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For those who were against Gaddafi, the euphoric feeling that came with his fall will last many years, despite the ensuing difficulties of general lawlessness and the failure of governance which resulted from a lack of a working constitution. These factors and many more have demoralised the majority of Libyans, giving rise to many doubts, and leaving Libyans to rely on simple faith, especially in the first days of the “new order”. The absence of a proper system of governance and rule of law remains a problem, as well as the widespread possession and free use of guns and other weapons.
There is therefore still much work to be done. However, it is illogical to justify Gaddafi’s reign by comparing Libya then and Libya now. Why? Because had Gaddafi a) addressed some underlying issues during his time (such as economic corruption) , and b) slowly transitioned power away from his family, the inevitable change in governance would not have been so destructive and catastrophic. From this perspective, it is impossible to detach Libya then and Libya now. Doing so, is a false comparison. (See “selection bias” for more information).
Today, Libya is no longer perceived as safe for either native citizens or foreigners who come to the country to work and do business. On top of this, three factions compete for governing power: one in the eastern region, one in the western region, and a unity government of national accord. Libyans are far from being settled or being able to let out a sigh of relief. Their work has just begun.
Many Libyans are saddened to hear that Hafter’s associates in the East have managed to destroy the social fabric of the heroic city of Benghazi. In two years, Hafter or his associates have managed to quite literally demolish Benghazi – streets, buildings, places of business and the very lives and livelihoods of the people who live there. Hafter had previously been defeated in the war against Chad in 1983 and lived as a refugee in America for over 20 years. He has now returned and it is impossible to predict quite how long it would take to rebuild what he has destroyed with weapons provided by the UAE and Egypt. From this perspective, Hafter alone is not to blame for Libya’s apparent stagnation; but he remains, in our opinion, a key character in a broader network of hostile bureaucracy.
If only we had an adequately functioning legal system to determine the truth for certain, and to determine to what extent Hafter, his associates, ISIS, foreign intervention or anything else is to blame. Not having visibility over this is in itself evidence of bureaucracy. By now, we should have already held a public inquiry to assess the level of wrongdoing and to investigate once and for all from where Hafter has obtained support and munitions, and from who other damage is being done. Libyan society should be brought to justice as soon as is possible and practicable, because the process of reconstruction of Libya’s major cities will need careful consideration, assessment, planning and adequate funding. Progress cannot be made until any possibility of continued action by Hafter is overcome.
Libya is ready to rebuild itself, especially now that ISIS has been defeated nearly everywhere within the country. This victory has come at the huge cost of the lives of Libya’s young warriors, whose tales will probably be told in Orientalist history books, and who will be remembered as heroes, freedom fighters and liberators. History will remember the fallen as makers of peace, martyrs for justice and founders of freedom, and we thank them from the bottom of our hearts. It is especially important that we pay tribute to the mothers, fathers and loved ones of these heroes. The loss they have experienced will continue to be a source of great suffering for them, but these families should take comfort in the appreciation and respect that all Libyan citizens feel for the sacrifice of their loved ones.
By Asma Shebani & Osama Filali Naji