Fawaz Gerges: Libyans must draw on the desire to rebuild their abused nation

Comment

Share
Related Topics

Muammar Gaddafi led Libya for more than four decades and in that time he destroyed everything.

The only thing he built was a culture of fear and brutality, and so, while it is possible to be squeamish about the way he was killed on Thursday, it should not be forgotten that he led a brutalised people.

Within hours, the National Transition Council will declare victory in the eight-month civil war, and it is at this juncture that the real battle for Libya begins. Gaddafi's death presents the new leaders of the country with an opportunity, and several significant hurdles.

The NTC should be in no doubt that it will be an uphill task to transform Libya into a modern state. In his 42 years in power, Gaddafi destroyed all state institutions and led Libya through a cult of personality – he squandered the infrastructure of the country, failed to capitalise on Libya's plentiful oil resources and marginalised its people.

The success of the new administration depends entirely on the government's ability to reconstruct state institutions. If they do not begin quickly, they risk missing Libya's golden opportunity. The need to act quickly is paramount given the number of potential divisions that are endemic in Libyan society.

There are schisms that threaten to ruin the peace. Even in Gaddafi's demise we have witnessed a regional divide within the country. It was the Misrata Military Council that led the search for Gaddafi and, it would appear, is responsible for his death. The council is a different organisation to the NTC, which has its origins in Benghazi.

Without strong executive leadership, there is a real risk that this East-West split in Libyan society will overtake the effort for unity. If there is a struggle for power this schism will only grow. Libya is also a deeply tribal society – I have been struck by the resistance shown by fighters in places such as Sirte and Bani Walid, in what has always been a futile effort since Gaddafi lost Tripoli. Tribal loyalties in Libya must not be underestimated: the abrupt change of leadership is likely only to reinforce these differences.

The third crucial hurdle to achieving a lasting peace is overcoming the ideological differences that exist in Libya. There are the secular nationalists, the Islamists, the liberals and all the foreigners that have played a part in the uprising since March.

One huge advantage is that the Libya of 2011 is very different to the Iraq of 2003. Libyans, not international forces, own this revolution and its ultimate success will depend on their ability to see it through.

The revolution has the added advantage of widespread international backing – the UK, the US and France are longstanding sponsors, but now Russia and China are also behind the removal of Gaddafi. Of course, the backing of the other Arab states is also crucial, and Libya's plentiful oil will also be invaluable.

The greatest asset of all, however, is the will of the Libyan people. The last few months have shown that Libyans have that in abundance.

Professor Gerges is the director of the Middle East Centre at the London School of Economics. His latest book. The Rise and Fall of al-Qa'ida, was published last month by Oxford University Press

React Now

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

Recruitment Genius: Apprentice Receptionist

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join this w...

Recruitment Genius: Hotel Receptionists - Seasonal Placement

£12500 - £13520 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Experienced Hotel Receptionists...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + uncapped commission : SThree: Hello! I know most ...

Recruitment Genius: Project / Account Manager and IT Support

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This world leader in Online Pro...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A Yorkshire Terrier waits to be judged during the Toy and Utility day of the Crufts dog show at the NEC in Birmingham  

There are no winners at Crufts. Dogs deserve better than to suffer and die for a 'beauty' pageant

Mimi Bekhechi
 

Daily catch-up: how come Ed Miliband’s tuition fee ‘cut’ is so popular, then?

John Rentoul
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn