Will Gaddafi Fall?

Eric Stoner Feb 23, 2011

For the ninth day in a row, protesters in Libya took to the streets today, despite the use of far more violence from the state than what happened during Egypt’s recent uprising.

According to Human Rights Watch, at least 322 people have been killed since the current wave of protests began on February 14. According the most recent report from Al Jazeera:

Witnesses in Tripoli told Al Jazeera that fighter jets had bombed portions of the city in fresh attacks on Monday night. The bombing focused on ammunition depots and control centres around the capital.

Helicopter gunships were also used, they said, to fire on the streets in order to scare demonstrators away.

Several witnesses said that “mercenaries” were firing on civilians in the city, while pro-Gaddafi forces warned people not to leave their homes via loudspeakers mounted on cars.

Residents of the Tajura neighbourhood, east of Tripoli, said that dead bodies are still lying on the streets from earlier violence. At least 61 people were killed in the capital on Monday, witnesses told Al Jazeeera.

Despite these attempts to crush the movement, the protests appear to only be gaining momentum and there are many signs that the regime is crumbling.

First, there are reports of defections within the military, although it’s still unclear how extensive the they have been. Some units have apparrently put down their weapons and joined the protesters. In addition, two Libyan air force jets landed in Malta yesterday after their pilots refused to attack civilians in Benghazi.

Second, Libyan government officials both in the country and abroad have resigned. Again, as Al Jazeera reports:

Diplomats at Libyan embassies in the US, the United Nations, the Arab League, Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Poland, India and Bangladesh, among others, have either resigned from their posts, or disavowed links to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s government.

There are also encouraging signs that the opposition to Gaddafi is beginning to use other nonviolent tactics. At the Nafoora oilfield, for example, oil workers have gone on strike.

If Gaddafi continues to show his willingness to attack protesters – especially with foreign mercenaries, if those accusations are true – then Libyans seeking his downfall would be wise to consider shifting to tactics, like strikes or boycotts, that would be far more difficult for the government’s security apparatus to repress than large-scale demonstrations.

Let us not forget that Mubarak only stepped down in Egypt after workers began going on strike across the country, which threatened to paralyze the country’s economy.

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