Sunday, 11 September 2011

Libya: the state of progress

The National Transition Council (NTC) is emerging as the centre to which the world, via the UN and the unfreezing of its foreign assets, is conferring legitimacy and power. 

The NTC is headed by Mustafa Abdel Jalil, the justice minister who escaped from the Gaddafi government and organised the protests in Benghazi which grew into a violent revolution. The NTC comprises about 30 human rights lawyers and Jalil has shown leadership by insisting that he be tried for his part in the Gaddafi regime as well as threatening to resign if any of the 40 rebel forces (katibas) engage in revenge attacks.

After being in Benghazi since the start of the revolution the NTC are beginning to move into the capital, Tripoli and only a few centres of resistance remain (Sirte, Bani Walid, Jufra and Sabha). How long they keep fighting depends, possibly, on how much they trust their enemies to treat them humanely.

What are the chances of a stable representative government with law and order prevailing once military conquest is decisive enough to make this tenable?

Proposed timescale for establishing a new government.

The following times are taken from whatever date the NTC declares victory.

  • 30 days – interim government formed by negotiation within this period.
  • 8 months – multi-party elections.
  • 20 months – by when a new constitution is to be agreed.

Causes for hope:

  • The NTC was appointed in consultation with tribal and revolutionary leaders.
  •  The UN is unfreezing funds, the IMF has recognised the NTC and oil revenue could resume within months.
  •  There is a lot of political and diplomatic support on tap from the West.
  •  The attack on each town was typically done ‘democratically’ in the sense that the invading rebel force coordinated its action with an internal uprising.
  •  A substantial number of checkpoints have been dismantled.
  •  Rebels with no jobs to go to may join a national army rather than engage in insurgency.
  • The old army, police and civil service are to be kept on. Police are already returning to their posts in large numbers. (This avoids a major mistake made in Iraq, where these sources of order and administration were cast out onto the streets.)

Causes for concern:
  •  Some African immigrants and pro-Gaddafi mercenaries have been killed by rebels. Presumably they were rogue attacks rather than in any way systematic and so the consensus is that Jalil should not resign.
  •  Huge quantities of weapons, missiles and bullets have gone missing (including tens of thousands of SAM missiles). These will inevitably fall into the hands of insurgents and terrorists worldwide – not just disaffected Libyans.
  •  Katibas were the revolutionary forces derived from various towns, sects and tribes, and were privately organised and funded. They appear reluctant to submit to a unified command. 
  •  ‘Revolutionary committees’ used during the revolt were informers and these may find it difficult to regain the trust of their neighbours.
  •  Many of the fighters became exhilarated, as is all too obvious from the constant firing of AK47s into the air. Some may be reluctant to settle down to the dull, hard work of reconstructing Libya. It is much easier to destroy than to create.
  •  Electricity and water supplies are sparse and unreliable.
  •  Civil servants are not yet being paid.
  •  Other Arab regimes will be keen to finance insurgency.

If an Islamic form of a democracy can be achieved this would be a model for other countries in Africa and the Middle East, although there could be a high price to pay in human suffering if the existing monarchs and dictators are to be disposed.

On the other hand, it is possible that the groundswell of pressure for change from the world as a whole and the majority of people living in these countries could be so large, that their rulers would flee without resistance or seek a stake in a political system which they can see is inevitable.

Let us pray.

Main sources: Economist, BBC website, BBC World Service

Author, 2077 AD