The end was swift and sudden.The battle for the last town held by Gaddafi loyalists, Sirte had inexplicably dragged on for weeks.Everybody here in Benghazi, 500 kilometres away ,was puzzled by the fierce resistance being put up by a few cornered pro Gaddafi fighters.What were they fighting for?As it is their vanquished leader was supposedly on the run, far away ,somewhere in the southern desert.
On the twentieth of October I was enjoying a seesh tauk at an Egyptian restaurant in Benghazi.The last pockets of resistance had just fallen in Sirte and the whole of Libya was finally free of Gaddafi’s rule.Celebrations were just beginning in the streets outside.Suddenly a group of boys ran out from the alleys shouting “Muammar” “Muammar”. They jumped up and down ,hugged their friends and generally went crazy.The celebratory tempo went up several notches.Almost as if on cue the minarets of the mosques started blaring prayers.Somewhat perplexed I went home and logged on to the net.’Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi reportedly killed in Sirte’ ran the breaking news ticker.Television news later confirmed the death and provided gory pictures and footage of the bloody end.’Brother leader’ had died a dog’s death; beaten ,dragged on the street and shot by his own people.The death also brought the eight month long civil war in Libya to an abrupt end.
Benghazi went berserk.The city was the birthplace of the revolution in February.In March Gaddafi,’s army had entered the city limits with explicit orders to erase the city from the map.My colleagues tell me that the instructions were to rape and kill. NATO bombing of Gaddafi’s army just a few miles outside Benghazi on 20th March 2011 saved the population of one million in the nick of time.So retribution tasted especially sweet to the residents here.Not many here shed tears for the manner of the tyrant’s death .In fact it was a mass catharsis for a populace which had endured decades of brutal repression.
Celebrations for Libyan youth means burning benzene (petrol) and rubber.By evening hundreds of cars were careening up and down the city roads continuously honking horns.My friend who had his room overlooking one of the main thoroughfares had a splitting headache that night.Kids and young men alike hung out of the car windows waving the Libyan flag and flashing the V sign.Women in cars ululating as is the Arab tradition.I watched while drinking ‘khalta’ at a roadside coffee shop downtown as celebratory gunfire rocked the night.Some people had gotten hold of huge fuel tanker trailers and were driving around the city roads with beacons flashing and sirens wailing.The destination for everyone was the old courthouse by the Mediterranean sea where the revolution had first started.The party had just begun and would continue for days.After all it was a party 42 years in the making.