Gaddafi gone: what next for Libya?

Here’s a very interesting video and some other interesting links regarding the legacy of Muammar Gaddafi, shot dead this afternoon by NTC forces.

There are also some interesting links elaborating on his political career, spanning over 40 years. I’ve only just seen this BBC biography, first posted in August – I’m surprised by just how unashamedly damning an account it is. Though perhaps it’s inevitable given Britain’s commitment to fighting against him; a skeptical mind would question the extent to which the BBC’s coverage here is designed to support government interests.

As I have previously mentioned in earlier posts, I remain apprehensive about the future of Libya. So many different groups and factions feel they have earnt a stake in Libya’s future governance; how easy will it be to appease such diverse and often conflicting interests?

What do you think? Does Gaddafi’s death represent the dawn of a wonderful new era for Libya? Please leave your responses below – all feedback appreciated.

The darkening Arab Spring

Today’s BBC headlines on the protests in Tunis turning nasty, as conservative Islamists fight to be heard prior to the elections for a constituent assembly next week, indicate a worrying potential parallel between the futures of Libya, Tunisia and Egypt. The prospect of a peaceful, unified future seems increasingly under threat across all three countries, as sectarian divisions and tensions with security forces grow stronger.

Syria, meanwhile, remains trapped in the throes of brutal government repression of the revolution, with new figures pronouncing the protest death toll at 3,000. The suggestion that Syria is heading towards full-scale civil war has already been made. What is more concerning in the long term is the fact that the Syrian National Council – Syria’s version of Libya’s National Transitional Council – includes within its many component groups a banned Islamic political party: the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood. The inclusion of an Islamist group in Syria’s post-revolution government could be very divisive and could jeopardise Syria’s external relationship with Europe and its internal peace. Also included within this fractured coalition is a bundle of Kurdish factions and tribal leaders; the parallels with Libya are clear, and the threat of total disunity in post-revolution Syria (assuming that the revolution does actually succeed, and President Bashar al-Assad is removed from power) is potentially very dangerous.

The Arab Spring has certainly turned ugly. Hopes of a brighter post-revolutionary future seem to be fading fast – but what do you think? Do you remain optimistic for the long-term consequences of the uprisings? Please leave your comments below.

P.S. Here’s an interesting, short video on the economic impact of the Arab Spring. It offers food for thought in terms of the outlook for Libya and Syria in particular.

What next for Libya?

So the Guardian are leading today with ‘Only 100 Loyalists left fighting as Libya war reaches its endgame’. But what happens next?

We all remember the elation of Egyptian civilians at the success of the revolution. Yet within months sectarian violence has shattered any image of a post-revolution utopia. Worse still is the fractured nature of the conflict. Not only is the Muslim majority clashing with the Coptic Christian minority, but Coptic Christians are blaming the security forces for provoking the bloody violence at last Sunday’s Coptic Christian protest against a Muslim attack on a Christian church, which led to 25 fatalities. Worryingly, then, sectarian divisions have already spilled over into ‘the worst violence since Mubarak was ousted’, which in turn has impacted badly upon relations between security forces and civilians. All this, of course, could well lead to further, dangerous escalation of conflict.

And so to Libya. The role of Islam in post-Gaddafi Libya remains uncertain, and tensions between secularists and Islamists are already surfacing within the NTC. On Monday, Libyan Muslim cleric Sheik Ali Al-Salabi called for moderate Islam to play a role in the governance of Libya. Yet his message was not met with whole-hearted support; some argued that Islam should have no role in politics. Katerina Nikolas, writing for the citizen journalism-sponsoring Digital Journal aptly summarises the dilemma:

The future political face of Libya will be determined by either secularism of Islamism. The NTC has said the new Libya will be based on sharia law. However Salabi’s calls for a moderate Islam may simply be a token gesture as leaders including Belhadj have long wanted a caliphate state. One of the two main aims of the LIFG have been achieved through civil war, the overthrow of Gaddafi. Their second aim of turning Libya into an Islamic caliphate may become the next reality, despite Salabi’s moderate words.

Click here to read the full article.

The trouble does not end with religion, however. Long-standing regional and tribal differences may endure in a post-Gaddafi Libya, and could threaten to exacerbate any outbreak of conflict between secularists and Islamists. Thomas Basille of Fox News argues (though not altogether convincingly) that Libya’s future hinges upon the provision of essential public services and facilities – clean water, electricity, food, security, etc – since, he claims ‘people want and need the same things’, whether in the US, Iraq, or Libya. Although this is perhaps a crude simplification of the distinct differences between the social, religious and political environment in the US, Iraq and Libya respectively, his point still stands: the National Transitional Council simply cannot afford to allow any ideological or religious differences to take priority in the earliest stages of post-Gaddafi Libya, since this will endanger the lives and livelihoods of all those who fought for the country’s revolution.

Whether or not Libya can dust itself off and march onwards to a united and peaceful future remains to be seen. It even remains unclear how the spoils of war will be shared between the NATO countries that have intervened in Libya, and what form the future relationship between Libya, Europe and the US will take. I just hope the Arab Spring does not darken as the winter draws in.