Regardless of what’s happening on the ground in Libya and other North African countries today, we must never lose hope for a better tomorrow; in spite of all the difficulties that we have been through. All great nations that go through sudden regime-change after an extended period of rule experience mayhem shortly after.
Even in Europe, examples of this are the English Civil War and the French Revolution, where security and prosperity shortly followed chaos and anarchy. We are not saying that time always brings progress. What we mean in the context of Libya is that, as the Quran says, ‘with hardship there is ease’. Hardship and ease are linked, and we must put our faith not only in God but in historical evidence too.
Libya is now divided into three major components: East, West and South. There is a government acting from Tabrouk in the East, the Dawn party operating from its Western stronghold, and the UN elected government acting from outside Libya. The situation is embarrassing because Libya, like Egypt, exposes how divided North African nations are are as well as the focus that we are lacking in the region. Some people believe that we must strive to do what’s best within our capacity to allow the UN elected government led by Faiz al Siraj to take its natural course of power. Others believe that Libyans didn’t vote for Siraj in the first place so his rule is effectively illegitimate.
Whilst the UN is problematic for many reasons – the permanent membership of the security council being the most prominent – the UN did, nonetheless, “help” Libya establish a state in 1951. Looking to external actors for help is always tricky because the lines between assistance, intrusion, colonialism and condescension are very thin. Also, statehood in the modern sense – with boundaries, a flag and an anthem – is a very Western concept. Siraj, the UN choice, nonetheless comes from a credible and reputable family. He is clear. He is educated. He is well established; but it is not yet clear whether or not he will do the right job for Libya.
Libya is in need of long-term, strategic planning. For example, Libya, as a state, still needs to win hearts and minds against Daesh, rekindle its infrastructure, and establish the stability that can once more encourage the sort of investment to stimulate a lasting economy. If Siraj implements long-term policies, and even if his policies are successful, we will not see their fruits until years later. However successful Siraj is in reality, he will therefore be bound to disappoint, not only because people question the legitimacy of the UN as an international actor, but also because many people want a quick fix to the revolution. This is not a cultural issue, but a generational one in an instant access, technologically advance world. Even if Siraj fails, our regional patience would not be wasted. That is because learning that he is not the right long-term leader for Libya is still progress, just as learning that the Muslim Brotherhood would indeed abuse their power if elected in nearby Egypt. It would also teach us that foreign agencies cannot solve all internal issues in North African countries. Until then, we should give him the benefit of the doubt.
Authored by “Bent Libya” and Sami Oussama Filali Naji.