LIBYA’S NEW DAWN: PATH TO CIVIL WAR OR PEACEFUL DEMOCRATIC TRANSITION?

As the world continues to reel from the news of the death of reviled former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, a complicated new security situation is looming in the conflict-ridden nation. For Libyans, Gaddafi was the quintessential boogeyman, the mere mention of whose name was enough to send chills down the spines of his countrymen. After capturing the megalomaniac’s hometown and last remaining loyalist stronghold of Sirte and putting an end to his forty-plus years of tyrannical rule, Libyans are now understandably rejoicing in their new found freedom.

Businesses looking to re-establish connections to the resource-rich nation have also been anxiously awaiting the promise of opportunities expecting to flood in. However, despite the positive news, it is necessary to temper such feelings of overt optimism, as the future of the country is in doubt.

Creating a united Libya

Whilst Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, chairman of the National Transitional Council (NTC), officially declared liberation from Gaddafi’s rule on 21 October 2011, there remains an air of uncertainty as a multitude of political factions look to capitalize on a possible security vacuum. To begin with, Jalil’s position itself remains in question, as there are rumours that he will leave his post in the coming days. Meanwhile, there are at least twenty-eight separate militia groups based out of places such as Tripoli, Zentan, and Misrata, which still roam the countryside and openly question the authority of the NTC. Meanwhile, thousands of young men, all of whom were filled by the spirit of the revolution, are now armed and without a purpose, as a weapons bonanza continues to remain a huge security threat. Adding to the mix, are at least 140 separate tribes, some of which have a decade’s long conflict with one another, as well as a simmering tension brewing between secularists and hard line Islamists, all of whom would like to place their stamp in post-revolutionary Libya. This, of course, does not even take into account the cultural stratification between Libya’s Arab and Berber population, as well as a political divide between the citizens of Benghazi and of the capital, Tripoli, all of which may create the perfect recipe for a civil war, potentially leading to the carving up of the country.

Although this view may be pessimistic, it does underscore the eminent problems facing the country, and as such, the NTC must proceed with caution in order to prevent such disasters from occurring. As of right now, the NTC must look to move its headquarters from Benghazi back to Tripoli, in order to quell any perceived favouritism for the wealthy port city. Secondly, the NTC must look to unite the country, and stop any further political cracks from forming. To do this, it must look to mediate with former pro-Gaddafi loyalists, many of whom may have initially joined Gaddafi’s team for their own survival. (For their part, many of Libya’s NTC forces and leaders have also worked for Gaddafi in the past in order to secure their own safety, so it may be only reasonable to suggest such reconciliation.) Additionally, the NTC must also look to downplay any perceived lack of mistrust on a part of the Libyan people, by laying out the proper framework for democracy, looking ahead to elections, and establishing the proper balance of secularism with the country’s Islamic identity.

The way forward

In the end, the NTC looks to have a lot on its plate with regards to making Libya a safe bet for investment, as well as its ability to solidify itself as a successful and peaceful democracy. Businesses must therefore proceed with caution, as Libya is not expected to become whole again for a while. Reports indicate, for example, that a return to full oil production will take until the year 2014, as there has been extensive damage on the already antiquated wells. Currently Libya’s oil production is at just 20% of its pre-war levels. Additionally, the development of the rest of Libya’s infrastructure will also likely take years, as there has been significant damage done to ports and roads. Overall, the political situation facing Libya looks to be in a state of flux, and as such, all actors should respond accordingly.

The Inkerman Group is constantly monitoring the ever-changing situation in Libya. For more information and to see photos of the Inkerman Group on the ground in Libya, please see our Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/TheInkermanGroup and Twitter feed at: http://twitter.com/#!/inkermangroup.

(Image: The Inkerman Group)

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