Libya: End of Civil War, what’s next?
The war in Libya is now over, as NATO announces, after the death of Col Gaddafi and the collapse of his regime after 42 years.
The civil war, because this was in the end, ends after seven months, during which the NTC went from sure defeat to victory, but with the shadow of foreign involvement in the regime change.
The clear outcome of the conflict is the liberation of Libya through foreign powers, generating concerns on the real autonomy and independence of any future government. To understand the conflict and its consequences, we need to analyse some aspects and the principal actors of the civil war: Gaddafi, NTC and NATO.
The Libyan civil war was not a revolution, although it started as such. Revolutions bring a sudden change and a speedy process which will result in the capitulation of the old regime and with a new government emerging. Although it started as a rebellion, the disorganisation, Gaddafi counter attack and foreign involvement, transformed the revolution in civil war. The result is at least 15,000 victims for Human Rights Watch although NTC claims 30,000.
NATO: regime change achieved
NATO concludes its mission, UN Security Council voted for end on 31st October, but demonstrating that the reason behind was a regime change, in violation of the UNSC Resolution 1973 on civilian protection. The above has been demonstrated by the following:
1. Civilian have not been protected in either sides: civilians were still killed by pro Gaddafi forces, and NTC forces killed civilians once they occupied towns and city held by loyalists.
2. NATO air strikes were not “intelligent” and public figures show that until July 1,108 civilians were killed, over 4500 wounded.
3. Double standards on media covering death of civilians.
4. Change of regime: the air strikes destroyed Libyan air force, as well heavy weaponry, supplies, compounds, and barracks. When the Gaddafi convoy in Sirte tried to escape, an air strike favoured his capture and death.
5. Weakened military assets of NTC, because of fears for future developments.
The whole country is destroyed, and contracts by company to rebuild are already been discussed; even during the war, was far more important to announce the reopening of Raz Lanuf Refinery to oil export than victims on either sides. The cake of reconstruction, as the one that enriched corporations in Iraq, is due to be taken out from the oven and shared between USA, France and Great Britain to revive their economies in struggle.
In addition, having destroyed much of the Libyan arsenal and left NTC with light weaponry, will inevitably offer NATO a key position in supplying arms and training to the new Libyan army as well to impart directives, although this could be differ from the reality as we will see.
A last example on how this war had nothing to do with humanitarian spirit is the following: when Gaddafi forces were bombarding indiscriminately Misrata with rocket launchers and machine gunfire, everyone screamed at massacre and even genocide. However, when the same picture on TV were shown in the last month, but this time with NTC forces bombarding indiscriminately Sirte and Bani Walid, no one commented and raised alarm for the civilians left inside.
Gaddafi: from “king of Kings” to martyrdom
At end he chose to stay in Libya and die as a martyr, even though there are more questions surrounding his death.
Gaddafi’s death even though expected, based on his own strategy, was also the clear and only choice for Libyans: no freedom or victory could have been achieved with him at large or his closest allies on the run.
For the NTC his capture alive could have been a great victory especially on a media side, as Mubarak in Egypt. At the same time, could have created some problems such as questions whether to put him on the stand in Libya or abroad, possible escapes, continue to support fighters inside a liberated Libya.
For NATO forces there are no doubts that a Gaddafi dead was preferred; trial a man like him in the spotlight could have been more problematic than guaranteeing support from public opinion already sceptic. 42 years of iron rule were also permitted with support from foreign powers, and could disclose secrets on not so clear aspects of many of the countries involved.
But why Gaddafi stayed in Libya instead trying to flee, even when the war was clearly lost?
1. Gaddafi did not have friends anymore, or at least someone keen to host him but putting his country in a very difficult situation with other powers. i.e. Zimbabwe, North Korea, Venezuela, etc.
2. He thought of a long war, where capable to resist and force NTC/NATO to the table to negotiate his departure.
3. Chances to escape based on the assumption that at some point the great fortune accumulated would pay for his freedom.
All the above projects however collided with the harsh reality: Libyan people and NATO intervention.
Although NATO air strikes destroyed much of his advantage on weaponry upon NTC, Gaddafi was able to resist thank to his fellow loyalist afraid to escape or defect. This number slowly became more and more thinner, as well places to hide, and at end he simply run out of men and support. People afraid of him turned back as soon NTC rebels entered Tripoli, in clear evidence that his days were counted. However, he did not surrender, there rumours that he was negotiating peace, reason that could explain why NTC was so angry at the execution by militias as would have preferred capture Gaddafi by itself.
What will be the impact of his death on Libya, Africa and the world?
He was absolute master of the country for 42 years, in the past seen as liberator of oppressed people. He was able to freed Libya from Idris’ monarchy enslaved by foreign powers, to guarantee use of natural resources by Libyans company only; to contribute to the liberation of Southern Africa, Mozambique, Angola; financing Palestine movements; an example of resistance against imperialism.
But the above remarkable points were overshadowed by his brutal grip on liberties and Libyan oppositions; involvement in act of international terrorism such Lockerbie; financing terrorists groups as the IRA and in Palestine; involvement in intelligence activities and military support in Chad; interference in Niger, Nigeria affairs against French and British interests. His family, and closest entourage, obtained resources and money exploiting oil, whilst bribery ensured control on all administration levels.
The void left will generate inevitably conflicts between people hungry of power and ex loyalists trying to keep their old privileges.
Gaddafi was also able to guarantee a unite country, above tribalism and religion with a sapient politic made of nationalism, traditionalism and modernity. His departure could reopen scars and animosity between tribes and led to new war, or requests for autonomy and independence able to undermine Libya’s future as a unite state.
In Africa, the “king of kings”, as he was proclaimed, was not so hated, especially in the Africa Union: Supported liberation movements in southern Africa against white rule; support to the theory of unchangeable borders; his generous financial contributions to the Organisation’s fund; his pan African politic rather than Middle East were the main points. However, some leaders were afraid and did not trust him completely: huge dependence from his donations, involvement in Chad, Niger and Francophone Africa affairs.
The NTC, at the moment, does not offer solid credentials at the eyes of the AU leaders: They were hostile to NATO intervention and war; the recent NTC animosity towards Algeria and Niger; the possibility in a decline of financial contributions; destabilisation of the borders.
Outside Libya and Africa, nobody really care about his death: USA, France, Great Britain, Italy and the Arab League, feel they are better off with the mad dog gone. His demise took away any concerns for the disclosure of secret of state still involving some of the above countries. Arab League is now free from one of the most critic leaders, and I would say rightly, against the hypocrisy which govern the body.
Russia and China, who abstained from UNSC resolution vote, did not have strong ties with his regime and the end of the regime does not concern their strategies, although the future developments could.
In fact in all Middle East only one man is probably watching what happened with concern: Assad.
NTC: Trouble ahead
Victorious after 7 months, includes different groups all united only by one goal: kill Gaddafi. Now that he is gone, serious doubts start to emerge about the future of the NTC:
1. Victory achieved with decisive support from NATO. The bill will be delivered soon to the new government, and with a country in ruin, the race for contracts in reconstruction will put NTC in a difficult spot with nationalists.
2. NTC is a heterogeneous formation:
• Ex Gaddafi loyalists
• Ex Libyan army and Intelligence defectors
• Ex ministers
• Opposition from inside
• Opposition from outside, mainly from USA and Britain
The doubts on the real capacity of the NTC leadership to guide a transition to democracy are due to the above composition, especially if referred to ex loyalists and tribes. The choice to celebrate victory day in Benghazi and not in Tripoli was a demonstration that there is animosity and mistrust between the souls of the rebellion; Benghazi appears more in the hands of ex loyalists that do not share sympathies with their brothers in the west and with popular militias. The assassination of Gen. Abdel Fattah Younes is the demonstration of the tensions inside the NTC camp.
Three are the main concerns:
1. NTC divisions
3. New Government policies
Now that Gaddafi is gone, the real question is whether NTC will be able to form a government and lead the transition to election. The possible solutions are a pro western Government or an Islamic Government.
The outcome will depend on which forces inside NTC will prevail; Jibril and his side are moderate Islamists, but their ideas will contrast with the opposition figures that educated in USA have offered financial support. To this, we need to add the role of militia’s commanders that will request a place in the new administration or in the army and the tribes. The demonstrations on how these differences could be lethal are shown by two examples: the assassination of Gen Younes and the appeal to the sharia.
The assassination of Gen. Younes is a clear problem for Jibril and NTC in Benghazi: on one side there are the tribes of Younes and ex army defectors, on the other NTC and Islamists. Younes represented defectors inside the Gaddafi camp, who was never trusted by popular militias and Jibril faction. However, Younes offered that kind of organization, and military knowledge otherwise inexistent in the early stage of the rebellion. This was the reason why NATO was very keen to collaborate with him. In July he was arrested for being to soft on attacks, in reality did not have trust from NTC leadership and many believe he was treating with NATO for the future. His body was found with mutilations and clear signs of torture, and till today no one has been charged with the murder. Recently, the tribe of Younes sent an ultimatum to the NTC asking to solve the situation or wage a total war. This explains why Jibril asked NATO to extend its mission, in defence to possible attacks from loyalists, in reality to protect himself against raising tribalism.
The other main concern is related to Jibril’s speech on liberation day. Libya was one of the secular countries in North Africa and Middle East, but the announcement that Libya will be governed by Sharia law put some serious questions on future. Sharia appeal could attract militants from inside and outside Libya as to transform the country in a new heaven of extremists, could deny democracy and freedom for women. In addition to that, the idea of a bank system governed by Islamic lines could not be the ideal outcome western powers and financial sponsors are keen to see.
Tribalism is the other main concern in Libya for the future, because if united to sharia and Islamic insurgents could transform the country in a new Somalia. The only barrier against this, paradoxically, is the intervention of western powers in shaping the future government; oil and reconstruction will fuel and boost western economies but will create a puppet government like in Afghanistan or Iraq. On the other side this will fuel Islamism and anti-western sentiments in waging war against the central government.
An example on how dangerous could be tribalism is represented by the Tuareg, who are trying to unite their forces with their brothers in Niger and Mali to wage war along the borders. Also, the recent accusations toward neighbouring Niger to host some ex loyalist, Algeria for hosting fugitive members of the Gaddafi’s family and the attacks/persecutions on black Africans accused to be mercenaries.
1. Libya is now freed from Gaddafi and his regime is gone forever.
2. Ex loyalists and members of the past cabinets, army and intelligence will try to retain power and privileges. Their idea of a secular Libya, united to the revenue from oil resources, could lead an alliance with outside opposition for a true capitalist and open Libya.
3. NTC Islamic side and popular militias are already showing an inclination towards Islamism.
4. Differences on tribal lines are already showing, and the different tribes expect now rewards and major autonomy.
5. The huge number of weaponry, although light- medium, is a danger for any government and the disarmament of militias must be the first act.
6. Libya new government will depend from foreign investment, supply and military training, creating dependency. Libya is clearly without defence, after months of air strikes.
7. A real democracy can only be achieved if at least one element of the Gaddafi regime will be preserved: secularism.
8. The coalition has changed the regime, but they could have started a more dangerous domino effect in North Africa and Middle East: destroying secular societies and giving way to the resurgence of Islamists. The manipulation of the transition will be a denial of real democracy but inactivity could be seen as far more destructive to western interests.
Libyans have decided rebellion and civil war to free themselves from tyranny, and as they chosen this way, only they must be responsible for choices in the future. Their error was calling for intervention and now their hands are not entirely free in shaping their future. Libyans only must be in charge in writing the future, with the hope will differ from the recent past, but with the fear it could be another failure in trying to change Middle East under western paradigms that at the moment are nonexistent in Arab societies.