Longtime Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi remained in power early Monday. But he faces growing pressure to step down – from the United States, from the United Nations and from many fellow Libyans.
On Saturday, President Obama called on Gadhafi (gah-DAH-fee) to resign immediately because of Gadhafi’s violent crackdown on anti-government protests in Libya. Human rights groups say hundreds of anti-Gadhafi protesters have been killed – possibly even thousands.
“When a leader’s only means of staying in power is to use mass violence against his own people, he has lost the legitimacy to rule and needs to do what is right for his country by leaving now,” Obama said in a statement issued by the White House.
The United Nations Security Council voted unanimously Saturday to impose tough new sanctions on Libya because of the crackdown. (“Sanctions” are essentially a form of punishment.) Those sanctions include an embargo on weapons sales to the Gadhafi government. In addition, the Security Council voted to have a war crimes tribunal investigate whether Gadhafi has committed crimes against humanity. And it urged all UN member countries to freeze any assets the Gadhafi family and his close associates might have stashed away. (In this case, “assets” essentially means large amounts of money in foreign bank accounts.)
The United States has already taken steps to freeze the Gadhafi family’s assets in this country.
“I can’t remember (another) time when the (security) council has acted so swiftly, decisively and unanimously on an urgent matter of human rights,” Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said.
In Libya itself, anti-Gadhafi forces reportedly controlled at least half the country over the weekend, including Libya’s second largest city, Benghazi. And so many members of the Libyan armed forces have reportedly joined the anti-Gadhafi side that Gadhafi has had to bring in mercenaries from foreign countries to carry out his crackdown on the protesters. (Mercenaries are basically soldiers for hire – people who fight for whoever is paying them.)
On Sunday, Gadhafi told a Serbian TV network “the Libyan people are fully behind me.”
But reports from across Libya indicate otherwise. Just 30 miles outside Tripoli, residents of the Libyan city of Zawiya were heard shouting “Free, free Libya!” and “Gadhafi out!” on Sunday, according to The Associated Press (AP).
“To us, Gadhafi is the Dracula of Libya,” Wael al-Oraibi, a Libyan army officer who has joined the anti-Gadhafi side, said according to the AP.
There were also reports of pro-Gadhafi demonstrations over the weekend. One of those demonstrations reportedly drew approximately 3,000 people. But the turf controlled by the anti-government forces continues to grow, according to a number of reports.
Libya is just the latest North African nation where protesters are trying to replace authoritarian rulers with a more democratic form government. (An authoritarian is someone who demands absolute obedience and doesn’t allow anyone to disagree with him.) Protesters in neighboring Tunisia and Egypt have already succeeded in removing their long-time leaders from power. There have also been protests in a number of other predominantly Muslim countries – from Morocco east to Yemen, Oman and Bahrain on the Arabian Peninsula.
But Gadhafi has managed to hold onto his leadership of Libya for 42 years. And if he goes, he has already shown that he’s going to go easily or quietly.