So Gaddafi is gone after 42 years of brutal rule. But the revolution lives on. Al Zazeera says,”The death of Gaddafi unleashes huge potentialities and possibilities that will enliven the remarkable Libyan people. Now it is their turn – after the thousands of deaths, injuries, the devastation, pain and suffering – to breathe life into the new Libya, the post-Gaddafi Libya. But there are challenges.” These sure are huge challenges. The biggest challenge now is to manage the legacy, to put to bed the question of what lives on and what dies with Gaddafi.
Typically the war against Gaddafi was led by the West from behind. The dominant role France, Britain and US played in bringing the Gaddafi regime down gives them enough traction to influence the future of Libya. How far will the tribe torn rebel forces rally around the national cause remains a mystery for the time being. As the dust settles on the euphoria of Gaddafi’s death, the factionalised rebel groups have to come together towards espousing a national cause rather than bickering over a piece of cake in the future dispensation. For a country which has not seen democracy for over four decades this would be a tough ask. Gaddafi leaves behind a legacy of divisive tribalism and manipulation of racial identities in Libya, magnifying the legitimacy deficit of the current transitional government in Tripoli.
The post-Gaddafi road ahead for Libya is fraught by any estimate. Tens of thousands may have died in the war; the numbers could take years to verify. Many more again have been wounded, both fighters and civilians caught up in the violence. Already these maimed survivors are attacking the NTC for its failure to bring them speedy relief. The acting prime minister, Mahmoud Jibril, in the meanwhile, reinforced the message of unity, declaring: “We confirm that all the evils plus Gaddafi have vanished from this beloved country. I think it’s for the Libyans to realise that it’s time to start a new Libya, a united Libya, one people, one future.”
A commentary in The Guardian quotes Rosemary Hollis, professor of Middle East policy studies at City University, London, ”I don’t think there is any way there won’t be a power struggle,” ”You have those who did the bulk of the fighting and lost lives and limbs, and those who did the necessary task of doing the diplomacy and so spent much of the time abroad, and those who have cropped up in the last week – those for whom capture or trial is an appalling prospect. There will be score settling.”
It goes on to say that the bigger threat now is likely to be the prospect of splits among the victorious factions – the NTC leaders who first raised the banner of revolt in Benghazi at the start of the year, the Misrata militia who did much of the fighting, lost the most people and see themselves as the deserving “Spartans” of the new Libya, and the fighters from the Nafusa mountains in the west, who tipped the balance against Gaddafi in August. It is extraordinarily difficult for a country with no democratic traditions and institutions, riven by tribal rivalries, to forge a new government and adopt peaceful co-existence. Every major town has its own rebel brigade, armed to the teeth, determined to keep its guns in its hands until the future becomes clear.
The Libyan people must believe that the political changes that will ensue now are for real and would last. The post Gaddafi governance model, of necessity has to follow a federal form, which may be of use when seeking to empower tribes and regions. The moment calls for vertical and horizontal creativity in democratisation. This would have to come about by lowering the emotional high that the various rebel factions have lived on for the last eight months and some for the last 42 years. It is a tough process that needs to be put into motion, especially when Libya lacks a common agenda currently. The next critical issue with governance is that of security. Who will provide that to obviate Libya sliding into an anarchy? Next most crucial requirement is of providing Libya with a working model of governance to demobilise the fighters and institute administrative processes to take stock of the situation. Unlike Egypt, there is no army to offer such transitional support. Will the NATO move in to fill the void as in Iraq?
The most critical in the coming days and months will be Libya’s capacity to divide its oil largess in a justifiable manner to benefit the society at large. In a country where 6 million people sit on oil which could make them the richest in the world, this distribution of wealth is imperative to obviate oil wars affecting the new form of governance in Libya. Uptill now the oil revenue went into the state coffers which lacked accountability. Libya’s new rulers will need to find ways to bring together a large number of groups throughout society that until now have shared very little except the oil riches of the country and whose interests were deliberately played off against each other by the divide-and-rule tactics of the regime. Geographically, Libya remains rooted to Europe and its oil largesse will also follow this route. With NATO deciding to call off military action against Gaddafi much of their efforts will now refocus on oil adding to the already complex scenario in Libya.
The celebrations surrounding Gaddafi’s fall provide another unifying moment, but the departure of the one man who united much of the country in fear will pose fresh challenges. Libya’s new rulers now have to find different reasons to stick together. Until then there is an unpredictable road ahead.