Saif al-Islam shortly after being captured by Zintan militiamen in Obari, Libya (Reuters/Ammar El-Darwish).

Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi, second son of the late deposed Libyan leader Col Muammar Gaddafi, is said to have been freed under an amnesty, in a move which could fuel further instability. 

Saif Al-Islam, the son of Muammar Gaddafi, has been released from Libyan jail by a militia group loyal to the eastern administration of the country. The second born of the former Libyan leader, Saif had previously been sentenced to death by a Tripolitean court after his initial capture and arrest in 2011 following charges put against him by the International Criminal Court.

After evading arrest, Saif was eventually captured by the anti-Gaddafi Zintan Brigades and placed into a Libyan jail sidestepping his execution until his present-day release. The loyal son of the infamous Libyan dictator, the younger Gaddafi was closely associated with his father’s rule and is considered to have been the main figure in the torture and killing of Libya’s own citizenry during the height of the anti-regime conflict in the country.

What will become of Saif’s future

Saif Al-Islam is expected to address his country while under the protection of Libyan rebels in the eastern Libyan city of Al-Bayda’. With those who were previously loyal to his father’s regime still alive and prevalent in the country, it is not far off to assume that the younger Gaddafi has plans for Libya.

With the country in such a destitute state, grappling with the political vacuum formed after the death of Muammar; the establishment of a political strongman in the country may be desired by those nostalgic for the relative stability of Muammar’s Libya.

If Saif Al-Islam is indeed that strongman, addressing instability in his country while inciting those previously loyal to his father will be a likely way to gain the foothold in Libya’s political spheres.

Saif Al-Islam after his release will unquestionably be suppressed politically by those authorities opposed to the appointment of the dictator’s son to any position of power in the country. With a strong following, however, Saif may have the ability to take advantage of the vacuum left by his father’s death; provoking a change in Libya’s current state of instability in the form of popular rebellions aimed at reestablishing the figure as a viable candidate for leadership.

Saif Al-Islam needs to reinvest in his image however if he plans to appeal to Libya’s disenchanted citizenry in such a way as to form a following. Re-engaging in public discourse in the country by fashioning himself as the patriotic candidate for a stable and prosperous Libyan future — bolstering his image while at the same time reinventing and erasing the tainted image left by his past actions, seems like a smart option for the dictator’s child.

Libya’s prodigal son

Undeniably, if there is one thing that gives Saif Al-Islam an advantage in the eyes of Libya’s public, it is his perceived love of country. One cannot forget the words uttered before his imprisonment: “I am in Libya, I am alive and free and willing to fight to the end and take revenge”.

For Saif to win the trust of Libya’s populace he must first take advantage of his position as an advocate for the prosperity of Libya. If Saif can harness the passion he had in the willingness to fight for his father’s regime into a passion for the development of Libya’s current condition; people in the country will likely rally behind him as a figure willing to fight for the well-being of their country.

In essence, Saif Al-Islam must show himself to be the prodigal son of Libya. A figure who after being disgraced and imprisoned for prior actions against the country, comes out of the shadow to reclaim a position as advocate and leader. Gaddafi’s son has the potential to change Libya dramatically.

Whether this change will be for the better is dependent on the current mind state of the dictator’s son,  but Saif has the power to influence the state. If the right steps are taken, Muammar may not indeed be the last Gaddafi in power and the world may indeed see the Libyan regime of Saif al-Islam Gaddafi.

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Mark Chamoun

Mark Chamoun interests belong mostly in the political and philosophical spheres. He is focusing on issues pertaining to minority groups in the Middle East and the current politics and happenings in the...

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