With the 2011 revolution overthrowing Muammar Qaddafi, it remains to be seen whether the country will continue to remember September 1 as Revolution Day, marking the day in 1969 that Qaddafi rose to power.
Libya had an extremely rough colonization period under Italy in the early part of the 20th century. In 1951, Libya gained independence as a constitutional monarchy under King Idris.
King Idris held a decidedly pro-Western stance, and ruled the country for nearly two decades. He arranged to transfer power to his son on September 2, 1969. However, on September 1 that year, a coup led by officer Muammar Gaddafi deposed the King and his son, citing how the country’s wealth had managed to fall into the hands of the very few, notably the king’s inner circle. The 27 year-old Gaddafi gained his title: “Brother Leader and Guide of the Revolution.”
Gaddafi proposed that Libya would form a new type of government economy, neither capitalist nor socialist, but a third road between the two.
Gaddafi’s government’s links to the Soviet Union in the 1970s and 1980s, and its links to terrorist groups and bombings in the 1980s led to increase pressure from the West, and finally to U.S. air strikes in 1986 (which killed Gaddafi’s adopted daughter). In 1988, Libyan intelligence agents were involved in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Scotland. Libya spent the next decade under U.N. sanctions.
In 1999, U.N. sanctions were lifted after Gaddafi extradited Libyans suspected in the bombing. After 9-11, Gaddafi denounced Al-Qaeda; U.S. sanctions were lifted in 2003 when Libya agreed to pay billions of dollars to victims of Pan Am 103 and other bombings.
In terms of GDP per capita, Libya is the second richest nation in Africa. Its official name is the Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya (Arabic for “state of the masses), and it stands out from all other nations in terms of its flag: it’s the only single-color banner. Green symbolizes both Libya and the Islamic religion.
Over the decades, Libya has moved away from solidarity with the Middle-East and more toward taking a leadership role in the development of Africa.