With Qaddafi gone and Sirte fallen, scholars and embedded reporters are surveying the wreckage left by 42 years of totalitarian rule. From sunny predictions to ominous premonitions, here's what experts are saying about the challenges in front of Libya's people and the National Transitional Council:
Democracy-building Views about the interim government's ability to create a law and order society with rights for individuals range from deeply pessimistic to cautiously optimistic. William MacLean at Reuters has a nice breakdown of the important dates for democratic initiatives. According to the rules agreed on by the NTC, the fall of Sirte triggers a move of the NTC's headquarters from Benghazi to Tripoli forming an interim government in 30 days. In 240 days, a 200-member national conference will be elected into office paving the way for a prime minister 30 days later. On the optimistic side, CNN's Isobel Coleman is encouraged by the fact that Libya has well over $160 billion in foreign assets to cover the costs of the new government and a well-educated population. "Public education was free and compulsory through secondary school under Gadhafi, and the country enjoys a literacy rate of nearly 90%. In the 2007-2008 school year, women enrolled in universities outnumbered men significantly."
The Militia factor Both McClatchy and Foreign Policy have smart items on the challenges of incorporating the militias into the political system. McClatchy speaks with Diana Eltahway, an expert on Libya with Amnesty International. "There are an uncountable number of militias roaming the country, and these militias are really taking the law into their own hands. Among the biggest challenges will be trying to absorb them in whatever becomes the police force and national army or disarming them." On this point, Vincent Cornell of Emory University is optimistic about militia integration stemming from the fact a number of the leaders a "Western-educated" and "know that they have to transcend old schisms if they are to make a new state," she tells FP. However, Manal Omar, of the United States Institute of Peace is more worried, noting that rebel commander Abdul Fatah Younes was assassinated in July and there still has been no investigation of the death, which is angering Younes allies.
Islamic extremism As USA Today emphasizes, "Gadhafi had been a check on Islamic extremists in the region, and now those extremists are collecting the weapons Gadhafi stashed across the country." That's a point the Council on Foreign Relations's Ed Husain takes very seriously. "The head of the military council in Tripoli, Belhadj, for example, is a prominent figure of that Islamist trend. How will they respond to a secular government in Libya? Across the Middle East, the greatest political benefactors thus far have been Islamist groups. Qaddafi's killing will set in place a new beginning for Libya that will pose difficult policy challenges for Libyans and NATO."
Oil Libya sits on a mountain of oil wealth. As The Washington Post notes "One major issue is figuring out how to divide oil revenue among more than 100 tribes in the country." A big point on that front is setting up relations with multinational corporations. "International companies will also have to be reassured that a new government won’t try to drastically change contracts that have already been signed. And they want to be assured that their oil-field engineers will be safe." On the upside, there as already been success with at least one European company. Last week, an Italian company called Eni reopened the pipeline that runs natural gas from Libya to Italy for the first time in eight months.
Rooting out the loyalists According to Reuters and ABC News, Qaddafi's son Saif al-Islam is still at large. That's particularly worrisome, Ed Husain senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, says. The fall of Sirte was one thing but keeping loyalists down is another. "Qaddafi's networks of loyalists still remain across the country," he says. "Their sense of deep humiliation at the way in which their leader was killed will most likely prompt revenge attacks. At their helm is the British-educated, defiant, and media-savvy Saif al-Qaddafi, Qaddafi's son. Emotionally volatile, highly ambitious, and now an enemy of the West, he can become a rallying force for his late father's loyalists unless he is captured and put on trial soon." But the Guardian's Moez Zelton stresses that many aspects of Libyan society are in utter disarray. "Water shortages, liquidity in the banks, mass availability of weapons, treatment of injured Libyan patients and the disaster that is the health and education sector as a whole are just a few of the worries Libyans face."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.