Gaddafi's family and the future of Libya

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Marco Werman: There's also some confusion in Libya over what Muammar Gaddafi 's family is up to. The dictator's strongest support is said to come from family members, but one rumour has two of the Gaddafi sons trying to negotiate an exit for their father, while allowing the sons to lead a supposed transition to democracy in Libya. Here to help us sort out who the power brokers in the Gaddafi family tree are is Vijay Prashad. He's a professor of international Studies at the Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. We know that colonel Gaddafi is thought to have eight biological children, seven sons and one daughter, and two adopted children. Who in this clan is most prominent in discussions about a future government right now, Vijay Prashad?

Vijay Prashad: Well, the central sons are Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the second son of Muammar Gaddafi, and his son Saadi Gaddafi. These are the people who, rumour has it, are trying to negotiate some kind of way forward out of the current military and political stalemate. It may be a question of the rebels not wanting this as a palatable solution, but it might be the only kind of political discussion point on the table. It is probably clear that the fighters on the ground, that most of the military that defected to the rebellion, will not accept Saif al-Islam, particularly given the speech that he made early in the intensified period of the conflict. It might also be the case that the people who are at the toppling end of the leadership, people like Mahmoud Jibril, might want to at least have a political discussion.

Werman: Saif al-Islam at one point characterised himself as a reformer, but he's also been making a lot of inflammatory statements lately. What sort of change might he be backing?

Prashad: Until a few months ago, Saif al-Islam was indeed seen as the reformer. He did a doctorate at the London School of Economics, where he argued for the necessity for actors in the NGO sphere to be allowed in, in other words, in the U.N. you should have more NGO participation, more direct democracy. His brother, Mutassim, his other brother, Hannibal, and his brother Khamis were the ones who had a more hardcore position. Khamis in fact has a brigade named after him, that is the core brigade that is to defend Tripoli, the Khamis brigade. These brothers were seen as the intransigent, erratic, they take after their father a lot more. Hannibal was arrested in 2008 in Geneva for beating up his servants. These are far more testosterone-laden children of Gaddafi. It is the case that there is a power struggle that has been going on for a while, and that Saif al-Islam had the upper hand among his bothers with the father. In all this, by a WikiLeaks cable, in some ways, thank god for WikiLeaks, we understand that it is the sister, Ayesha Gaddafi, who is a lawyer, who was tasked by the father to bring the family together, to make sure, as the WikiLeaks cable puts it, that the ne'er-do-wells behave themselves.

Werman: I want to ask you about Ayesha, I'm actually looking at a family tree of the Gaddafis which we will post on our website, theworld dot org. She's intriguing, we understand for many years Ayesha was was one of the wise of Idi Amin, the Ugandan despot who fled to Libya in 1997. She was also on the legal defence panel of Saddam Hussein. How visible has she been during this crisis?

Prashad: She has been on Libyan state television several times, and she has a reputation in Tripoli and in Libya of being a rather flamboyant character and a fierce defender, again, of her father's legacy.

Werman: Vijay Prashad is a professor of International Studies at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. He spoke with us about the Gaddafi family and the roles they'd like to play in a future Libyan government. Thanks very much for your time.

Prashad: Thank you so much.