Muammar Gaddafi – Revolutionary Leader of Libya


Muammar Gaddafi came to power in Libya in 1969 and ruled the country as a dictator until his death in 2011. He was the longest ruling leader in the Middle East and Northern Africa. At 27 he overthrew the Libyan king when he was in Turkey for medical treatment. During the last few years of his rule Gaddafi tried to gain international recognition and become a statesman.

Gaddafi was born in the desert town of Sirte. He came from a Bedouin family who led a nomadic life style. After he had gone to a military college he went to Britain for army training. On September 1, 1969 he overthrew the monarch and became what he called the revolutionary leader of Libya.


Although Gaddafi officially set up peoples’ committees he gave them virtually no power. People who thought otherwise were sent to prison or killed. Many of them were tortured or simply disappeared. The media was under the control of the colonel.

Gaddafi’s ideology is presented in his Green Book, in which he creates a mixture of capitalism and socialism combined with Islamic ideas. Gaddafi was well-known for his 40 female body guards who he chose himself. Instead of wearing a suit he often wore stylish clothes with sunglasses. Political guests were welcomed in heavily guarded tents instead of state palaces.


Revolutionary leader Muammar Gaddafi

Revolutionary leader Muammar Gaddafi


In the past decades Col Gaddafi tried to gain influence in many parts of Northern Africa. In the 70s he sent an army to Chad and during the 80s Libya was host to rebel and terrorist groups. Over the years western countries have been against Gaddafi’s regime because they say he supported militant groups like the IRA or the PLO.

Relationships with the west worsened towards the middle of the 1980s. Gaddafi’s regime was made responsible for terrorist attacks all over the world. US President Ronald Reagan called Gaddafi a “mad dog” and sent planes to bomb Libyan cities. In one of the air attacks the Libyan leader almost got killed.

In 1988 270 people were killed by a bomb in a Pan Am jet over Lockerbie, Scotland. Gaddafi was suspected of letting the bombers hide in his country. The United Nations imposed sanctions on Libya and isolated the country to get Gaddafi to hand over the terrorists.

Towards the end of the century Gaddafi tried to bring his country out of isolation. He handed the terrorists over to the UN and declared that Libya was behind the bombing. In the last few years Gaddafi has been working hard on normalizing relationships between Libya and the United States.

After Saddam Hussein lost power in 2003 Gaddafi became afraid that he too might have to step down. He allowed weapons inspectors into the country and vowed to dismantle Libya’s weapons of mass destruction. In the last few years Gaddafi turned a statesman and met important western leaders including British Prime Minister Tony Blair, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Although Libya is one of the oil-richest countries in the world, the people of the country have remained poor. They have not received the wealth that Gaddafi has accumulated over the years. Economic experts think that Gaddafi may have a fortune of about $60 billion dollars.

When unrest began in Tunisia and Egypt at the beginning of 2011 it was clear that it would spread to Libya as well. In weeks of fighting Gaddafi tried to hold on to power. He sent the army to fight against protesters. Hundreds of people were killed. After losing control of most of the country, Gaddafi was captured and killed by rebel groups in October 2011.


Vladimir Putin with Gaddafi in 2008

Vladimir Putin with Gaddafi in 2008 -


Related Topics



  • accumulate = build up
  • although = white
  • attack = to use violence against
  • Bedouin = someone who belongs to an Arab tribe that lives in tents in the desert
  • billion = one thousand million
  • choose = select
  • colonel = high rank in the army
  • combine = together with
  • committee = group, team
  • create = make
  • decade = ten years
  • declare = to say officially
  • disappear = to go away, impossible top find
  • ever since = since then
  • female = women
  • fortune = the amount of money that you have
  • gain = get
  • guard = protect, defend
  • hand over = give to
  • heavily = very much
  • hold on to = keep, stay in
  • host = to invite someone to stay or work in place
  • ideology = what someone believes about a political or economic system
  • impose = to put into effect
  • including = also
  • infl uence = power
  • instead of = in something’s place
  • IRA = Irish republican Army = illegal organization that wants to reunite Ireland
  • isolate = cut off, separate
  • jet = fast passenger plane
  • media = newspapers, radio and television
  • militant = radical, aggressive
  • monarch = the king or queen of a country
  • nomadic = to travel from one place to another and not have one place to live
  • normalize = to become normal again
  • officially = formally
  • otherwise = here: in a different way
  • overthrow = defeat, remove from power
  • palace = official home of an important leader, like a queen or a king
  • PLO = Palestine Liberation Organization = group that wants to create an Arab state in the middle East
  • present = show
  • prison = a building where you keep people who have done illegal things
  • receive = get
  • recognition = respect
  • regime = a government that was not elected in a fair way; rulers that you do not like
  • remain = is left, stay
  • responsible = to blame
  • rule = to have power in a country
  • sanction = law that stops trade or communications with another country in order to force its leaders make changes
  • spread = move to
  • statesman = a political leader who is admired and respected by others
  • step down = to stop being a ruler or leader
  • support = give money to
  • suspect = think, believe
  • torture = to hurt someone so that you can get information out of them
  • towards = near
  • treatment = something that is done to make a person healthy again
  • unrest = conflict, violence, trouble
  • virtually = almost, nearly
  • wealth = riches, capital, money
  • weapons inspector = a scientist who is sent to a country to see if it has weapons that are not allowed
  • weapons of mass destruction = chemical, nuclear or biological weapons that are very powerful and could kill many people and destroy large areas
  • worsen = to make worse