End of an Era: Who, What and Where next?

By Abdulai Mansaray

Abdulai Mansaray, Author

Now that Gaddaffi has been laid to rest, the task of “rebuilding” Libya can begin in earnest. It is unquestionable that the political landscape in Libya, like the whole region is undergoing a political and social recycling. The watch word of the day should be “peace” and the pursuit of happiness for all the stakeholders of Libya and in particular, the Libyan people; who through no fault of theirs have endured four decades of unenviable serfdom. However, it is equally important to note that peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding. Change will undoubtedly be the common currency on the minds of all Libyans. Although the building blocks were laid by revolutionary means, it would be foolhardy to expect that the full package should be instant. If change is to come to the Libyan people, this part of the journey should be evolutionary. We know that politicians and diapers should be changed for the same reasons, but the newly recognised National Transitional Counsel should not be expected to build bridges where there are no rivers.

The circumstances of Gaddaffi’s death have left a bitter taste in the mouths of even those who were clamouring for his demise from afar.  A lot of questions have been raised, more so as new evidence suggest, that he was sexually assaulted. Although his regime was allergic to “human rights”, the moralist brigade and well meaning commentators may now feel let down by the actions of the few. Public sentiments have been lavished on the issue. There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protect it. For the highest use of life can be, to make the public sentiment on the side of all that is just, true and noble. The UN’s call for an investigation may be well meaning, but can be contextually ill timed. It is one thing to sit in the marbled and air-conditioned corridors of power to insist on an investigation, but it is another thing to facilitate it under the hot and unforgiving heat of the Arabian Desert. Problems cannot be solved at the same level of awareness that created them in the first place.  The dilemma is, justice delayed can be justice denied. That is the catch 22 situation that the NTC will have to wrestle with. Picture this for a moment.

A man has risked life and limb from February 18th to date, in pursuit of getting rid of a dictator. With no military training, no knowledge of the rules of engagement in warfare, and with a high dose of moral bankruptcy, he finds his nemesis. With blood converted into liquid flame, he takes the law into his hands and executes “retributive justice”.  This type of justice may give some psychological release to the victims, but may not augur well in helping the country move into an era of stability. Revenge became his naked idol of worship; which belongs to the semi-barbarous age. A pound for a pound some will say.  The brain may devise laws for the blood; but temper leaps over a cold decree. Killing Gaddaffi might have been psychologically cathartic, but to what end? They fought with courage no doubt, after knowing what not to fear. The last thing that individual would want is a trip to the courts to answer for his “crimes” against humanity.

 It is ironic that the militia would be investigated for human rights abuses; and rightly so, for a crime against an individual whose life was littered with such abuses in the first place. Among others, Gaddaffi had subjected his people to perennial human rights abuses for four decades.  He wrote the book on human rights violations. Disregard for human beings is the first qualification of a dictator.  Gaddaffi, like all dictators looked good until the last ten minutes. I do not in any way condone the acts of the militia in this case, for a wrong is un-redressed when retribution overtakes its redresser. However, calling for such an investigation at this embryonic and fragile time would seem untimely; for a lot of reasons.

Firstly, unlike Tunisia which conducted a free, fair and peaceful election on the day Gaddaffi was buried; Christmas seems to have come early as the country is awash with the latest killing machines oil could buy.  The UN’s call for an investigation is understandable; as a determination to reaffirm faith in the fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small. Libya at best is a powder keg, fraught with tribal divisions and allegiances. One of the most important tasks for the National Transitional Counsel (NTC) should be the disarming of the militia. In a country where joyfulness is marked with gunfire, I hate to imagine what a tribal war would sound like. Bringing the culprits to justice, so soon after their perceived “victory” may just put the cat among the pigeons.

 Unlike Libya, change in Tunisia was peaceful, and no wonder the apple is never far from the tree. The early results show that the once banned moderate Islamist Ennahda party has won the elections. Factor that into a recent proclamation by the NTC in Libya, that its democracy will be rooted in Sharia law. Sounds familiar or is it just a change of driver?  One would hope that the revolution does not become a dictatorship of the exploited against the exploiters. Mao Tse-tung once said that “a revolution is not a tea party”.  

If the death of Gaddaffi is anything to go by, the NTC does not appear to have full control of the situation. We have been drip fed with different versions of events even from its members, which leaves one to wonder whether they are singing from the same hymn sheet. The NTC bowed to public pressure and displayed Gaddaffi and his son’s body in a meat fridge; to pacify public “curiosity”.  Looking at the images, the words of Gratiano (Merchant of Venice) comes to mind; “why should a man whose blood is warm within, sit like his grandsire cut in Alabaster? Those images would not find any favours with Gaddaffi’s clan.  It will be hasty to assume that the NTC is the popular choice of the people until Libyans take to the polls. For all we know, the Libyans may have been so fed up with Gaddaffi that anybody will do. For the sake of all peace loving Libyans, we hope that the transition is peaceful; for in situations of military conflict, civil strife, lawlessness, bad governance, and human rights violations, terrorist find it easier to hide, train and prepare attacks.

The task facing the International Community will not only stop at being the midwife of Libyan democracy. After a decade in the international wilderness, Gaddaffi returned to the fold after he reportedly destroyed his arsenal of dangerous weapons; which included nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. He accepted responsibility for the Lockerbie bombing and offered Megrahi for trial. In exchange, he was welcomed back with open arms, resulting in oil companies falling over themselves to snap up drilling contracts. In spite of the economic bazaar that ensued, there are still certain schools of thought, who do not believe that he destroyed all his arsenal of those weapons. The International Community now has a race against time to ensure that they have not fallen in the wrong hands. I hate to imagine such a scenario. The hope is that the political vacuum would be swiftly filled, post Gaddaffi era.

 What Libya needs more than ever is a swift period of stability. The investigations into his death may sound remedial; to cure the past and prevent their recurrence. Sadly, the wounds might be too raw to apply such an antidote at this time. For a people who are free, and who mean to remain so, a “well-organised” and “armed” militia may be their best security. This is not the case in Libya. If the investigation is to take place so soon, the time frame to disarm the militia, to bring about a security situation in which the NTC can govern the country would be radically constricted. The future of Libya will come, one day at a time. Change alone is eternal, perpetual and immortal. It is inevitable, except for vending machines.

Libya cannot wait to join the democratic world. The difference between democracy and dictatorship is that, in a democracy you vote first and take orders later; in dictatorship you don’t waste your time in voting. Libya cannot become democratic overnight. A generation of the Libyan people have not tasted any political diet other than what Gaddaffi had on his menu. If they are to taste democracy, the world and all well meaning citizens should give a gentle shove towards that direction, but at the rate of Libyans’ choosing.  But again, if Libya is left to its own devices, who is to say that it will not descend into a Somalian type situation. Democracy works when people claim it as their own. Like Obama said (Feb. 2009), “the strongest democracies flourish from frequent and lively debate, but they endure when people of every background and belief find a way to set aside their smaller differences in the service of a greater purpose”. It is pointless to praise the light and preach it when nobody can see it.

In neighbouring Syria, President Assad signed an entente cordial with one of the prominent anti-government protesters. He celebrated by raiding the dying in hospitals, to inflict further torture on its people. Unlike Libya which had the backing of NATO, Syria has enjoyed the unenviable pleasure of Russian and Chinese backing with their customary vetoes to protect despots. With the demise of Gaddaffi, the resilience of the Syrian people can only intensify.  Assad should know that when dictatorship becomes a fact, revolution becomes a right. If Libya should return to calm, it will need the three Rs; resilience, reconstruction and reconciliation. Reconciliation with the enemy is but a desire to better one’s condition, a weariness of war and the fear of some unlucky accident. This can only come through dialogue and education; to help dispel ignorance and allow for the appreciation of one another’s humanity. It is therefore essential. Libya is on trial, which can either divide or heal. But unless it is seen as absolutely fair, it will irreconcilably divide the people of Libya.

Don’t forget to turn the lights off.

About Othman Sheriff 347 Articles
Born and raised in Kenema district, eastern Sierra Leone, Othman Sheriff began practicing journalism during his school days as a youthhood hobby. With a bachelor's degree in mass-media and communication, and a Master’s degree in development and peacebuilding, Sheriff is the Editor-in-Chief and CEO of Critique Echo Newspaper. While tirelessly using journalism as a tool to place his country’s socioeconomic and political landscape under a magnifying glass, Sheriff is deeply involved in community development projects. Over the years, Sheriff has formulated and implemented billions of Leones worth of development projects with funds from Europe and USA. He is chiefly focused on community infrastructural development and economic resuscitation projects, fostering interethnic, interreligious and sociocultural cohesion among the young population in Kenema district. Sheriff is a member of many international peacebuilding initiatives including the United Religious Initiative (URI), International Association of Educators for World Peace (IAEWP), Intercultural Leaders Network and Youth Solidary Fund program of the United Nations Alliance of Civilization (UNAOC)

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