By Ramesh Jaura
BERLIN (IDN) – While a frantic search is on for Muammar al-Gaddafi’s whereabouts, the NATO-backed Battle for Libya is far from over. Not only because a scramble for the North African state’s opulent resources has just started, but also because the Benghazi ‘revolutionaries’ are confronted with tough battles on several fronts.
A more than one million dollar reward announced for capturing Libya’s self-styled revolutionary leader will not suffice to tame the passion for power flowing from the barrels of guns, which youthful Libyans have discovered in the past about six months.
Considering that the path to a post-Gaddafi democratic Libya is littered with political cluster bombs, an international think-tank is offering some valuable advice to Libya’s new leaders and its supporters in the international community.
“Amid today’s understandable euphoria, the magnitude of tomorrow’s challenge ought not be underestimated,” says the International Crisis Group (ICG) headed by Louise Arbour, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights from 2004 to 2008.
Post-Gaddafi Libya faces “a pivotal moment of historic proportions,” and steps taken “in the next few days and weeks will decisively shape” the future order, says the Brussels-based Group.
“Members of the international community should match their military campaign with a new and commensurate political, diplomatic and reconstruction/development-focused effort,” says the Crisis Group and pleads in this context for giving the UN “a central role in the transition process”.
It asks international actors to steer clear of any overbearing tendency to dictate terms for international aid. Instead, they should work “jointly through the UN to deliver assistance requested by the interim ruling council and eventually its elected successors.”
ICG fears in the short term the risk of a humanitarian crisis. In addition to the lifting of sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council, the Crisis Group therefore stresses that “significant international work should go into helping provide sustenance and shelter to those in need.”
The Brussels-based Group is of the view that “the new, still nascent, Libyan leadership, faces a dual, difficult legacy which it will need to overcome: four decades of an autocratic regime that failed to build genuine state institutions and six months of a civil war that, together with inevitable human and material losses, exposed old divisions and fissures while prompting new ones.”
“The challenge for that leadership, as well as for international actors who enabled its drive into Tripoli, is threefold,” maintains the Crisis Group: establish a broadly inclusive and representative transitional governing body; address immediate security risks; and find an appropriate balance between, on the one hand, the search for accountability and justice and, on the other, the imperative of avoiding arbitrary score-settling and revenge.
The rebel leadership has been exhorting its followers to back it in fulfilling that tough task. But in view of historical experiences it is far from certain that the “Libyan revolution” will not devour its children if the leadership fails to restore economic infrastructure and usher in a democratic order within a foreseeable period of time.
Explaining the challenge this manifests, the Crisis Group says in a statement released on August 23: “As rebel fighters stream into Tripoli, they will come upon the collapse of a quasi-state, the Jamahiriya, or so-called ‘state of the masses’ – a somewhat jerry-built contraption created by Muammar Qaddafi that, however sincere it might have been at its revolutionary inception, became a vehicle to advance his personal and political ambitions. It is this twin challenge – replacing an autocratic regime and rebuilding a new state from the ground up – that will be so daunting for the new leadership.”
Their nearly herculean task is complicated by the inexorable difficulties in establishing the national legitimacy of Libya’s new leaders from Benghazi, some of whom enjoyed the power and patronage under Gaddafi.
The Crisis Group says in a statement titled ‘Ensuring a Smooth and Peaceful Transition into the Post-Qaddafi Era’: “The Transitional National Council (TNC), created in rebel-held Benghazi in March 2011, could stake a clear claim to representing Libyans in areas free of regime control, and it has done a remarkable job in constituting basic institutions to manage civic life in those areas and attract international support.
“Yet the TNC never could claim to represent all Libyans, even if it broadly reflected their aspirations, for the simple reason that most Libyans, especially in the capital Tripoli, were not in a position to freely voice their opinions or participate openly in the TNC, whose membership was therefore weighted, by default, toward those in liberated zones.”
It adds: “The TNC will now have to reflect in its membership all of Libya in its full diversity, and merge its administrative operations with those of the remaining, functioning public sector institutions.”
ICG draws attention to some critical issues that have not received sufficient attention so far. It says: “Six months of insurgency, while ultimately successful, created, laid bare or exacerbated divisions – both within the country at large, along regional, ethnic or tribal lines and within the rebel leadership, as evidenced in the 28 July assassination, apparently at rebel hands, of rebel commander Abdel Fattah Younes.”
The statement adds: “A clash of competing legitimacies – between forces based in the east and those based in the west, those who fired the first shots, those who first entered Tripoli, those who remained in Libya throughout the Qaddafi era (and, in some cases, worked for the former regime) and those who return from the diaspora – is virtually inevitable. There will be, too, tensions between secular and Islamist forces.”
But the Crisis Group does not wish to suggest that “it will be impossible to create a unified government, or a single military force under civilian control.” It claims to merely suggest that “much hard work will need to be done very quickly to reduce the real risk of the country slipping into chaos”.
So that the chaos littering Libya’s cities and towns does not entrench itself, Libya’s new rulers in the making are called upon to urgently turn their attention to the following areas, ICG says.
The Crisis Group advises Libya’s new leaders, led by the TNC, to convene, as soon as possible, an inaugural council meeting in Tripoli, inviting representatives from all parts of the country and all strands of society and the opposition – various rebel groups, as well as local underground resistance groups in Tripoli and elsewhere – to participate.
ICG asks TNC to endeavour to be fully inclusive, by embracing former-regime elements who were not direct perpetrators of human rights abuses. Their exclusion would create the conditions for a future insurgency of the kind that blighted post-2003 Iraq, it warns.
It further calls upon the TNC to strive to be transparent in its actions and, along with local leaders and rebel groups, communicate its decisions clearly, explaining its motivation for each step in a situation where people can be expected to harbour an innate distrust of authority. Particularly important to Libyans is transparency in contracts and provision of services.
This is no less an ambitious objective than heeding the ICG’s advice: “The expanded council should continue to make clear it is a strictly provisional body charged with managing day-to-day affairs. Its focus should be on providing law and order and ensuring proper delivery and functioning of essential services until elections can be held.”
SECURITY, LAW AND ORDER
The Crisis Group warns, how the new leaders deal with law and order will be essential in determining popular perceptions of their qualifications to run the country in the interim period. “In the critical first days, the erstwhile rebel groups should fill the security vacuum left by the surrender or disappearance of the former regime’s security forces.”
Touching upon a rather politically sensitive subject, ICG asks the rebel leadership to stop distributing arms to the population and instead begin collecting and securing them. “They should integrate whatever viable elements of the former regime’s security forces can be retained into a new structure led by commanders appointed and supervised by the interim ruling council.”
The Crisis Group also asks the disparate, mostly community-based rebel movements and their various leaders and commanders to take steps to protect and ensure the well-being of all Libyans, with special care for internally displaced people, Libyans and non-Libyans.
The path to a stable political and economic order in Libya is mined with political cluster bombs. That’s reason enough to pay “particular attention . . . to protecting citizens of sub-Saharan nations who were swept up in the conflict, whether as hapless victims, paid mercenaries or misplaced migrants.”
“There is also a risk that Libyans of Saharan or sub-Saharan African origin could be victimised by retributive or retaliatory actions,” says the Crisis Group, and advises: “In this respect, every effort should be made to protect groups such as the Mashashia, the Twergha and other native Libyans from the country’s centre and south.”
TRANSITIONAL JUSTICE AND RECONCILIATION
According to the think-tank, one of the most glaring omissions of Iraq’s transition from tyranny was the new rulers’ failure to establish a mechanism to hold to account those who committed major crimes, while allowing others to clear their record or obtain pardon on condition they provided full disclosure of their participation in the regime. Instead, de-Baathification became a political instrument of disenfranchisement and retribution. This explains Iraqis’ enduring inability to reach a degree of closure about the past and accounts for the continuing impetus toward insurgency.
Libyans should learn from that experience and “not be led down this destructive track of politicised score-settling and witch-hunts.”
One of the interim ruling council’s immediate tasks, ICG says, should be to urge fighters under its command and the population at large to foreswear any reprisal against former-regime elements, including members of the Gaddafi family, who should be treated in accordance with principles of international law. Those suspected of crimes should be detained and brought to justice before proper judicial institutions.
The council should also establish a special commission, comprising independent Libyan figures of impeccable qualifications and reputation, charged with processing persons accused of crimes with a view to integrating most back into society while handing the worst offenders, including Gaddafi’s inner circle, over to the courts – and those indicted by the International Criminal Court to the ICC in The Hague.
All of these priorities will require clear, consistent messaging on the part of the emerging leadership. In fluid situations such as prevail now in Libya, the risk of misinformation – and consequent panic – is acute. Emphasis must be placed, from the start, on effective communication.
“In this respect,” the ICG says, “initial statements emanating from the TNC leadership to the effect that all Libyans should show self-restraint, respect the rule of law, avoid street justice and accord due process to figures from the Qaddafi regime are to be welcomed – and put into effect.” (IDN-InDepthNews/27.08.2011)
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