirte. The TNC Chairman, Mustafa Abd al-Jalil told a rally celebrating the ‘liberation’ of the country that shari’a will constitute the major source of legislation in the new Libya. Any laws that contravene shari’a will be scrapped, he added.
In Sudan not a single political force distinguished itself by refusing to dance around Gaddafi’s corpse. Of particular interest was the contest between the two wings of the Islamic Movement, the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) and the opposition Popular Congress Party (PCP) to claim the greater joy at Gaddafi’s demise. Al-Intibaha ran a lengthy editorial the day after excelling in Schadenfreude, and adorned its pages with photographs of the slain colonel. The NCP’s Nafie Ali Nafie told the press that Gaddafi was a mighty thorn in Sudan’s back. He had granted crucial support to the Sudan People’s Liberation Army/Movement (SPLA/M) in its formative years and supplied different factions of the Darfur insurgency with safe havens and arms. Mustafa Osman Ismail, President Bashir’s foreign affairs advisor, stated that Gaddafi’s demise is a lesson to all tyrants! The death of the colonel, he hoped, would pave the way for a lasting peace in Darfur. The PCP issued a celebratory statement titled “The Demise of Libya’s Pharaoh”, warning Sudan’s rulers of a similar fate in case they insist on rejecting the demands of the people. Even Sadiq al-Mahdi, ever conciliatory, had no mild words for Gaddafi. He argued that the manner in which Gaddafi died corresponded to his tyrannical rule.
It is fair to state that neither the Islamic Movement nor Sadiq’s Umma Party had ever registered any qualms over Gaddafi’s favours in times of need. After his fallout with Nimayri the Libyan colonel had provided the Islamic Movement and the Umma Party, at the time allies in the opposition National Front, with training, arms, and finances to bring down the Khartoum regime. The two recruited a formidable militia with Libyan support and attempted in July 1976 to storm Khartoum after a long trek from bases in Libya. They did not succeed in overthrowing Nimayri but did succeed in dispersing firearms in the wasteland of Darfur, at the time a mere side-effect of the power politics of the Khartoum elite that went largely unnoticed. Payback came when Sadiq al-Mahdi was elected Prime Minister following the 1985 uprising against Nimayri. Gaddafi generously supported the Umma Party’s electoral campaign and the Umma chief, once in power, allowed Gaddafi to operate in Darfur as a sovereign. At the time the Libyan leader was embroiled in another episode of the lengthy Chadian-Libyan conflict, and needed Darfur as a corridor and a recruitment ground for operatives against Hissène Habré. Darfur was swept into political-military dynamics in the region and beyond, if not globalised so to speak as a distant theatre of Cold War drama. Darfur’s ever grumbling war has certain roots extending to this episode of militarisation. Both the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) led by the pro-Turabi Khalil Ibrahim and the pro-government Abbala militias famed as the Janjaweed list among the beneficiaries of the Gaddafi logic. Incidentally, they shot at each other.