The softly spoken diplomat who lifted the rebels' resolve

Mr Stevens was cautious about what would happen in post-Gaddafi Libya, but wanted the West engaged

Share

Chris Stevens met his death in the city where he had arrived soon after the start of the Libyan revolution, when it was far from certain whether Muammar Gaddafi could be driven from power. In the subsequent months he helped to ensure that the revolution would survive and ultimately triumph.

There is little doubt that his presence, with a small team of Western diplomats, helped buttress the morale of the opposition's National Transitional Council, suffering from doubts and divisions, and dispirited by the failure to break through the regime's defences despite the aid of Nato bombing.

While attending seemingly endless meetings with opposition leaders in Benghazi, the softly spoken and urbane US representative would express his frustration at being unable to see for himself what was going on in the frontline. Some of us covering the fighting would meet him on our brief visits to the capital of "Free Libya" to be questioned about the performance of the rebel forces, their weapon supply, and the support, or otherwise, they were receiving from the population in the towns and cities on the road to Tripoli.

It was clear from the few meetings that Mr Stevens had built up much knowledge of Libyan politics and tribal structures during a previous posting in Tripoli. Refreshingly, he refused to speak in the clichés about Colonel Gaddafi and the regime much used by diplomats and officials in Washington and London.

It also became clear that unlike some of their British and French colleagues, Mr Stevens and his team were cautious about what would happen in post-Gaddafi Libya. However, he held that it was vital that the West should remain engaged as a counter-balance to hardline Islamists who had come to join the rebels.

Libya's first elections were, overall, a success. In Benghazi, where I was on polling day, there were outbreaks of violence, but the voting continued. As in the rest of Libya, the Islamist parties did not do well, neither did a local separatist movement.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: This post arises as a result of the need to...

Tradewind Recruitment: Class Teacher Required ASAP In Uminster

£120 - £150 per annum: Tradewind Recruitment: I am recruiting on instruction o...

Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wimbledon, SW London

£24000 - £28000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wim...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

I’m not sure I fancy any meal that’s been cooked up by a computer

John Walsh
Labour leader Ed Miliband delivers a speech on his party's plans for the NHS, in Sale, on Tuesday  

Why is Miliband fixating on the NHS when he’d be better off focussing on the wealth gap?

Andreas Whittam Smith
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

Homeless Veterans appeal

Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

Pot of gold

Tasting the world’s most expensive tea
10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching
Nick Easter: 'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

Nick Easter targeting World Cup place after England recall
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore