There has been something odd about much of the . . .[restrict]extensive coverage that the world’s media gave the first anniversary of the start of the Libyan uprising. Overshadowing their reports of the celebrations, correspondents have been filing gloomy references to a divided and frightened society. They have also alerted their audiences to dangerously-rising public disappointment with the NTC, because it is not moving fast enough to bring about change, not least to disarm and disband the militias.
Foreign journalists did so much to show the world the savagery of the Qaddafi regime’s assault its own people and to record, with heart-breaking accuracy, the resultant bloodshed and misery that was inflicted.
But what were they doing on Thursday, Friday and Saturday? Surely they were out on the streets in Tripoli, Benghazi, Misrata and other cities? Then why did they not see what everyone else saw? Why did they not register an extraordinary coming together of people in massive street parties that were driven by the sheer ecstasy of freedom? Did they not see in people’s faces, from humble ordinary folk, through middle class officials to gun-totting militiamen, did they not see the enthusiasm combined with determination that now unites virtually all Libyans, regardless of background?
Perhaps what they did not appreciate was the “Saadi effect”. Earlier this month Muammar Qaddafi’s third son Saadi gave an interview from his house arrest in Niger in which he predicted an imminent uprising of pro-Qaddafi supporters and his own return to the country. Broadcast on al-Arabiya, his telephone conversation coincided with the launch of the Libyan Popular National Movement, whose web site paints a picture of a Qaddafi golden era which the majority of Libyans will find very hard to remember.
If Saadi imagined that his bombastic claims that he was in touch with counter-revolutionary cells all over Libya, and even with disaffected members of the NTC, would spread despair and confusion, he miscalculated badly.
The exact opposite has happened. Libya is still a long way from being a united and cohesive society, but Saadi Qaddafi’s menacing threats immediately served to draw people closer together.
Libyans may have doubts about precisely where they are headed but they are certain of one thing — they are never going back.
Risible though Saadi’s bluster may be to outsiders, most people in this country grew up with the reality that living in Qaddafi’s Libya was often no laughing matter at all. Thus they were drawn together, even by the very idea that the old regime might come back.
So on Friday what foreign correspondents saw on our streets was much more than the celebration of the instant when Libyans began to smash 42 years of dictatorship. It was also a exultant reaffirmation of the unity of purpose that had destroyed Qaddafi-ism once — and, if necessary, was more than ready to do it all over again. [/restrict]