Where’s Gaddafi? The situation in Libya is all over the news. But unless you’ve been following since February, the finer points might be a little vague.
Here are the basics and background of what’s going on in Libya:
1. Libya’s geography
Libya is a country in north central Africa. It’s a bit bigger than Alaska, and it has a lot of oil. Its capital is Tripoli, located on the north coast near the Mediterranean Sea. Benghazi is another major city, on the coast and east of Tripoli.
2. Key players
- Gaddafi: Muammar Gaddafi has been in charge of Libya since 1969, when he led rebels who overthrew a king.
Oh, the irony.
- Rebels: This group of Libyans wants Gaddafi to step down. Some media treats their identity as controversial. But like any group, generalizations are hard to make. Young students, ex-military officials, Islamists and unemployed Libyans have been identified among them.
- National Transitional Council: this is a rebel group that says it will guide the country until a new government is formed. It’s the closest thing to a government Libya has right now.
Libya’s rebellion began after protests broke out in nearby countries. The first protests occurred when Gaddafi’s government arrested a human rights advocate. Then protests got bigger. Rebels created Facebook events and used Twitter to spread the word.
(Some conspiracy theorists believe the protests weren’t so organic, and were instead encouraged by the CIA. They think the US wanted Gaddafi out because he might have restricted US access to Libyan oil.)
Rebels accuse Gaddafi of exploiting Libya’s people and resources. They say he’s supported terrorism and used Libya’s funds for himself. Studies show Libya was tied for the fourth most censored press worldwide. 20 percent of citizens were unemployed. Political parties were illegal and the U.S. State Department says families of government oppositionists were denied food and water.
The rebels wanted this to change. Gaddafi didn’t.
Here’s a timeline of what happened next:
- February 2011: Some protesters were peaceful, but some burned buildings. Gaddafi sent his government and military major cities to stop the rioters, and sometimes shoot them.
- February 26-28 the UN tried to stop international trade with Gaddafi’s government to punish them.
- February 27: The National Transitional Council formed in Benghazi to organize the rebels’ fight.
- March 16: Gaddafi tried to attack the rebels in Benghazi.
- March 17: The UN said other countries could send their militaries to keep Libyan citizens safe.
- March 19: The US and lots of other UN members sent forces to attack Gaddafi’s troops from the air. After this, the battle started to look better for the rebels.
- August 21: Rebel forces attacked Tripoli, where Gaddafi lived. There wasn’t much struggle, but Gaddafi and his family got away.
- August 24: Rebels are offering 1.3 million dollars for his capture.
- August 27: Lots of dead bodies were found in Tripoli. Some were killed by Gaddafi’s forces, and some by rebels. Many of Tripoli’s citizens are without electricity and water. The National Transitional Council is trying to fix this.
- August 29: Gaddafi’s family is in Algeria.
- August 30: Rebels thought Gaddafi was hiding in his hometown. They surrounded it and gave him four days to surrender before they attack.
- August 31: Rebels claim to have Gaddafi surrounded in another town 5 hours away from his hometown.
And here’s a look at what might happen in the future:
For Gaddafi: The National Transitional Council claims to know where Gaddafi is. They say they’ll give him a fair trial if they catch him.
For his supporters: Many who fought for Gaddafi have surrendered, but the future is unclear for others. In some similar situations, special councils have been formed to help settle differences among a new government’s citizens. But other post-conflict situations have been messier.
For the Libyan people: For now, the National Transitional Council is in charge. The UN gave the them $1.5 billion of money it had seized from Gaddafi to start rebuilding infrastructure. The Council plans to draft a new constitution, but this might be tough given their diverse makeup. They released a report that says they want to make a multi-party democracy that gets many of its laws from Islamic Law, and they’re meeting in Paris soon with other world leaders to plan for the future.