NATO smashed 'Jamahiriya' ... Gaddafis Libya , Africas Most Prosperous Democracy
tony at cultureshop.org.uk
Wed Aug 27 01:03:38 BST 2014
Gaddafis Libya Was Africas Most Prosperous Democracy
By Garikai Chengu
January 14, 2013 "Information Clearing House" -
Contrary to popular belief, Libya , which western
media described as Gaddafis military
dictatorship was in actual fact one of the worlds most democratic States.
In 1977 the people of Libya proclaimed the
Jamahiriya or government of the popular masses
by themselves and for themselves. The Jamahiriya
was a higher form of direct democracy with the
People as President. Traditional institutions of
government were disbanded and abolished, and
power belonged to the people directly through
various committees and congresses.
The nation State of Libya was divided into
several small communities that were essentially
mini-autonomous States within a State. These
autonomous States had control over their
districts and could make a range of decisions
including how to allocate oil revenue and
budgetary funds. Within these mini autonomous
States, the three main bodies of Libya s
democracy were Local Committees, Peoples
Congresses and Executive Revolutionary Councils.
In 2009, Mr. Gaddafi invited the New York Times
to Libya to spend two weeks observing the
nations direct democracy. Even the New York
Times, that was always highly critical of Colonel
Gaddafi, conceded that in Libya, the intention
was that everyone is involved in every
Tens of thousands of people take part in
local committee meetings to discuss issues and
vote on everything from foreign treaties to
building schools. The purpose of these committee
meetings was to build a broad based national consensus.
One step up from the Local Committees were the
Peoples Congresses. Representatives from all 800
local committees around the country would meet
several times a year at Peoples Congresses, in
Mr. Gaddafis hometown of Sirte, to pass laws
based on what the people said in their local
meetings. These congresses had legislative power
to write new laws, formulate economic and public
policy as well as ratify treaties and agreements.
All Libyans were allowed to take part in local
committees meetings and at times Colonel Gaddafi
was criticised. In fact, there were numerous
occasions when his proposals were rejected by
popular vote and the opposite was approved and put forward for legislation.
For instance, on many occasions Mr. Gaddafi
proposed the abolition of capital punishment and
he pushed for home schooling over traditional
schools. However, the Peoples Congresses wanted
to maintain the death penalty and classic
schools, and ultimately the will of the Peoples
Congresses prevailed. Similarly, in 2009, Colonel
Gaddafi put forward a proposal to essentially
abolish the central government altogether and
give all the oil proceeds directly to each
family. The Peoples Congresses rejected this idea too.
One step up from the Peoples Congresses were the
Executive Revolutionary Councils. These
Revolutionary Councils were elected by the
Peoples Congresses and were in charge of
implementing policies put forward by the people.
Revolutionary Councils were accountable only to
ordinary citizens and may have been changed or
recalled by them at any time. Consequently,
decisions taken by the Peoples Congresses and
implemented by the Executive Revolutionary
Councils reflected the sovereign will of the
whole people, and not merely that of any
particular class, faction, tribe or individual.
The Libyan direct democracy system utilized the
word elevation rather than election, and
avoided the political campaigning that is a
feature of traditional political parties and
benefits only the bourgeoisies well-heeled and well-to-do.
Unlike in the West, Libyans did not vote once
every four years for a President and local
parliamentarian who would then make all decisions
for them. Ordinary Libyans made decisions
regarding foreign, domestic and economic policy themselves.
Several western commentators have rightfully
pointed out that the unique Jamahiriya system had
certain drawbacks, inter alia, regarding
attendance, initiative to speak up, and
sufficient supervision. Nevertheless, it is clear
that Libya conceptualized sovereignty and
democracy in a different and progressive way.
Democracy is not just about elections or
political parties. True democracy is also about
human rights. During the NATO bombardment of
Libya , western media conveniently forgot to
mention that the United Nations had just prepared
a lengthy dossier praising Mr. Gaddafis human
rights achievements. The UN report commended
Libya for bettering its legal protections for
citizens, making human rights a priority,
improving womens rights, educational
opportunities and access to housing. During Mr.
Gaddafis era housing was considered a human
right. Consequently, there was virtually no
homelessness or Libyans living under bridges. How
many Libyan homes and bridges did NATO destroy?
One area where the United Nations Human Rights
Council praised Mr. Gaddafi profusely is womens
rights. Unlike many other nations in the Arab
world, women in Libya had the right to education,
hold jobs, divorce, hold property and have an
income. When Colonel Gaddafi seized power in
1969, few women went to university. Today more
than half of Libya s university students are
women. One of the first laws Mr. Gaddafi passed
in 1970 was an equal pay for equal work law, only
a few years after a similar law was passed in the
U.S. In fact, Libyan working mothers enjoyed a
range of benefits including cash bonuses for
children, free day care, free health care centres and retirement at 55.
Democracy is not merely about holding elections
simply to choose which particular representatives
of the elite class should rule over the masses.
True democracy is about democratising the economy
and giving economic power to the majority.
Fact is, the west has shown that unfettered free
markets and genuinely free elections simply
cannot co-exist. Organized greed always defeats
disorganized democracy. How can capitalism and
democracy co-exist if one concentrates wealth and
power in the hands of few, and the other seeks to
spread power and wealth among many? Mr. Gaddafis
Jamahiriya however, sought to spread economic
power amongst the downtrodden many rather than just the privileged few.
Prior to Colonel Gaddafi, King Idris let Standard
Oil essentially write Libya s petroleum laws.
Mr. Gaddafi put an end to all of that. Money from
oil proceeds was deposited directly into every
Libyan citizens bank account. One wonders if
Exxon Mobil and British Petroleum will continue
this practice under the new democratic Libya ?
Democracy is not merely about elections or
political parties. True democracy is also about
equal opportunity through education and the right
to life through access to health care. Therefore,
isnt it ironic that America supposedly bombarded
Libya to spread democracy, but increasingly
education in America is becoming a privilege not
a right and ultimately a debt sentence. If a
bright and talented child in the richest nation
on earth cannot afford to go to the best schools,
society has failed that child. In fact, for young
people the world over, education is a passport to
freedom. Any nation that makes one pay for such a
passport is only free for the rich but not the poor.
Under Mr. Gaddafi, education was a human right
and it was free for all Libyans. If a Libyan was
unable to find employment after graduation the
State would pay that person the average salary of their profession.
For millions of Americans health care is also
increasingly becoming a privilege not a right. A
recent study by Harvard Medical School estimates
that lack of health insurance causes 44,789
excess deaths annually in America. Under Mr.
Gaddafi, health care was a human right and it was
free for all Libyans. Thus, with regards to
health care, education and economic justice, is
America in any position to export democracy to
Libya or should America have taken a leaf out of Libyas book?
Muammar Gaddafi inherited one of the poorest
nations in Africa . However, by the time he was
assassinated, Libya was unquestionably Africa s
most prosperous nation. Libya had the highest GDP
per capita and life expectancy in Africa and less
people lived below the poverty line than in the
Netherlands . Libyans did not only enjoy free
health care and free education, they also enjoyed
free electricity and interest free loans. The
price of petrol was around $0.14 per liter and 40
loaves of bread cost just $0.15. Consequently,
the UN designated Libya the 53rd highest in the world in human development.
The fundamental difference between western
democratic systems and the Jamahiriyas direct
democracy is that in Libya citizens were given
the chance to contribute directly to the
decision-making process, not merely through
elected representatives. Hence, all Libyans were
allowed to voice their views directly not in
one parliament of only a few hundred elite
politicians but in hundreds of committees
attended by tens of thousands of ordinary
citizens. Far from being a military dictatorship,
Libya under Mr. Gaddafi was Africas most prosperous democracy.
Garikai Chengu is a fellow of the Du Bois
Institute for African Research at Harvard University
- This article was originally posted at Brave New World.
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