Libyan anniversary

February 18, 2013 - 3:14:57 am

Time flies. Especially in Arab countries where popular uprisings have upended old systems. Now news is coming out from these countries of anniversary celebrations of the revolution, and it’s now Libya’s turn to celebrate. 

Thousands took to the streets of various Libyan cities yesterday, including Tripoli and Benghazi, to celebrate two years since the start of revolution. People were ecstatic, and vowed to protect their revolution. Even families poured out onto the streets in their thousands. In some places, camels were slaughtered and displayed on the street for the occasion and elderly men waved flags at passing processions. Youths banged drums on top of cars while men in traditional clothing rode on horses.

Even as countries liberated through revolution celebrate their freedom, there is growing concern about the direction in which they are moving. Libya too is no exception. The country is yet to fully embrace democracy, there is no central government in Tripoli which can take on powerful militias and tribes, a new constitution is yet to be written, militias are yet to be disarmed and Benghazi, which is the cradle of the revolt that ousted dictator Muammar Gaddafi, is still feeling left out with its own set of grievances. The new government that has taken control from Gaddafi is yet to find satisfactory solutions to these problems and more delays can damage the federal structure that is in place.

The government is aware of the challenges ahead and the shortcomings of the current system. The National Congress leader Mohammed Magarief visited Benghazi yesterday and sought to tackle simmering discontent in the city. “We admit that we have not fulfilled our duties completely. Maybe the excuse is a lack of experience, but we have started from scratch and we will learn from the lessons we learned in the past months,” he said.

The government in Tripoli needs to move fast and fulfill the promises to the people. Libya has been relatively calm after the revolution, but it’s a deceptive calm. The new government hasn’t moved with resolve and determination to solve the problems which the country is facing. Though the challenges before it are formidable, it has to seize the initiative and enforce its decisions. 

Security measures were tightened ahead of the anniversary celebrations. Libya’s borders with Tunisia and Egypt were closed and some international flights suspended amid fears of a new outbreak of violence. Interestingly, all three North African countries have toppled autocrats since the start of 2011 and all three have political violence, inexperienced leadership and weak economies. Revolt and instability in one country can affect others, in the same way good governance and return to democracy in one can influence others.