As the now deceased Colonel Qaddafi lays in an old meat store on Friday waiting for a secret burial, Libya’s new leaders begin to launch to formal start of a new era of democracy.
With this new era, defunct of a common enemy that united regional and ideological rivalries between the NTC and other rebel forces, new challenges loom for the free Libyans. With NATO secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen announcing that the alliance of power involved in Libya will conclude the NATO mission, launched in March under a UN mandate to protect civilians, the security of Libya come sunder question. Despite being a protective and offensive force through the long 8 months of interstate conflict, NATO’s presence embodied foreign interest and involvement in Libya, a country holding large amounts of viable oil. With French, British, German and US representative having begun visits months ago, it is clear that the stake of foreign interests will intensify divisions among pro-West forces and large amount of anti-West forces, which has always been a wide sentiment throughout the region.
For instance, controversy over the final moments of Qaddafi’s death has raised questions over the ability of the NTC to control the men with guns, especially considering the tribal and regional cleavages in Libya. The interim Prime Minister has insisted that Qaddafi, shown alive (though bloodied) and talking in videos, was killed in crossfire between loyalist and rebel forces, few Libyans seem concerned that he was more probably summarily executed on the spot. This has raised discomfort for Western allies about the respect for justice and human rights among those who claim to be fighting for just those ideals.
“This is a time to start a new Libya, with a new economy, with a new education and with a new health system – with one future.” – Mahmoud, Kibril, chairman of the National Transitional Council’s executive board
Moreover, a key division in Libya is between Libya’s Islamist, a sect that is fragmented internally as well, and the NTC. These Islamist forces were oppressed under Qaddafi and participated in some of the toughest fighting, which will result in Islamist calls for a share in the power. Given the intensity of difference in Libya, these differences could easily escalate. Another problem comes from the need for the transitional authorities to determine how to incorporate former loyalist forces and technocrats into a new Libya society, which will be far from receptive.
Although President Obama states that Libya has won its revolution, thoughts linger of a new revolution emerging. A power vacuum is evident, large weapon caches are up for grabs and populace is without basic needs, such as water and power. The NTC needs to consolidate control over the country’s security situation, ensuring that criminals and gangs don’t take advantage of the weapons still circulating. With secular, nonsecular, pro-West, anti-West, tribal forces and regional forces, the safety of Libya is threatened and any self-proposed leader could threaten the safety of Libya’s civilian population. Laying the grounds for an underground militia group, possibly resembling any terrorist group, such as al-Shabbab in Somalia, the self-proposed leader could thus create a fractiousness and anarchistic state. Clearly, the new democratic era needs to bolster its legitimacy and reassure all sects of a government reflecting their values.
The rivalries and grounds for open civil war among rebels were exploited by Qaddafi at time to control the thinly populate country of 6 million and its substantial oil and gas resources. His repression and firm-handed rule ensured stability, as Saddam Hussein did in Iraq. So saying, the links between these two are not so far off, as Iraq’s status quo is summarily explained by a historic Sunni-Shia war, which was sparked by foreign involvement that ended the oppressive hand of Saddam that ensured stability, of some sort. International relations suggest that most interstate wars are caused by a preliminary intrastate war, as exhibited in Iraq and could very well be submitted again in Libya between the NTC and Islamist groups.
“Libya will travel a long and winding road to full democracy. There will be difficult days ahead.” – Barack Obama, 44th President of America
Nevertheless, revenue from Libya’s oil will go a long way toward paving a democratic road, bolstering its legitimacy and tending to social and public needs. The country has already begun producing an estimated 350,000 barrels of oil per day, which is a huge jump from 0 oil barrels during the conflict. With surefooted moves, Libya could easily double its current production and because of global dependence on such a commodity, the exports would result in approximately $80 million in funding per day. A return to its prewar output, 1.6 million barrels a day, which would net hundreds of millions of dollars a day, is still above the NTC capacity as it would require slow and complicated work. Another move open to the NTC, and is being taken, is lobbying for the release of its frozen assets, which analysts estimate to be at $150 billion. The assets range from real estate, staked in the Italian bank UniCredit, British publisher Pearson which owns Financial Times, and Italy’s soccer club Juventus. Libya, with all its tribal and cultural division, was united into one colony by Italy until 1947, which explains the Italian assets.
In retrospect, the coming days will be witness to scenes of celebration and tears of relief but the road ahead for the people of Libya will be difficult and full of challenges both domestically and internationally.