On 19 August 2011, Abdel Hafiz Ghoga, Vice-Chairman of National Transition Council (NTC), the rebel group fighting against the Colonel Gaddafi regime in Libya announced that The zero hour has started. The rebels in Tripoli have risen up.‘ This was followed by important gains made by the rebels in the second part of August, taking control of strategically important coastal cities of Zlitan and Zawiya. However, referring to the rebels in the capital, Tripoli, Those rats were attacked by the masses tonight and we eliminated them‘, Gaddafi said. The civil uprising in Libya against the government forces have been struggling to make a decisive impact for a victory since February, even though it has been enjoying the military support of NATO since 19 March 2011. The last five months were in fact, an environment of a total military stalemate between the Gaddafi regime and NTC. With the aerial support of NATO against Gaddafi forces, the rebels have been fighting over key coastal cities between their capital‘ city of Benghazi in the east and Tripoli in the west, taking control of them, but then losing them to Gaddafi forces, and then fighting over them again. Nevertheless, as of 24 August, the NTC forces are already in Tripoli and Gaddafi‘s Bab al-Aziziya compound was overrun by the rebels. On the other hand, Gaddafi vowed death or victory‘ in his fight against NTC and he is believed to be somewhere in Libya. Is this the end of Gaddafi? Jonathan Marcus, BBC Diplomatic and Defence Correspondent, questioning the latest NTC gains around Tripoli as a possible beginning of the end for the Libyan conflict, adopts a cautious position by pointing out that up to now the rebel fighters have often shown little military momentum, their advances evaporating almost as quickly as they are made.
The importance of being cautious about the outcome of the Libya conflict is something that the author of this article knows only too well, as I claimed and in fact, hoped that Gaddafi would follow the footsteps of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia and Hosni Mubarak of Egypt in one of my previous Political Reflection articles. It was still the early days of Arab Spring‘ then, and I wrote: Gaddafi was still clinging to power, but probably not for very long before that he is consigned to the bloody pages of history as the third dictator in North Africa, who was removed from power in February 2011. ‘ Five months later, Gaddafi is not in power but his fight is still not over either, and therefore adopting a more cautious line of prediction this time, I would bear in mind a number of other possibilities such as further prolonging of the conflict or the rebels being forced to reach a political settlement with Gaddafi. Nevertheless, as the title of this article suggests, to elaborate the future reconstruction challenges in Libya, a post-Gaddafi scenario will be taken as the most likely scenario.
The objective here is also not to outline specific aspects of post-conflict reconstruction in Libya, as this would largely depend on a number of factors such as how much longer the fighting would continue and consequently, the level, type, and scope of damage and destruction incurred by the country‘s infrastructure, economy and societal structures. How the conflict comes to an end and who would be the victor‘ of the conflict, with what terms and agreements, would also be another key issue, defining the boundaries of a future post-conflict reconstruction process. In terms of actors, bearing in mind the NATO‘s current military involvement and Libya‘s oil and natural gas wealth (the 9h largest proven oil reserves in the world), it would be safe to claim that there would be a significant involvement of the international community . However, a victory by NTC would mean a much greater involvement by the international community in the re-structuring of Libya‘s governance, security and economic structures. Leading NATO countries such as the US, UK, France and Turkey as well as a number of Gulf countries such as Qatar and United Arab Emirates with their strong alliance with NTC are likely to play a prominent role in such a process. In fact, in the formation of the NATO alliance for the military intervention and decision on the UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1973 which paved the way for such an intervention, such calculations for post-conflict Libya seemed to have played a key role. For example, Turkey‘s response was much more hesitant in showing its solidarity to the popular uprising at the beginning and it was much conciliatory towards the Gaddafi regime and trying to distance itself from the NTC. This was largely due to its strong economic ties with the Libyan regime and more significantly, because of a large number of Turkish citizens who live in Libya. In fact, it was the largest evacuation operation Turkey has ever undertaken. Around 25,000 of its citizens and thousands of other nationals were rescued by deploying civilian ferries and the Turkish navy . However, when Turkey realized that a UNSCR to allow a military intervention became inevitable it switched sides and decided to take part in the NATO-led operation, knowing that those who take part in the military intervention would also be the ones deciding on the future of the country, as was the case in Iraq.
How the conflict comes to an end and who would be the ‘victor’ of the conflict, with what terms and agreements, would also be another key issue, defining the boundaries of a future post- conflict reconstruction process.
With these general characteristics in mind and based on recent reconstruction experiences in Kosovo, Timor Leste, Afghanistan and Iraq, it would be possible to list a number of challenges and dilemmas that might also arise in the context of Libya. First, articulating a vision for the future that is shared by all or most stakeholders can be crucial to the success of post-conflict reconstruction, as it can mobilise populations to contribute to the process effectively. Even if it is a NTC victory that brings the conflict to an end in Libya, the task of reconstruction would require the development of collaborative structures of governance with the participation of actors from all aspects of societal and political structures of the country, including those who are currently supporting Gaddafi. The victor‘s peace‘ may seem to be easy to implement, but if it is purely for the purpose of a regime change, as was the case in Iraq through the de-Ba‘athification policy, it can result in new devastating conflict dynamics. The Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in Iraq started the de-Ba‘athification programme in May 2003, two months after the US-led victory‘ against Saddam Hussein, and the goal was to eradicate the Ba‘ath Party from the Iraqi political system. This involved the removal of thousands of civil servants, academics, politicians, police officers and army personnel from their posts. This was considered to be an essential cornerstone for the democratisation‘ of Iraq but instead, it has created a fertile recruiting ground for the Iraqi insurgency groups, as only with the demobilisation of the Iraqi military, around half a million soldiers and officers started to roam the streets of Baghdad – angry, frustrated and unemployed without pensions .
It is very likely that a vast range of large and expensive reconstruction projects for destroyed infrastructure, housing and services and the re-structuring of security forces might mean the risk of the process turning into a „contract grabbing‟ exercise among the leading NATO countries. Differently from post-conflict environments such as Afghanistan, Timor Leste or Sierra Leone, Libya has actually got the means to pay for its own reconstruction. Therefore, the risk of turning the reconstruction process into a lucrative exercise for awarding contracts to the international private contractors without adequate participation of national and local authorities is very much there and this could result in programme failures, long delays in responding to urgent needs, the waste of scarce resources, and, most dangerously, renewed violence. This would be particularly important for the NTC and its allies to have a strong legitimacy in the eyes of Libyans. The NTC would need to prove that they are representing the interests of people but not the international community. Without earning such legitimacy, the new regime will not be able to develop and sustain an effective governance system in the country. The Iraq reconstruction experience is full of appropriate lessons for the importance of national legitimacy and differently from Iraq the advantage of NTC in Libya is that it has been fighting its own popular uprising rather than being installed there by the international community on the day after the „victory‟. Again differently from Iraq, the NATO‟s military intervention was through aerial bombing and therefore, there are no foreign troops in Libya. This would be an advantage for the NTC and the way they could establish their own legitimacy, as it is less likely that they would be seen as collaborators of a foreign invasion. However, this would also mean that they need to take the control of the existing security apparatus of the country quickly and gain the trust of people, as this would be the only way they could protect their new regime. Nevertheless, with or without troops, the international community is likely to exert pressure on NTC for a key role in the reconstruction of the country. As experience with the contemporary practice of establishing a vision for reconstruction shows, such an external role often means leaving too little space for the inclusion of the views of internal actors about what they wish to see the reconstruction process doing, and how it should take place.
Differently from post-conflict environments such as Afghanistan, Timor Leste or Sierra Leone, Libya has actually got the means to pay for its own reconstruction. Therefore, the risk of turning the reconstruction process into a lucrative exercise for awarding contracts to the international private contractors without adequate participation of national and local authorities is very much there and this could result in programme failures, long delays in responding to urgent needs, the waste of scarce resources, and, most dangerously, renewed violence.
The second key issue with the reconstruction of Libya would be with the nature, speed and scope of transformation and reform that the political, economic and security realms of the country would be expected to go through by the new regime and its international allies. It is likely that there might be different national and international dynamics with this and as the situation would be changing quickly, frequently and drastically, it would be difficult to make sensible projections at this stage. However, the most likely scenario would be the way the international community is likely to be using its liberal peace agenda for the re-structuring of the Libyan state. This would involve its standard programme packages such as democratisation‘, economic liberalisation and privatisation‘, good governance and decentralisation‘ and security sector reform‘. For example, in order to strengthen the legitimacy of NTC there is likely to be a general election soon after the victory‘ without having a proper opportunity for the establishment of other requirements of a well-functioning democracy such as political parties (they have been banned by the 1972 Prohibition of Party Politics Act Number 71); a free media (according to the Freedom of Press Index, Libya had the most censored media in the Middle East and North Africa); systems of checks and balances; a strong and resourceful civil society engagement (only a small number of NGOs exist but no trade unions); and ensuring rule of law and legislative guarantees for the protection of human rights. The international community has tried to „democratise‟ many war-torn countries through its liberal peace state-building approach before and the result has often been a fragile democracy trying to deal with the challenge of insufficient legitimacy. Therefore, it is important that the reconstruction process itself is seen as an opportunity for gaining such legitimacy and for that reconstruction has to be „process-based‟ rather than „goal-based‟.
The new regime has a responsibility to show that the Libyans are treated like citizens who have not only duties and responsibilities but also rights. To empower them and give them a chance to remove themselves from the paternalistic and authoritarian days of Gaddafi, the reconstruction process would need to question how to deliver and when, as well as what to deliver. For example, the security sector reform is likely to be seen as a priority in order to deal with the Gaddafi-loyal elements of the military and police service. After the disastrous Iraqi experience, there would be no excuse, if the international community comes up with a de-Gaddafication‘ programme, as this would mean an invitation to a protracted insurgency problem or high levels of crime in the country. After a civil war of six months, one of the first peace dividends the people of Libya would naturally expect is the establishment of security and stability. Seeing Libya like a blank sheet for reform in all aspects of governance, judiciary, economy and security would likely to be counter-productive. Whatever reform is necessary should be undertaken in a gradual way and a possible de-Gaddafication‘ policy should be the last thing to consider in Libya. In order to maintain an environment of security and stability, it is also important to consider that there might be certain elements of peace-spoilers‘ in the post-conflict environment. There can be two effective ways of dealing with this possible challenge. First, the victor‘s peace should not turn into a humiliation exercise for Gaddafi supporters within the bureaucracy, security apparatuses and other governance units. Second, a peaceful settlement with Gaddafi himself and his support base in terms of different tribes and other loyal population groups would be the best guarantee for the sustainability of peace in the country. The 2002 Bonn Agreement for Afghanistan was a victor‘s reconstruction plan, which excluded the Taliban and consequently, now almost 10 years later, the war against the Taliban continues.
Thanks to its high oil revenues, under the Gaddafi regime Libya had one of the highest GDP per capita (approx. $11,300) among North African countries and more importantly, its small population of around 6.5 million enjoyed an extensive social security system, particularly in housing and education (Libya has the highest literacy rate in North Africa – 88.3%) . As a result of the state social policies, the prevalence of poverty in the country is much lower than in its neighbours and in fact, such direct benefits from the state was one of the reasons Gaddafi sustained a strong support base for his regime. Therefore, it is important that the reconstruction process is not perceived as taking such state benefits from the population as the liberalisation of the economy may de- mand cuts in welfare systems. Such economic transformation processes with heavy-handed structural adjustment programmes led by the Bretton Woods institutions have meant the worsening of economic prospects for war-affected communities around the world such as Uganda, El Salvador and Cambodia. In former-Soviet countries and some of former Yugoslav
The international community has tried to „democratise‟ many war-torn countries through its liberal peace state building approach before and the result has often been a fragile democracy trying to deal with the challenge of insufficient legitimacy.
republics highly valuable state assets such as key industrial facilities and access to natural resources such as mines, oil and natural gas reserves were ended up in the hands of a few individuals who had strong links with the ruling political establishment. In Lebanon, the reconstruction of the Beirut Central District through a shareholder private company created a heavy debt burden for the entire population. Overall, the risk with the reconstruction process is that if it is not guided with well-adjusted economic policies according to socio-economic realities of the country, the experience in Libya could be manipulated for the benefit of powerful elites within the new regime and their international supporters. This would be highly damaging both for the legitimacy of NTC and the prospects of long-term stability in the country. What Libya should avoid is the creation of a gap between haves‘ and have nots‘ through its reconstruction experience, which could provide suitable conditions for a possible insurgency risk against the new regime.
Finally, with the NTC‘s victory‘ against the Gaddafi regime, the Arab Spring‘ will be opening a new chapter. It is clear that what has been happening in Libya over the last six months will have serious ramifications not only in the Middle East and North Africa but also around the world. The population paid a heavy price with a death toll of 20,000 people, but the Gaddafi‘s totalitarian regime is now almost over. This would likely to have a strong resonance in other countries under similar totalitarian regimes! I would probably be focussing on the reconstruction of Syria in my next Political Reflection article. However, the real challenge for NTC is actually starting just now because all decisions to be made over the next few months will have huge bearings in the future of the country. Even small mistakes can have serious im- pacts in fragile environments, and the regime change experience taking place in Libya could now turn into something devastating for the entire population. Therefore, the post-Gaddafi reconstruction of Libya would need to be handled with upmost care and effectiveness by bearing in mind the key issues of legitimacy, joined-up vision, national ownership, participation, reform agenda, empowerment and distribution of wealth. PR
* Alpaslan Özerdem is Professor of Peacebuilding at Coventry University.
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