The late Libyan dictator Moammar Qaddafi’s cousin is reportedly seeking to capitalize on the chaotic security conditions in Libya during the possible elections next year by defeating the Western-backed government.
“There won’t be peace without us,” 65-year-old Gaddaf al-Dam, told the Washington Post. “We represent the majority of Libyans. And we want to set things right and correct the past.”
“We are the real regime,” Qaddafi’s Egypt-based cousin later added. “Those ruling now came on top of the missiles over Libya. Missiles do not create legitimacy.”
The Post describes Dam as a vital member of the late dictator’s inner circle, noting that he studied at military academies and schools in Britain, Turkey, and Pakistan.
Since the U.S.-backed operation that killed Qaddafi in 2011, political instability and deteriorating security conditions have gripped Libya.
The United Nations-brokered government has failed to prevent Libya from descending further into chaos.
According to the U.S. military and Libyan troops, the mostly lawless African country remains a “fertile ground” for various jihadist groups.
Referring to Qaddafi’s cousin Dam and his backers, the Post points out:
As insecurity and violence grip Libya, Gaddaf al-Dam now senses an opening. He and his supporters are cultivating ties with influential tribes and former rivals disillusioned by the political inertia, seeking to undermine Libya’s weak Western-backed government.
They see opportunity in a new U.N. effort to bring peace, with possible elections next year. The release from jail this summer of Gaddafi’s most prominent son, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, also gives them hope, though he remains in hiding.
Dam and his supporters reportedly believe Saif al-Islam Qaddafi is the best person to run Libya.
In September, the United Nations announced a new peace strategy in Libya that included a referendum on a new constitution as well as presidential and parliamentary elections.
During the potential elections, Dam may have to face former Gen. Khalifa Haftar, the Russian-backed Libyan opposition leader described as the “New Qaddafi” by some media outlets.
In May, the Libyan Express revealed that Gen. Haftar is expected to run for president next year.
While Dam has been in neighboring Egypt, Haftar has been leading armed factions in eastern Libya that reject the ruling administration.
“A lot of people still trust him [Dam], but others accuse him of selling the former regime out by leaving,” acknowledged Abdelbasit Ahmed Abu Dieh, former head of the Libyan News Agency, according to the Post. “He has a lot of influence … He can help reshape the political scene, but he cannot actually enforce his visions as powerfully as he would have done in the past.”
Returning to the Libyan government would be “really difficult” for Gaddaf al-Dam and Saif al-Islam Qaddafi, conceded Mohamed Ama’azeb, a senior official with the U.N.-backed government. “Security-wise, it is almost impossible. Former regime figures wish their days would be revived, but not everything one wishes for comes true.”
Gen. Haftar served under Col. Qaddafi, but he fell out of favor with the former dictator and spent years trying to topple the leader.