OTTAWA – Canada’s military mission in Libya is expected to end by early November following Thursday’s death of Moammar Gadhafi.
The dictator’s demise marked the end of four decades of erratic and brutal rule that saw world leaders both engage and cast out the leader of the oil-rich nation before he was finally driven from power by his own people.
NATO leaders were to decide Friday on a firm end date for its military support of the rebels. The NATO-led mission, backed by a United Nations resolution, intervened in Libya in March when Gadhafi refused to end a bloody crackdown on the revolution that was part of a wave of uprisings across the Arab world.
Gadhafi’s death means he’ll never able to terrorize his own people or the world again, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said.
“The Libyan people can finally turn the page on 42 years of vicious oppression and continue their journey toward a better future,” Harper said.
But their actions in the final moments of Gadhafi’s life are now under scrutiny with observers concerned revolutionaries may have meted out the same kind of violent justice that characterized Gadhafi’s reign.
Amnesty International said an independent and impartial inquiry was needed into the circumstances surrounding Gadhafi’s death. Rebels had earlier promised he would be brought before the courts and Arab TV stations broadcast footage of him being taken alive.
Had he appeared in court it could have been very embarrassing for countries that had been doing business with Libya before the revolution, said Fen Hampson, director of the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs at Carleton University.
“I think it would include Canada,” he said.
“If Gadhafi had been in the docket he would have harangued his prosecutors and done everything to embarrass the western allies. He knew where the trade secrets were.”
Gadhafi normalized Libya’s relations with the rest of the world in 2003 by swearing off weapons of mass destruction. That pledge rehabilitated the dictator’s image and, among other things, allowed him to meet regularly with world leaders, including Canada’s former prime minister Paul Martin.
Canadian businesses subsequently did billions of dollars worth of business with the country.
“Was the world right to try and re-engage Gadhafi so that Libya’s isolation and its people’s isolation could come to and end? I think it was worth the effort,” Martin said in an interview Thursday.
“Unfortunately, it didn’t work.”
But it did demonstrate that regime change can truly only come about if the people themselves decide they want it, he said.
“A successful rebuilding of a country from chaos requires the people have the initiative,” Martin said.
Political instability is expected to remain in the coming weeks as the international mission winds down.
The commander of NATO operations in Libya is Canadian Lt.-Gen. Charles Bouchard, who oversaw the coalition from a NATO base in Italy.
Canadian fighter jets flew 10 per cent of NATO’s sorties on Libya, supporting the rebels who had toppled Gadhafi’s regime in August and forced him into hiding. Their UN-sanctioned mission was to protect innocent civilians from forces loyal to the dictator.
Canada’s commitment to the mission, which also includes a navy warship and surveillance planes, was due to end in December.
“Gen. Bouchard has served our country with great distinction,” Harper said after speaking with him by telephone.
“Our government shall be speaking with our allies to prepare for the end of our military mission in the next few days.”
A spokesman for Defence Minister Peter MacKay said Canadian Forces assets were not involved in air strikes in Gadhafi’s hometown of Sirte on Thursday morning.
France said its planes had fired on a convoy of loyalists but didn’t destroy it, allowing revolutionary fighters to move in on the vehicle carrying Gadhafi himself.
Opposition parties called on the Conservative government to maintain the same commitment to Libya’s future as it did to the campaign to oust Gadhafi.
“We need to be a country that takes civilian reconstruction and takes the long hard slogging that it takes to build democratic institutions, that we take that every bit as seriously as we take military intervention,” Liberal Leader Bob Rae said.
Canada recently gave Libya’s new provisional government, the National Transitional Council, $10 million to clean up weapons of mass destruction and help the country make the transition to democracy.
Two visits to the country in recent months by Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird suggest Canada will be there over the long term, said Sufyan Maghur, the former NTC representative in Canada.
“This is what we heard from the Canadian government, that Canada will assist, through the UN, in how to draft a constitution, how to build the voting system, and certainly in infrastructure, building a transparency program. So Canada has a lot to work in Libya, and from his (Baird’s) visits I sense that he and Canada is interested.”
Canada has also given $10.6 million in humanitarian assistance.
Canada has also released about $2.2 billion in Gadhafi’s seized assets, money that will help the council run Libya. And Canada recently reopened its embassy in Tripoli after closing it Feb. 26.
A priority of Canada’s newly functioning embassy will be helping Canadian companies — including Alberta oil producer Suncor and Montreal engineering firm SNC Lavalin — resume operations.
Calgary-based energy firm Suncor had been working with the state-owned National Oil Corp. and was producing about 50,000 barrels of oil a day before the violence began.
SNC Lavalin is involved in several Libyan ventures, including building a prison and part of a water-supply system.
Representatives from those companies and Pure Technologies of Calgary recently accompanied Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird on his trip to Tripoli, his second visit to Libya this year.
Gadhafi is the first strongman killed by his people in this year’s uprisings in the Arab world.
President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, the former leader of Tunisia, fled to Saudi Arabia and was tried in absentia in his homeland. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is on trial now. Bashar Assad and Ali Abdullah Saleh are still clinging to power in Syria and Yemen despite daily protests against their regimes.
– with files from The Associated Press