Six years after he was arrested and imprisoned by a militia group in the town of Zintan, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the son of the former Libyan President Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, promises to reestablish peace and stability in war-torn Libya.
Saif, who was released from prison in June, has vowed to lead a military onslaught against terror groups operating in the Libyan capital Tripoli and pundits say he stands a chance to win the presidential poll if it takes place next year as earlier suggested.
As the second son of the celebrated Libyan leader and the apparent heir of his father’s regime, Saif still enjoys a significant amount of support from Libyans, especially those who were loyal to his father.
Saif was arrested in 2011 during the infamous Arab Spring that brought an end to Muammar Gaddafi’s 42-year reign. He was accused of murdering protesters in Tripoli as his father tried desperately to cling to power.
What Chances Does He Have?
Saif now claims to have gathered enough fighters to help him recapture Tripoli as he recently did in the coastal town of Sabratha. In a statement issued by his spokesman, Saif said he is committed to defending the Libyan territory and even die for it as a martyr if he has to.
“The forces who fought in Sabratha against ISIS, the gangs of illegal immigrants and the oil-smuggling mafias were mainly members of the tribes who support Saif al-Islam, and those who were part of the former Libyan army, also loyal to Saif Gaddafi,” Saif’s spokesman was recently quoted by the Guardian.
Some local observers are optimistic that Saif, a graduate of the London School of Economics, might benefit politically from the current general political weariness and the longing for the relative peace and stability enjoyed during his father’s reign.
But some of his critics say he is taking credit for military actions taken by others given that most of the recent battles have been between ethnic groups fighting to maintain control over smuggling routes.
Moreover, most of Gaddafi loyalists, including the Warshefana tribal fighters, have been routed out of Tripoli by rival militias, especially their former allies from Zintan, who are against Warshefana’s attempts to extort money from motorists at roadblocks.
Although the UN envoy seeking to restore peace in Libya wants the country to hold an election in 2018, experts say an election is impossible in the existing environment of war and uncertainty.