Libyans have reacted overwhelmingly positively to the news of Muammar Qaddafi's death. USIP's Manal Omar discusses what impact his death will have on Libya's transition and future.

October 24, 2011

Libyans have reacted overwhelmingly positively to the news of Muammar Qaddafi's death. USIP's Manal Omar discusses what impact his death will have on Libya's transition and future.

What has been the reaction inside Libya to the announcement of Qaddafi’s death?

Libyans have reacted overwhelmingly positively to the news and with a strong sense of celebration in the air. One of the primary complaints within Libya is that the country was eclipsed by the personality of Qaddafi. With him now out of the picture, the focus can return to the Libyan people. There has also been a strong call for the Transitional National Council (TNC) to demonstrate a new way of operating inside Libya by providing Qaddafi with a proper Muslim burial, and to be buried immediately in an unmarked grave. There has been strong condemnation on celebratory photos with the body, and emphasis that the new stage of Libya needs to be one that brings closure to the chapter in history that involves the Qaddafi dictatorship.

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How would you assess the possible impact of Qaddafi's death on Libya's transition?

Since the beginning of the uprising, the Libyans have been aware that the true test of success would be in the rebuilding of the nation, a process could only start after Qaddafi was captured or killed. The TNC has outlined a clear process forward, with elections and a constitutional declaration. Their consistent statement has been that the transition to democracy cannot begin until the fighting is over. The assumption across the country is that with Qaddafi’s death, the fighting is now over and thus a new process must begin. This will prove to be very difficult, however. Key power clashes within the TNC, which had been deferred by the unifying focus on apprehending Qaddafi, may now emerge. The difficult conversations will need to start, though, and these will focus primarily on creating a representative government structure.

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What are the challenges facing Libya in the short- and medium-term?

The critical challenge is being able to transition from a state of war to a process of reconstruction and nation building. The current phase Libya is entering is an overwhelming and exciting one with a new social contract being negotiated. The key is to make sure that marginalized groups – youth, women, and minorities – are at the decision-making table to influence the emerging social contract. The TNC has signed up to play the role of duty bearer, and as a result it is their responsibility to ensure these voices are represented beyond rhetoric and translated into seats around the negotiating table.

Libyans across the country have expressed reservations about the TNC, but were willing to cooperate because of a pragmatic recognition that a united coalition would win international recognition and support. The key element is for the TNC not to assume this international recognition automatically will translate into local buy in. All the right ingredients are present, but the revolution does not end by overthrowing the dictator. The primary challenge in the short term is for rebel leaders and civil society organizations that have been preoccupied with the immediate needs of liberation to find a voice in the development of the way forward for Libya. Many have expressed frustration that the TNC had moved beyond its mandate when developing the constitutional declaration, and although they may not disagree with the actual content, strongly disagreed with the lack of broad consultation in its development. Groups on the ground are prepared to cooperate with the TNC, but only if they feel their voices are being heard and reflected in decision making.

The other immediate challenge will be to create mechanisms for transparency once Libyan financial assets are unfrozen. There is a strong concern on the ground that if the money is released without proper monitoring mechanisms it will not be fully accounted for several years and not put to use for the Libyan people.

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What is the U.S. Institute of Peace doing on the ground in Libya?

USIP has been working on the ground in Libya since early in the conflict, engaging with the burgeoning civil society sector and nascent government institutions. Throughout the process, USIP has been serving in an advisory role to the Libya Stabilization Team formed by presidential decree by the TNC. In addition to working with the Ministry of Reconstruction, USIP has been closely working with the Ministry of Capacity Building and the Ministry of Culture and Civil Society to identify the immediate needs and to respond to the demands on the ground.

In a few days, USIP staff will be in Tripoli to train over 60 Libyan activists in basic conflict management as a long term project USIP is working on to create an Alliance of Libyan Facilitators. This is a follow up to a similar workshop conducted in Benghazi. That training drew 65 participants from eight different regions of the country and aimed to build local capacity and identify strong potential partners. In addition, USIP trained 30 members of local NGOs on the role of civil society and how to engage in nation building.

In August, USIP held screenings of Confronting the Truth, a USIP-produced film that depicts the process undertaken in post-conflict countries that have experienced massive human rights violations. The film focuses on truth and reconciliation commissions and the governmental, societal, and legal reforms implemented to address the pain of the past, and to safeguard human rights and due process. The screening in Benghazi was attended by more than 160 Libyans and was followed by a discussion on justice and reconciliation.

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