Mission & Name
US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)
Can Libya Reap the Fruits of the Arab Spring?
By Yamin Zakaria
Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, August 29, 2011
Just as Saddam Hussain
portrayed himself as the new Salahuddin Al-Ayyubi of the Arab world,
Mu'ammar Qadhafi projected himself as the new
Omar Al-Mukhtar of Libya. Salahuddin Ayyubi
fought the marauding crusaders, and Omar Mukhtar fought the Italian
invaders, whilst the Arab dictators spent their life oppressing their
citizens and empowering their family and tribes. Is there any comparison
between the brave and heroic struggle undertaken by Omar Mukhtar, and Qadhafi’s
cowardly acts of oppressing and killing Libyan citizens over the last forty
years? The world only caught a glimpse of Gaddafi’s reign of horror through
the shocking events in Benghazi that ignited the people of Libya to
overthrow the regime.
has always been the Arab Idi Amin, an eccentric clown to the outside world,
and a cruel monster when dealing with his opponents. As the rebels close in
on Gaddafi, Moussa Ibrahim, the spokesman for Gaddafi, is beginning to sound
like Ali al-Sahhaf, better known for his lurid and absurd claims. Qadhafi’s
superficial rhetoric belongs to the 70s, when the government-controlled
media was the primary source of information, but the world has moved on, you
cannot fool this Facebook generation; they are technologically savvy with
instant access to information from numerous sources.
technology, the will power of the oppressed masses and the assistance
provided by NATO that has bought success for the Libyan freedom fighters.
This has definitely provided another much needed boost to the Arab Spring,
especially lifting the spirits of the brave and resilient people of Syria
fighting the Alawite tyrant. Despite the early start in Tunisia and Egypt,
they have yet to deliver a stable government elected by the masses. If the
National Transition Council (NTC) led by Mustafa Abdul Jalil succeeds to
form a new government, based on free and fair elections, and manages to
bring about political stability that could inspire and start the domino
effect in Tunisia, Egypt, Morocco, Algeria and the rest of the Arab world,
marking the second-phase of the Arab Spring.
Hence the question: what are the main obstacles to achieving political
stability in Libya?
Fortunately, Libya does not have any sectarian
issue as the nation is mainly Sunni, but it has tribal feuds and past
grievances from the 40 years of oppressive rule. After the recent events, it
would be a safe bet to assume that Gaddafi and his family are unlikely to
return to power. However, resistance might prolong from his tribal members.
No doubt, the NTC are reaching out to members of Gaddafi’s tribe to join the
leadership to neutralise this primitive tribal allegiance. Indeed,
overcoming this primitive tribal affiliation and building a sense of
nationhood, where Libyans see themselves as equal citizens, will be a real
challenge for the new regime.
There have already been some
reservation expressed about the NTC, and the elected government that
succeeds through it, because it might comprise of people from the old regime
who switched sides to mitigate their past crimes; if they have blood on
their hands, they should stand trial with Gaddafi. Concurrently, there
should be the utmost effort to avoid creating an atmosphere of vengeance,
which would isolate and prolong resistance from Gaddafi’s tribes and
supporters. To the credit of the NTC and the freedom fighters, this has been
avoided so far, but its early days. What Libya needs is a new start,
therefore, fresh elections should ensure that only those people with clean
hands are contesting for power.
The political framework desired by
the Arab masses in general is clear; a powerful legislative body, an
independent judiciary with an executive body whose power is limited. They
want a stable constitutional government that is accountable, where the rule
of law prevails, providing opportunities based on merit rather than tribal
affiliation and bribery. The Arab masses want to trade their dictators for
freedom. However, freedom does not equate to Western values; will the West
endorse the genuine notion of freedom which would permit the people of Libya
to ‘choose’ their government and the values which they represent?
It seems the politicians in the west may have recognised, or have been
forced to accept, that long term trade through a genuine representative
government is far better than short term gains acquired through nasty
dictators. The freedom to ‘choose’ may mean an Islamic orientated government
rather than a militant secular one. In reality, the actual government formed
is likely to be a moderate secular regime which carries Islamic influences,
naturally as Libya is predominantly a Muslim nation. The government would
have a mandate based on a constitution that incorporates Islamic values.
With political stability in oil-rich Libya, economic progress would
follow, and wealth would trickle down to the neighbours; Libya, with a small
population, needs the labour force from its neighbours to boost the economy.
The economic injection might transform North Africa, which in turn could
revive the African continent as a whole: finally delivering the fruits of
the Arab Spring. A revived Arab world may also help to provide some economic
stimulus to Europe, whose economy has been slowing down and heading towards
Yamin Zakaria (email@example.com)
London, UK (