Accessibility links

Breaking News

In Tripoli, Qaddafi Is Yesterday's Man

It seems Muammar Qaddafi no longer inspires much fear in Tripoli.
TRIPOLI -- For 42 years, Green Square was the stage set for Muammar Qaddafi's speeches against enemies all around Libya.

Today, it is called Martyrs' Square, in honor of fighters who died to break his grip on Libya.

Instead of banners hailing the "King of Kings," graffiti now reads "Finito," and "Game Over."

A big new sign implores rebels to stop celebrating by shooting their guns into the air.

Khalil Salem Melad Almosrat, a 56-year-old pensioner, pauses from cleaning up the litter of bullet casings. An army veteran of Qaddafi's wars in Chad, he says that after all the warlike speeches, the Libyan leader proved to be a coward.

Almosrat says Qaddafi told the world "he was a mujahedin, a Bedouin, that he would fight until the last bullet. When the fight came to him, he just ran away."

He believes that Qaddafi may have escaped into the Sahara, possibly southern Algeria. On August 29, Algeria's Foreign Ministry reported that Qaddafi's second wife and two of his sons had entered Algeria.

Almosrat is surprised when asked if Qaddafi's family will ever return to rule Libya. He responds, "Impossible, impossible, impossible."

Nearby, Khaled Abid, a 35-year-old government manager, stands in the shade of an arcade facing the sun-baked square.

For him, Qaddafi is yesterday's man. Asked what are the chances that Qaddafi's clan will return to rule Libya, he says, "Not even 'minus 1 percent.'"

The King Is Dead

Ten steps away, the National Commercial Bank is reopening for business with a new doormat: the bank's former lobby portrait of Qaddafi.

One customer spits on the portrait. Another pauses to ostentatiously wipe his feet on the image of the fallen leader. A third, an elderly man, dances a little jig, then takes off a shoe, then repeatedly hammers Qaddafi in the face with his loafer.

Inside the building, Hussein Kharaka, a bank executive, catches up with colleagues on their first day back at work since revolution turned Tripoli upside down 10 days ago.

He is optimistic about Libya's future, believing that banks will now be run along international lines, and that Libya will have good relations with Europe and the United States.

Asked about the man who once called himself "the King of African Kings," Kharaka responds, "He is in one of his holes, he is a coward; he can't even face people."

On the way back to the hotel, the driver plays a CD with Libya's new provisional anthem.

Taxis on the streets. Banks open. Shops open. Some of the Qaddafis in Algeria. Across Tripoli, it is clear the Qaddafi mystique is broken.

this report has been provided by VOA (