Stalemate in Libya

July 30, 2013 - 1:22:24 am

Every Arab Spring country is entangled in problems of its own, though there are also general problems all of them are saddled with. All the freed countries – freed from autocratic rulers -- are finding a quick transition to democracy problematic. Lack of unity among post-revolution parties on a common agenda to take the nation forward is one common problem; then there is the inordinate delay in doing anything, whether it’s in drafting the constitution or holding elections; also tribal, sectarian and inter-party relations have acquired a toxicity that is shocking.

As Egypt slides towards more chaos, with Brotherhood and their opponents, which include army, fighting pitched battles, Libya too is in a stalemate and the situation is equally troubled. Uncontrollable militias are the biggest problem in the country, which are setting their own laws and following them, posing a huge threat and paralyzing the functioning of a provisional government elected in the country’s first democratic election. One ray of hope has been that the assembly managed to move the country a step closer to stability by approving a law for the election of a constituent assembly that will be in charge of preparing a new constitution.

Unlike Egypt, which had civil society organizations and an efficient governance system when Hosni Mubarak was overthrown, Libya was in a pitiable state when Moammer Gaddafi was deposed. Gaddafi was a dictator who had a stranglehold on everything in the country and his was the final word. The country lacked institutions of all kinds and there were no proper police or armed forces. There was no recognizable constitution. Gaddafi used the country’s vast energy wealth the way he liked. It’s this lawlessness which the post-Gaddafi government has inherited and their challenges are even bigger than those in Egypt. The new rulers in Tripoli need to create the necessary infrastructure for governance and that’s easier said than done.

The biggest challenge is reining in dozens militias which have seized Gaddafi’s weapons and so far the government has failed to control them. The existence of a tribal structure in the country, where allegiance to tribal groups is seen more important than nationalism, will not help matters.  

The government of Prime Minister Ali Zeidan, who is under growing pressure from militias and the Islamists, must work on dismantling the militias. The international community, especially the West, which have helped in overthrowing Gaddafi, must help him in building armed forces and an efficient police system. Unfortunately, no serious help has been offered. And for the same reason, the international community too is partly responsible for the deterioration in Libya. Libya’s allies need to act before it’s too late•