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From dictatorship to democracy: The significance of Colonel Gaddafi’s death

The former Libyan dictator Colonel Muammar Gaddafi has been killed. He was caught in a firefight between his supporters, and rebels backing the National Transitional Council, following a Nato airstrike…

After 42 years in charge of the country, and surviving a violent uprising, Colonel Gaddafi was killed in his hometown of Sirte. EPA/Khaled el-Fiqi

The former Libyan dictator Colonel Muammar Gaddafi has been killed. He was caught in a firefight between his supporters, and rebels backing the National Transitional Council, following a Nato airstrike in his hometown of Sirte.

The Conversation spoke to Deakin University’s Mat Hardy about the significance of Gaddafi’s death.

What does Gaddafi’s death mean for the people of Libya?

I think it’s very symbolic in that most Libyans wouldn’t have felt have truly free unless this had happened.

Gaddafi’s death has given Libyans a sense of freedom. EPA/Mohamed Messara

Is it better for the country that he was killed rather than captured and put on trial?

From a humanitarian point of view you don’t want people killed out of hand, but it’s important that it ended in this way.

In the trials of Saddam Hussein and Slobodan Milosovec in a sense they had the opportunity to get the last word - they got to deny everything. With Libya we’ve consigned Gaddafi to the dustbin of history. I doubt he’ll become any sort of martyr. I don’t think there will be many out there in Libya who want to preserve his memory in that way.

What does the NTC need to do now to ensure security in the country?

The leader of the National Transitional Council, Acting Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril, will have to contain tribal rivalries to ensure the security of the country. EPA/Sabri Elmhedwi

Some internal divisions will be on show. The tribal difficulties will be exacerbated by the fact that there are many weapons in the country, and no-one is going to hand them in anytime soon. Small disputes could escalate quickly to a very serious level.

What does the international community need to do?

It will be a matter of finance. They need to make sure that financial help given to the country is well spent. The Libyans want to do it by themselves, but advice will need to be given to make the transition from dictatorship to democracy.

What is the significance of NATO’s involvement in his death?

I don’t know that there’s any great significance in it. It would have been difficult to know that would have been the outcome of a single airstrike.

Will Gaddafi’s death embolden rebels in the Arab Spring, spreading further uprisings throughout the region?

I’m sure if you’re a Syrian the news of Gaddafi’s demise will be uncomfortable. If I were al-Assad I would be concerned right now.