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?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Travel Customer Service and Experience Manager

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing travel comp...

Recruitment Genius: Cleaner / Caretaker / Storeman

£15500 - £17680 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A position has become available...

Recruitment Genius: Head of Sales - SaaS B2B

£60000 - £120000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This conference call startup i...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital and print design a...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice
File photo dated 11/3/2014 of signage for the main entrance and emergency department at a hospital  

Weekend opt-out is stumbling block as BMA and NHS negotiate new consultant and junior doctor contracts

Charlie Cooper
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen
Secrets of comedy couples: What's it like when both you and your partner are stand-ups?

Secrets of comedy couples

What's it like when both you and your partner are stand-ups?
Satya Nadella: As Windows 10 is launched can he return Microsoft to its former glory?

Satya Nadella: The man to clean up for Windows?

While Microsoft's founders spend their billions, the once-invincible tech company's new boss is trying to save it
The best swimwear for men: From trunks to shorts, make a splash this summer

The best swimwear for men

From trunks to shorts, make a splash this summer
Mark Hix recipes: Our chef tries his hand at a spot of summer foraging

Mark Hix goes summer foraging

 A dinner party doesn't have to mean a trip to the supermarket
Ashes 2015: With an audacious flourish, home hero Ian Bell ends all debate

With an audacious flourish, the home hero ends all debate

Ian Bell advances to Trent Bridge next week almost as undroppable as Alastair Cook and Joe Root, a cornerstone of England's new thinking, says Kevin Garside
Aaron Ramsey interview: Wales midfielder determined to be centre of attention for Arsenal this season

Aaron Ramsey interview

Wales midfielder determined to be centre of attention for Arsenal this season
Community Shield: Arsene Wenger needs to strike first blow in rivalry with Jose Mourinho

Community Shield gives Wenger chance to strike first blow in rivalry with Mourinho

As long as the Arsenal manager's run of games without a win over his Chelsea counterpart continues it will continue to dominate the narrative around the two men
The unlikely rise of AFC Bournemouth - and what it says about English life

Unlikely rise of AFC Bournemouth

Bournemouth’s elevation to football’s top tier is one of the most improbable of recent times. But it’s illustrative of deeper and wider changes in English life
A Very British Coup, part two: New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel

A Very British Coup, part two

New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel
Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Icy dust layer holds organic compounds similar to those found in living organisms