Libya offers a good lesson in government
Libya has become the latest country to experience a change of government through a popular uprising that started about a year ago in Tunisia and soon spread to Egypt and other countries in the Middle East. These governments had been in place for a long time—some say for too long.
In Tunisia, using the social networks like Facebook and Twitter, the young people, fed up with what they considered oppressive leadership, decided that a change was needed. This had happened in Iran and Iraq without the kind of electronic support that the modern protesters had.
The recent uprising in Tunisia was sparked by a young vendor who sought to protest what he considered unfair treatment. He simply set himself alight and this was the spark that the Tunisians needed. It was not long before the protest spread to Egypt and Libya.
The Tunisian leadership fell with remarkable ease. Egypt was that more difficult but that too crumbled. Hosni Mubarak is now facing criminal prosecution. All eyes shifted to Libya where it was widely believed that Muammar Gadaffi was too firmly entrenched to be removed by the protesters.
Gadaffi was a powerhouse having come to power when he toppled King Idris in a bloodless coup in 1969. That was to be the start of a 42-year reign as the head of the Jamahiriya (People’s Revolutionary Government) that hanged dissenters and anyone who challenged the regime.
When the protests reached Libyan shores the Libyan military might was expected to withstand any civilian attack. But the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) had been watching developments in that country and opted to intervene. We may never know the extent of external support and the role some foreign elements played in the Libyan uprising. What we do know is that already, the international community is prepared to recognize any government that emerges from the anti-Gadaffi elements.
There is a lesson to be learnt from this. Gadaffi had people he trusted to execute his every order. These people were quietly opposing him. When the time was right they defected and some even turned their guns on the regime. It could be that they recognized that the tide had turned or that they were elements of the anti-Gadaffi forces all along.
Guyana is silent as these radical changes are taking place in Libya. During the 1970s and onward, it considered Libya a friend and actually enjoyed some measure of financial support from the oil-rich North African country. Libya, a desert country, actually invested in the local rice industry. Just this past year it sent a delegation to Guyana to explore investment opportunities. Whether the new administration would continue the foray into Guyana is not known.
Whatever the case, the collapse of the Gadaffi administration holds a lesson for Guyana. Some of the most trusted people who hold high office are self-serving. They have access to the corridors of power and to huge funds. Many have become rich beyond their wildest dreams. Their only display of love and support for the administration stems from this fact.
Guyana is no stranger to protest and one can rest assured that at the first sign of protest this time around, the very people who claim to be among the trusted, would do what some of Gadaffi’s trusted lieutenants have done—desert the ship.
Another lesson that should be learnt is that people need to be taken into consideration when plans are made for certain action designed for the very people. Cries of marginalisation are still being heard; there are charges of corruption; there is talk of naked theft from the public treasury; and people caught in the throes of the accusation are let go with nary a slap on the wrist.
Fortunately, Guyana is not known for violent anti-government protests. Whatever protests there have been in the past were aimed at specific political situations. And they lasted a few weeks at the most. Almost all of the major ones were influenced by the national elections. One was influenced by pay increases for the workers.
In the end, the government acceded to the call for higher pay. Since then there have been other calls that seem to have fallen on deaf ears. This may be due to an arrogance of people who hold power for too long.
Libya should be a lesson. The people always have the last say.