The Future of the Libyan revolution - by Dr. Mohamed Elmasry 06/09/2011 10:25:00
My two personal contacts with Libya have been at airports and both were shocking.
The first was at Tripoli airport seven years ago. The airport was in a very bad shape considering I was at the capital of an oil rich country. I wondered then why few billion dollars were not spent on the facility.
The second time it was at a London airport’s book store three months ago when I picked up the second edition of a 2005 British book with, “He is a prophet and revolutionary. A seer and fighter,” the reference was to Muammar Al Qathafi and his “vision”. I wondered then how much Al Qathafi paid to get this propaganda published twice, and to whom he paid?
The final chapter of the life of Al Qathafi has not been written but what we know is shocking even for a dictator. He ruled his country for 42 years as a family business. He held onto power when he was losing his touch with his people.
He claimed to be “The King of African Kings,” “Grand Imam of Muslims,” and “The Dean of Arab Leaders.” He managed to buy his way to gain favours with the West. But last week Bab Al-Azziziyah compound in Tripoli, Al Qathafi’s headquarters, was liberated by Libya’s revolutionary youth with AK-47s.
For all its oil wealth, Libya is a country that lacks the basic structures of a state and there has been little investment in education, health care or civil society.
Al Qathafi spent the country's oil revenues on his family and on what he considered revolutionary causes around the globe, from Columbia to Ireland’s IRA. But it was his involvement in the Lockerbie affair that unleashed the full wrath of the West and led to an economic embargo that crippled the country.
Two main differences distinguish Libya’s revolution from that of Egypt and Tunisia. The first is that Libya has no constitution, no parliament, no legal system, no ruling or opposition parties and no national army but rather a military run by his family to protect him and to keep him in power.
The second is that the response of the Libyan dictator to the peaceful protesters was not to use violence to disperse them as in the case of Egypt and Tunisia.
Instead Al Qathafi started to use the full military might of his air, land and navy (all run by his sons) to kill all the one million inhabitants of the city of Benghazi near the Egyptian border where the protesting started on 17 February, five days after Mubarak was forced out.
The Libyan people had no choice but to take up arms to protect themselves and their families and to seek the help of the Arab League, the Security Council and NATO to impose a no-fly zone over Libya.
On the military side the challenges facing the people liberation army of the National Transitional Council (NTC) are two folds. One is to capture Al Qathafi and his family, especially his son Seif Al-Islam who was groomed to take over his father’s job.
The second is to liberate Al Qathafi’s hometown of Sirte, a coastal city of 140,000 and the southern desert city of Sebha with a population of 130,000 which has an important military and air force base located at a strategic crossroad to neighbouring African countries of Algeria, Chad, Mali and Niger.
Al Qathafi failed to mobilise support last week even though he tried hard with his desperate speeches for his people to rise up against “the Crusaders and Western imperialists”.
If he is captured alive he will be tried by his own people or by the International Criminal Court (ICC) based in The Hague, Netherlands. The NTC leadership rightly cautioned against a policy of vengeance and retribution.
But more challenging to the NTC is to build a modern democratic state with executive, legislative and judicial institutions where there are none. All this has to be done, and soon, by a coalition of contradictory revolutionary factions, many ideological movements and several political interest groups from the far right to the far left.
Is Libya’s revolution up to the task? I believe it is.
Comment: SUCCESS OF REVOLUTION Inquisitive victory in Libya
Enigmatic in Power, Qaddafi Is Elusive at Large Now, the new Libya is immediately haunted by several ghosts: those of the chaos of Baghdad 2003; the hints of tribal factionalism evident after the death of rebel commander Abdul Fattah Younes; and the 'flickers of Al Qa'ida' invoked by NATO's military chief back in March. Each of these represents a valid concern that has been unduly inflated. Islamist Threat Libyan Islamists are fighting alongside their secular counterparts, and many will have links to Al-Qa'ida, But they have emerged in a very different context to, say, the Afghan mujahideen. The latter enjoyed substantial state patronage (from the US, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia), numerous safe havens, and spent decades honing their fighting skills. Libya's Islamists are likely a disparate group, but the term 'Islamist' is itself misleading as it can span non-violent groups and hardcore terrorists - and many towards the latter end of the spectrum were pushed there after decades of suppression by the state. The Transitional National Council is itself concerned about Islamist influence, and has every incentive to ensure that its promises of a liberal-democratic government are not undercut. Nonetheless, Libya is a conservative country. The 'draft constitutional charter for the transitional stage' circulating on the internet, possibly a deliberate leak as a signal of intent towards a wary international community, promises that 'Islam is the Religion of the State and the principal source of legislation is Islamic jurisprudence (Sharia)'. For many, this will evoke Saudi justice, but it is compatible with a gamut of relatively liberal laws. The complementarity of an Islamic society and democratic polity is a question whose importance will rise over the coming years, as Turkey matures into a major regional power and Egypt and Tunisia feel their way through imperfect transitions. But a simplistic discourse on Islamism and terrorism will serve neither Western foreign policy nor the people of Libya. Tribal Factionalism Second, consider the killing of Abdul Fattah Younes. Younes had made considerable enemies across the board, but a senior TNC official suggested that an autonomous Islamist group was responsible. This was unsurprising, given Younes' role in torture and repression of Islamist groups in eastern Libya in the 1990s during his time as interior minister. What was more interesting was the reaction from some members of his Obeidi tribe - a large and well-connected eastern tribe - towards the TNC. Armed members of the tribe showed their displeasure, suggesting that force rather than due process remains a viable and preferred option for some groups with respect to certain problems. If Younes' death had occurred now, without the unifying force of common opposition to Qadhafi, could the tribal reaction have been even more assertive? One important distinction is that between tribal division and armed tribal conflict; the former is ineradicable in the short-term, but there is no reason why it will - as per the Qadhafi regime's repeated prediction and exhortation - give way to the latter. Libya has roughly 140 tribes and clans, and some traverse the country's borders with Egypt and Tunisia. But only a couple of dozen tribes are politically consequential. They are not monolithic, and their membership is not a rigid identity that trumps all feelings of nationalism, regionalism, or ideology. Moreover, decades of urbanisation have seen a dilution in tribal identity, to the point where many in a large city like Tripoli would see little political significance in their membership. Qadhafi's own tribe, the Qadadfa, is small - only 100,000 strong - and concentrated in Sirte, which might explain why the town appears to remain in government hands. But the regime was built on the co-optation of other groupings, including the Warfalla, Magarha, Warshafana and Tarhuna. Parts of these tribes have enjoyed longstanding government largesse, and are consequently resented by those with less access to patronage. One of the TNC's greatest challenges is building institutions that can redistribute Libya's oil revenues in equitable fashion without giving the appearance of state-sponsored retribution. The example of Iraq is not encouraging, but oil resources in Libya are deeper in the hinterland rather than concentrated in either east or west. At the senior level, the TNC is not tribalised - many of its senior members belong to purportedly pro-Qadhafi tribes mentioned above. Things get murkier further down. But the pluralistic institutions currently advocated by the TNC , and the apparently level headed leadership of Mahmoud Jibril - a competent technocrat - should mitigate these tensions. Of course, it is impossible to say with certainty that Libya will not collapse. At this moment, it is a fragile country with no government and many weapons. Armed militias will remain, since disarmament will prove impossible for a government with limited coercive capacity. But lazy analogies to previous catastrophes, like Iraq after 2003, do a disservice to the preparation undertaken by the TNC in concert with British and French advisers. Grounds for caution? In discussing the prospects for the peace, it is also worth reiterating that the game is not up. At the time of writing, an extremely dangerous situation is unfolding at the Rixos Hotel, still under the control of government-affiliated gunmen and the site of escalating violence. Several journalists are trapped, and the possibility that they will be taken hostage cannot be ruled out - that could require a messy raid by Western Special Forces into the heart of Tripoli. Swathes of the capital are contested territory, held by neither regime nor rebel, but subject to fierce fire-fights. A city of over one million, it will take days before Tripoli can be adequately secured and many weeks before the extent of loyalist influence can be understood. Further afield, the Colonel's hometown of Sirte remains in government hands, as does the town of Sebha in the interior. The former has the largest concentration of Qadhafi's own tribe, and the latter has risen up against the government only in parts. Sirte, from where Scud missiles were fired, has been invoked as a potential base for an insurgency. Once a new seat of government is established and regime holdouts in Tripoli concede defeat, it should be easier for the new government of Libya to negotiate surrenders on reasonable terms. Nonetheless, acts of desperation - new Scud launches, sabotage of public infrastructure, or hostage-taking - cannot be ruled out. This week, as a forty-year long regime crumbled, the veteran journalist Robert Fisk argued that 'Libya will be a Middle East superpower'. This represents the Panglossian counterpoint to those who see tribal chaos as inevitable and imminent. Both extremes are mistaken. Libya will take years before it develops and habits and practices of a democracy, and the interim period will be replete with unsavoury compromises and sporadic setbacks. But dire warnings of marauding rebels soaking Tripoli's streets with blood have simply not materialised, and are unlikely to do so. Limited military intervention, cheap by historical standards and short relative to the forced dedicated to it, has succeeded. Libya is not a difficult juncture, and the leadership of the TNC has critical decisions to make. Perhaps, in the longer-term, Libya will count itself lucky not to possess charismatic revolutionaries like the Hamid Karzai of 2001, and instead finds itself run by less glamorous, but hopefully more transient and farsighted technocrats. R A CHUGHTAI CHUGHTAI12@YAHOO.COM
Date: 09/07/2011 00:41:38
Comment: The article is worthless and disgusting.Dr. Elmasry knows nothing about Libya nor he understands what is going on there. He just repeats mere lies about Col. Muammar Al Qaddafi and spreads the propaganda of main-stream-media to justify what cannot be justified. Absolutely criminal NATO demolition of Libya only to install there some puppet government that will assist western powers to make Libyans "free" of their resources and, additionally, to force them to pay for what NATO destroyed. Free Libya is finished. khalas,nihaya. Genghis Khan would had been an apprentice at the vicious Sar.Oba.Cam. troika. I realize that my comment will not be published out of the strict censorship.
Date: 09/07/2011 12:30:09
Comment: What is IUC? The article is typical anti Gaddaffi, negative,personally biased based on little or no Libyan or Gaddaffi actual experience and offensive attacks. The first comment by Chugtai the same thing. Neither based on facts or reality but just their own limited faulty opinions.A true democracy would include Gaddaffi and his govt.
Date: 09/08/2011 04:20:29
Comment: Libyans will cry for Gadaffi when the capitalist leeches begin sucking Libya's resources in exchange for "jobs" that barely allow them to survive or even care for their families and buy imported food. And the blood of all Black Africans poured in Libyan soils will be paid for in blood. Whoever killed them will be killed too.
Gadaffi is a true son of Africa. He supported many liberation struggles when no one had the guts to do so. I hope elsewhere in Africa there will arise another leader with such a vision. A vision to make Africa strong again, not just a place that creates wealth for European corporations. Those TNC rebels are traitors and Libyan tribes should shun them........vote them out when elections come.
The Berber people made the biggest mistake of their lives. The new Libya may recognize them but their lives will not change. All Libyans should have used the power of the vote. Now you will keep on wishing for the good old days.
American corporations do not care much about American workers.........why should they care about Libyan workekrs? They see you no better than they see Black Africans........but like Gadaffi, they can trust Black Africans.
Libyans rebel supporters.....you made your bed.....now you can lie on it 90 % of Libyan oil wealth will go to broke European countries.
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