Future uncertainty looming in Libya

The future of Libya is being shrouded in fraught uncertainty as fighting escalates in the capital city Tripoli with the rebel forces reportedly getting the better of the pro-Gaddafi troops.

The sudden resurfacing of Muammar Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam Gaddafi crushed many hopes and reversed the equation in the political arena when the reports saying that he had been arrested and in detention and that he would be sent to the Hague to face charges of orchestrating plot together with his father to quell the popular uprising sweeping across the country proved to be untrue.

On Tuesday morning, Saif al-Islam arrived at the Rixos Hotel in a government car like an apparition emerging through the darkness and told the foreign journalists with an air of confidence, “We have broken the backbone of the rebels. They have fallen into a trap by marching into Tripoli.”

This can be but idle boast of course.

None the less, it is true that the situation in Tripoli is very volatile with plumes of smoke from rocket propelling grenades (RPGs), guns and mortars rising into the sky; the city of Tripoli has turned into a virtual battlefield with the pro-Gaddafi forces positioned in different parts and firing mortars and anti-aircraft guns and the NATO jets screaming relentlessly overhead. One cannot determine if the scale of victory will soon tilt in favor of the revolutionary forces or not.

The whereabouts of Colonel Gaddafi still remain unknown but his son Saif al-Islam told the reporters on Tuesday that his father “is safe and in Tripoli… They (rebels) said they control Libya, they can’t. Tripoli is under our control." On the other hand, French Defense Minister Gerard Longuet has urged NATO to step up its bombardments of Muammar Gaddafi’s compound and hasten the ouster of the Libyan ruler. Meanwhile, rebel commanders said they were approaching the compound and were only ‘dozens of meters’ away.

Interestingly, the Russian head of world chess Kirsan Ilyumzhinov who has a strong personal relationship with the Gaddafi’s family and is believed to be among the few people who have seen the Libyan ruler since the clashes erupted claims that Gaddafi informed him in a telephone conversation he was in Tripoli and that he did not have the least intention of leaving the country despite an onslaught by the revolutionary forces.

"I am alive and healthy, I am in Tripoli and do not intend to leave Libya. Do not believe the lying reports by Western television companies. I want to express thanks to everyone in the world who feels for the people of Libya. I am sure that we will be victorious," Kirsan Ilyumzhinov quoted Gaddafi as saying on Tuesday.

Dictators will fall and so will Colonel Gaddafi. But the main concern for the Libyan people is the future which is quite unclear to them.

In general, there are three main assumptions as to the future of Libya:

1. There will be a quiet transition of power which is of course a far-fetched probability in view of the myriad factors influencing the future decision-making in the country. Nothing can be predicted precisely and this may come true in the long run. After all, a smooth transition of power can materialize if the international body makes herculean efforts and does everything in its power. In this respect, the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has vowed to help the people in the African country while calling for a smooth and peaceful transition of power.

“The dramatic scenes we are witnessing in Tripoli are a testament to the courage and determination of the Libyan people to seek a free and democratic future,” Ban told reporters at UN headquarters in New York.

However, a potentially bloody transition of power from the longtime rule of the dictator Muammar Gaddafi is highly predictable.

2. There are numerous tribes in Libya with influential leaders and heads positioned in different parts of the country each of whom can play a vital role in the future of Libya. Should wisdom prevail and national interests be placed above tribal prejudices, one can hope for a united Libya and eventually a democratic rule. Still, should tribal tensions arise and egoistic interests be sought, the country will plunge into a vortex of bloodshed and violence.

Despite all this, in a promising joint statement circulated around Libya in April in a show of political solidarity, the heads of 61 tribes called for an end to Muammar Gaddafi’s rule while aspiring for a united Libya. The statement released by French writer Bernard-Henri Levy read, “Faced with the threats weighing on the unity of our country, faced with the maneuvers and propaganda of the dictator and his family, we solemnly declare: Nothing will divide us. We share the same ideal of a free, democratic and united Libya. The Libya of tomorrow, once the dictator has gone, will be a united Libya, with Tripoli as its capital and where we will at last be free to build a civil society according to our own wishes."

3. NATO says it may wish to contribute to the post-Gaddafi’s Libya, meaning that they wish to poke their nose in the affairs of the country in future and nestle on the eggs they are laying until they are hatched. The influx of foreign forces into Libya under the pretext of establishing security and peace and thereby justifying their long-term presence in the oil-rich country is tantamount to the emergence of another Iraq in Libya and the expropriation of natural resources. In a nutshell, the end product of the foreign military presence will be a war of attrition to be dragged on for years on end.

These are the challenges faced by Libya. Yet, the idea of establishing democracy through free election is definitively the foremost concern of the Libyan people and the roadblock in the path of democracy will be foreign intervention.

Instead of rivalry, the Libyan people should unite and shun tribal tensions and usher their country into the democracy they have made supreme sacrifices for.