Libya: Ten things to know about Seif al-Islam Gaddafi, the ‘favourite son’

By Jihâd Gillon
Posted on Wednesday, 29 December 2021 16:43

Seif el-Islam Gaddafi registers to participate in the presidential election in Sebha, southern Libya. (Libyan High National Electoral Commission FB Page)

Despite Libya's elections being once again postponed, candidate Seif al-Islam Gaddafi, often referred to as 'the favourite son', presents himself as a provincial man up for the job. Here are ten things you should know about the son of the former longtime ruler, Muammar Gaddafi.

1. Returnee

Arrested in 2011, Seif al-Islam Gaddafi spent most of the last ten years near Zintan (north-western Libya), the town of origin of the revolutionary brigade which arrested him. Officially released in 2016, he waited until July 2021 to announce his return to political life in The New York Times.

2. Imbroglio

Still being claimed by the International Criminal Court for his role in the 2011 crackdown, he was nearly barred from running because of his criminal record.

Contradicting the High Electoral Commission, the Court of Justice in Sebha finally validated his candidacy.

3. Reformist?

“His candidacy is not one of nostalgia for the old regime,” says Souha al-Badri, his communications advisor. Those close to him keep reminding us that, under his father’s reign, he was already a reformist. However, in The New York Times, Seif al-Islam said that ” “What happened in Libya was not a revolution. You can call it a civil war, or days of evil. It’s not a revolution.”

4. Haftar

In his absence, Khalifa Haftar has carried out a takeover of the Gaddafi clan. Today, the two men, both presidential candidates, are competing for the same electoral pool.

To prevent Seif al-Islam from appealing the decision to exclude him from the campaign, the marshal even had the court in Sebha closed down by force at the end of November. Without success.

5. Generation conflict

Charged in 2020 with founding the Libya el-Ghad party on the instructions of Seif al-Islam, Nidhal Badreddine, 35, has since distanced himself. The cause: the conservatism of the old guard, grouped around the Popular Front for the Liberation of Libya and the head of the political bureau, Mohamed Abou Agila. “They are revanchists, hostile to any change, and do not guide Seif al-Islam in a reformist direction,” regrets Badreddine.

6. Russia

Behind the scenes, some Russian officials do not hesitate to talk about the son of Muammar Gaddafi as the candidate of Moscow.

“Russian diplomacy went so far as to speak out in favor of the release of another of his sons, Hannibal Gaddafi,” recalls Adlene Mohammedi, a specialist in Russian-Arab relations.

7. Brothers

The eldest of the siblings, Mohammed, lives in Cairo. After seven years in detention in Tripoli, Saadi was released on 5 September. He has since been living in Turkey. Hannibal remains detained in Lebanon. His case has been the subject of a rocky affair involving Nicolas Sarkozy and the businessman Noël Dubus. The idea, according to the latter, was to obtain Hannibal’s release in exchange for access to the family archives.

8. Béchir Saleh

Muammar Gaddafi’s former treasurer returned to the country in the wake of the announcement of the candidacy of Seif al-Islam. But not to give him his support: Béchir Saleh had also decided to run.

“He is looking for a position in the next administration, he represents nothing in the opinion,” said a young Gaddafi official.

9. Income

Officially, his funds have been frozen. But according to a Times investigation published in 2017, Seif al-Islam has direct access to $30bn despite the sanctions.

10. Favourable bias

“The general feeling is that his candidacy is a chance for the stability of Libya,” said French MP Bruno Fuchs after a short African tour in December, including in Congo and the DRC, where he met with Félix Tshisekedi.

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