Gadaffi is Dead: Now Libya’s Real Test Begins
The past week will undoubtedly be retold incessantly as a fundamental week in Libya’s history. The death of Muammar Gaddafi has prompted celebrations across Libya and grand statements from world leaders. Furthermore, the Transitional Council (NTC) leaders have officially announced the liberation from the Gaddafi regime at a celebratory event held Sunday in Benghazi. However, as a formal end is put to the dictator’s 42-year rule and as celebrations of liberation continue, the real test for Libya begins as the country prepares for life after Gaddafi.
Inevitably, the United Kingdom has shown support. Prime Minister David Cameron stated that Libya “now has an even greater chance to build a strong and democratic future.” Foreign Secretary William Hague stated that the death of Gaddafi “represents a historic victory for the people of Libya” and Defence Secretary Philip Hammond has stated “the Libyan people have liberated their country from a ruthless tyrant.”
We are witnessing the very first days of a new nation. But these early days have not been re-assuring and mistakes have been made. For example, how Gaddafi died is not certain. The chairman of the NTC, Mustafa Abdul Jalil, under pressure to justify the legality of his death stated that Gaddafi was killed in crossfire. He has also tasked a commission with “investigating the circumstances of his death.”
Furthermore, the NTC initially kept Gaddafi’s body on display in a meat storage freezer in violation of the Islamic practice of burying the body within 24 hours of death. Finally the dictator was given a “simple burial in an unknown location desert”. Burying him in his home town of Sirte was out of the question as the NTC leaders did not want it to become a shrine to the previous regime.
More seriously, leaders of the NTC are now facing pressure about their conduct during the war. Human Rights Watch has demanded an inquiry into a massacre of 53 regime supporters in rebel-controlled territory. However, violations of human rights have not become the only point of concern. There has also been expressed apprehension from the West after Jalil stated that Shariah law would be the basic source of legislation in Libya and that any laws disagreeing with Islamic teachings would be nullified. However, although the NTC has reassured the international community that it will be a “moderate and modern” Muslim society, anxiety has not disappeared.
Nevertheless, as the formalities that have come with Gaddafi’s death are dealt with and as the UK and the international community continue to praise the “new” Libya, its real test now begins as it deals with life after a dictator. Perhaps more accurately, although Gaddafi is now dead and justice has been served in the eyes of the Libyan people, it is important to emphasize that Libya’s troubles will not disappear overnight. In fact, now that the goal of overthrowing Gaddafi has been achieved, Libya has a huge amount of change to successfully implement. To echo the words of author Muhammad min Libya from Tripoli, Libya now needs to establish a fair constitution that preserves the rights of all citizens, a civil state, a decent living for the people, the elimination of all forms of financial and administrative corruption and education, health and security reform.
Therefore, although Gaddafi is now dead, the real test for Libya begins. After the grand, congratulatory statements from other nations have been forgotten, Libya will continue to face extreme uncertainty and tremendous challenges. Not only do decisions have to be made about how the country is governed socially and politically, but Libya also needs to deal with the continuing fighting on the ground. For example, this morning a fuel tank explosion in Sirte killed more than 100 people.
Consequently, the death of Gaddafi certainly does not mean that Libya has become a stable, democratic and effectively governed country. It means that Libya now faces a challenge bigger than overthrowing Gaddafi: it has to become a stable and fairly governed state.