War and dialogue in post-Gaddafi Libya

War and dialogue in post-Gaddafi Libya
Comment: The hopes of the Libyan revolution have collapsed due to a failure to properly handle the transitional phase after the fall of Gaddafi's regime.
3 min read
31 Mar, 2015
The dream of Libya's revolutionaries has become a nightmare [al-Araby]
When the February 17 revolution erupted in Libya, it was supported by Libyans from all segments of society - segments, not classes. After four decades, Muammar Gaddafi's regime had melted the Libyan people into one class, a class of the disenfranchised.

Most people in this class were wage-earners depending on paltry salaries barely enough to provide basic sustenance.

Basic foodstuffs subsidised by the government such as wheat, rice and cooking oil were relied upon by most people living near or below the poverty line. At the same time, the resources of their land were being squandered and their oil revenues were being scattered across the four corners of the earth without any oversight or accountability.

In contrast, there was a class of clients who benefited from Gaddafi and propped up his regime. This class was controlled by power, wealth and weapons. It dominated the country's resources, plundered its assets, and oppressed and bullied its people.

The revolution's victory was a victory of the will of a people who had broken their chains and the barriers of fear and hunger. A people dreaming of a new world of prosperity, security, freedom, democracy, human rights, and social justice. A dream that has never come true.

Instead, the dream turned into a nightmare full of bloodletting, strife, and destruction.

The people, who had been united against Gaddafi, splintered into rival factions. Grudges prevailed, the social fabric was torn, and conflict became the language spoken between fraternal-enemies.

Dialogue was no longer possible between rivals, except through a third party - the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) headed by Bernardino Leon.

But even in the presence of this international envoy, fraternal-enemies could not sit with each other at the dialogue table. This is partly due to the Supreme Court's dissolution of the internationally recognised parliament in Tobruk, which exacerbated the conflict.

This issue of legitimacy has become a ticking time bomb threatening to blow up the dialogue, because legitimacy cannot be ignored or circumvented in any agreement or settlement.

     The Libyan people, who had been united against Gaddafi, splintered into rival factions.

A national consensus government, which the UN and the international community see as a panacea to the Libyan crisis, will not be qualified or eligible to exercise its duties except through a legitimate authority, supported by the Libyan people first, and the international community second.

Otherwise, any such government will quickly fail and collapse - despite international support - because the Libyan people will see it as a North African version of Hamid Karzai's former puppet government in Afghanistan.

Therefore, resolving the Libyan crisis by forming a national consensus government and implementing security measures is a non-solution. It is doomed to fail as soon as this government starts encountering the real and chronic problems on the ground.

It is also worth remembering that Abdurrahim El-Keib and Ali Zeidan's government, formed under the General National Congress' absolute and uncontested legitimacy before the parliament emerged on the political scene in Libya, could be referred to as governments of national consensus.

Yet these governments had failed to achieve even their most basic goals, and have instead exacerbated the situation and contributed to the spread of corruption and lawlessness, and deepened divisions between Libyans.

Indeed, these governments bypassed or ignored the transitional phase between the revolution and the state.

They failed to deal properly deal with important issues, including the hangover after the collapse of Gaddafi's regime, to serve transitional justice and foster civil peace.

What is happening in Libya today in terms of the social, political and military conflict, is mainly the result of the failure to properly handle the transitional phase. 

Libya's crisis can only be resolved as part of a comprehensive solution that produces a legislative authority and a national unity government, whose priorities would include serving transitional justice, human development, and social reconciliation.

This article is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.