October 20, 2011

Sic Semper Tyrannis: The Death of Colonel Qaddafi and the Future of a Free Libya

Originally published in Enterprise Blog

Thus always to tyrants.

Qadhafi’s death is the capstone of the Libyan revolution. It also marks the fall of Sirte, one of the last strongholds of Qadhafi loyalist fighters. Mahmoud Jibril, the interim Prime Minister from Libya’s National Transitional Council (NTC), has stated that once Sirte falls (which it now has) he will officially declare the “liberation of Libya” and then step down. The NTC would then move to Tripoli and an interim government would take over and oversee the transition to national elections slated to be held eight months later.

Five questions about Libya’s future stand out:

  1. FIGHTING: Does Qadhafi’s death mean the end of fighting? The desert town of Beni Walid still holds out and it remains to be seen whether news of the Colonel’s demise will convince his partisans there to put down their guns.
  2. GOVERNANCE: Will the rebels and the NTC be able to manage post-conflict security issues—particularly protecting civilians and infrastructure, preventing looting and revenge killings? Amnesty International has already reported prisoner abuse in rebel-run detention facilities.
  3. LEGITIMACY: Will the Libyan rebel leadership be able to build its legitimacy in a post-war Libya? While the Benghazi-based NTC is the internationally recognized authority in Libya, it is not accepted as the main authority by all the rebel movements in Libya. Misrata’s rebel leadership in particular has tried to maintain its independence from decision-making in Benghazi.
  4. TRIBES: Will the rebel leadership be able to bring on board those tribes and parts of the population that supported Colonel Qadhafi, such as his own Qadadfa tribe? If Qadhafi’s tribesmen or those who supported him see a bleak future for themselves under the new regime, it may encourage them to keep fighting or to turn their resistance into an insurgency.
  5. DISARMAMENT: Will the rebel leadership be able to demobilize, disarm, and reintegrate all the men who took up arms against Qadhafi and who, for the past several months, have operated as part of loosely coordinated militia forces? And will the new Libyan government (and NATO) be able to clamp down on all of Libya’s loose weapon systems? Ever since the war started there have been reports of arms markets being flooded with looted Libyan goods; some have reportedly been destined for Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Securing Libya’s weapon stockpiles and the surfeit of small arms and heavy weaponry currently in the hands of rebel fighters will likely have a big impact on the future security of the country and, indeed, the whole region.