On Libyan state TV this afternoon, Muammar Qaddafi rejected demands that he relinquish his power. “I am a fighter, a revolutionary from tents … I will die as a martyr at the end,” the dictator said even as opposition forces have taken control in the east. During the speech, Qaddafi appeared both defiant and rambling, at times pounding his fists for emphasis but losing his train of thought in indecipherable stream-of-consciousness tirades that had translators from CNN to Al Jazeera stumbling to convey his meaning. Qaddafi urged his supporters to fight their fellow citizens and attack protesters, saying, “You men and women who love Qaddafi … get out of your homes and fill the streets … Leave your homes and attack them in their lairs … Starting tomorrow the cordons will be lifted, go out and fight them.” Qaddafi also promised a new constitution, to be put in place tomorrow offering people “whatever form of government they want,” but he invoked Tiananmen Square as an example of how he would punish protesters, saying, “The integrity of China was more important than those in Tiananmen Square.” Like Hosni Mubarak before him, Qaddafi tried to portray the unrest as a product of foreign influences.
Analyzing the speech for Al Jazeera, Libyan political analyst Ibrahim Jibreel said, “There was no substance to this. There was really no message to this besides the threats.” Referencing an extended portion of the speech where Qaddafi listed all off the protesters offenses that would be punishable by death, Jibreel added, “The interesting thing is that Libya has no constitution but he has threatened the death penalty for people who fail to follow the Constitution.”
On Good Morning America, Ali Suleiman Aujali, Libya’s recently resigned ambassador to the U.S. urged Washington to call for Qaddafi’s ouster. “This regime is shaking, and this is the time to get rid of him,” said Aujali. “The people are being kill[ed] in a brutal way. The people, they are armless, and the regime, they have all kind of weapons.”
Unlike Egypt and Tunisia, where military elites ultimately decided the country’s fate, Libya is controlled by “opaque and complex tribal power structures.” Qaddafi has relied on his small but powerful Qathathfa tribe to lead elite military units and guarantee his regime’s security. But rumor is that the violent nature of his crackdown against protesters is prompting leaders of larger tribes, who were co-opted into Qadaffi’s rule, to switch allegiances.