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After Gaddafi — reconciliation or reprisal?


TRIPOLI — The death of Muammar Gaddafi will be regarded as a victory for the Libyan people, Nato and democracy.

But euphoria at the demise of a dictator should not disguise the problems faced by the new Libyan government in cementing peace, rebuilding and implementing good governance in the north African nation, analysts said.

And the manner of Gaddafi’s death risks turning a despot into a martyr, providing a focus for opposition to the new government.

Gaddafi was killed by fighters who overran his home town and final bastion of Sirte last Thursday. Nato accelerated the collapse of the Libyan regime by undertaking air raids on Gaddafi’s forces in defence of civilians.

“It’s a definitive victory for Nato, which supported the rebels and marks the end of its mission,” said Axel Poniatowski, president of the French parliament’s foreign affairs committee. “The urgency now in Libya is to disarm the various sides and put in place the democratic process.”

François Heisbourg, chairman of the International Institute of Strategic Studies, said Nato’s impact on the Libya conflict would give a temporary boost to its self-confidence.

“Libya for the alliance was a rather welcome moment as it made everybody forget about Afghanistan for a few brief months,” Heisebourg said. “Now, once again Nato is going to be exposed to the Afghan dossier and that’s not in great shape to put it mildly.”

Analysts stressed the National Transitional Council (NTC), which led resistance to Gaddafi, had won the war, but would need to act quickly and decisively to take advantage of the peace.

Tribal differences, disputes between militia leaders and the expected involvement of exile groups would complicate the NTC’s task.

“The real battle begins now to rein in the so-called thuwwar (rebels), and integrate them under the legal umbrella of the state in one of its various bureaucracies, army or police,” said Larbi Sadiki, expert on North African politics at Exeter University.

“There remains the biggest challenge of all — reconstruction and the battle for good government and equitable and sustainable development.”

The vast array of weapons in Libya constituted a major problem for the new government whose actions towards the defeated pro-Gaddafi troops will have a major effect on how quickly the country recovers, and how peacefully that happens.

Brigadier Ben Barry, from the International Institute for Strategic Studies, said the NTC will have to consider “how to disarm, demobilise and integrate the various armed groups that have contributed to Gaddafi’s downfall into new national security structures”.

“This is an end of one era, but the fight over the new government has started already,” said Ali Abdullatif Ahmida of the University of New England.

“It all depends on how the NTC leadership heals the country and reconciles people . . . or takes revenge and settles scores. That may be a dangerous road.”
Shashank Joshi, of the Royal United Services Institution, said the chances of a revolt by pro-Gaddafi forces was small.

“Libya is not a viable country for a major insurgency. I think you will see resistance in places, and you will see tensions flare up between the interim authorities and militias, but it won’t be anything resembling a counter-revolution.”

Many analysts said the manner of Gaddafi’s death, after his capture by rebel forces, could come back to haunt the NTC.

“Gaddafi is now a martyr and thus can become the rallying point for irredentist or tribal violence, perhaps not in the immediate future, but in the medium to long term,” said George Joffe, of Cambridge University.

“The fact that Nato can be blamed for his death is worrying in terms of regional support, and may undermine the legitimacy of the NTC.”

“His death robs the new Libyan government of the opportunity of showing themselves better than he was, but allowing a process of justice to take place,” said Daniel Korski, senior fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations.

Barry said Gaddafi’s death did not neutralise the threat of residual violence and pointed to the example of Iraq. “We should remember that the capture of Saddam Hussein in 2003 did not take the wind out of the Iraqi insurgency. The subsequent execution appeared vindictive to the Sunnis.”

But Shashank Joshi, of the Royal United Services Institution, said the chances of a revolt by pro-Gaddafi forces appeared small.

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