Leading article: With the tyrant dead, the transition begins

The priority must be to disarm the militias out hunting for the missing Gaddafi

Share
Related Topics

It was the moment the Libyan people had been waiting for. After more than 40 years of a dictatorship as capricious as it was repressive – and eight bloody, fearful months attempting to overthrow it – the death of Muammar Gaddafi was greeted with euphoria. After so much suffering, for so long, the huge public outpouring of emotion was both touching and understandable. But getting rid of the tyrant may prove easy compared with the task of building a new state in his wake.

Notwithstanding the widespread jubilation at his death, it is still a matter of regret that Gaddafi will not face trial. The spectacle of the former dictator held legally accountable promised to be not only cathartic for the Libyan people, but also a proud statement of the values of the fledgling state. And it would have sent a powerful signal across the region, not least to Syria's increasingly violent President Bashar al-Assad. That the immediacy of rough justice appears to have triumphed over longer-term concerns is perhaps not surprising, but it is nonetheless unfortunate.

With Gaddafi dead, the central question for Libya is what happens next? The answer is far from certain. It was never clear how far the removal of the dictator would spell the end of the bloodshed in Libya. And although the fighting has been concentrated in small Gaddafi strongholds in Bani Walid and Sirte since the National Transitional Council (NTC) forces took control of Tripoli in August, hostilities are by no means necessarily over just because he is now dead. More worrying still, the fact that Gaddafi appears to have gone down fighting, in his home town, makes for an easy mythology of martyrdom, and gives a unwelcome boost to his potential as a rallying point for irreconcilable supporters of the old regime and irredentist tribal factions alike.

It is against such a backdrop that the NTC must begin the mammoth task of rebuilding a country shattered by eight months of revolution and war. It is some comfort that money, at least, is unlikely to be a problem. With Libya's foreign assets unfrozen, the NTC has access to as much as $150bn, on top of the $10bn-plus held in the central bank. And it will take little for foreign energy companies to resume production at Libya's oil fields and start pumping money into the cash-starved economy.

But relative wealth can only go so far in easing Libya's transition. The most immediate priority must be to disarm the militias roaming the country, ostensibly on the hunt for the missing Gaddafi. With the former dictator no longer at large, significant numbers of exhilarated freedom fighters must be persuaded to give up their weapons and return to civilian life. It is a challenge of awesome proportion, and must be tackled alongside the wider business of healing the breaches in a violently divided society. Despite the NTC's repeated calls for reconciliation, the record so far is not encouraging. Since the fall of Tripoli, there have been alarming reports of reprisals against suspected Gaddafi supporters which the NTC either would not or could not control. Absolute condemnation, and legal pursuit, of such activities is now more important than ever.

Amid all the instability, the NTC must prove itself worthy of its ultimate trust and set to work establishing a credible political system within which a new state can be forged. Elections for the constituent assembly to put together a new constitution should be announced within weeks and held within months. General elections for the government can then follow. And all this in a country with barely any public institutions, and no experience of political freedom at all.

Nothing should detract from the wave of relief and hope sweeping Libya yesterday. But the death of Gaddafi is only the end of the beginning. Now comes the hard part.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: IT Support Technician - 12 Month Fixed Term - Shrewsbury

£17000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Helpdesk Support Technician - 12 ...

The Jenrick Group: Maintenance Planner

£28000 - £32000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Maintenance...

The Jenrick Group: World Wide PLC Service Engineer

£30000 - £38000 per annum + pesion + holidays: The Jenrick Group: World Wide S...

The Jenrick Group: Project Manager

£35000 per annum + Pension+Bupa: The Jenrick Group: We are recruiting for an e...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

My Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent
African elephants in Botswana photographed by television presenter Chris Packham  

We've made incredible progress, but there's still more to do to make sure we save the elephant

Hugo Campbell
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'