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What is next for Libya?

Former Libyan dic­tator Moammar Gad­hafi met a vio­lent death at the hands of rev­o­lu­tionary forces last Thursday in his home­town of Sirte, less than a year after he vowed to perish rather than con­cede defeat to a pop­ular uprising. We asked Kim­berly Jones, a fac­ulty asso­ciate in North­eastern University’s Middle East Center for Peace, Cul­ture and Devel­op­ment, to ana­lyze the impact of Gadhafi’s death on the nation of Libya and its poten­tial effect on global per­cep­tions of the Arab Spring.

Given the repres­sion Libyans faced under Gadhafi’s regime, how will his death affect Libyan gov­ern­ment and society? 

In terms of moving for­ward, it depends, in part, on the cred­i­bility of the inves­ti­ga­tion into the cir­cum­stances of his death and what is learned. On the one hand, many Libyans are undoubt­edly relieved at Gadhafi’s passing — there is no danger of his lurking in the shadows and plot­ting a vengeful come­back (although pro-​​Gadhafi forces still loom, albeit less large). On the other hand, with his death, there is a lack of jus­tice and account­ability for the crimes his regime com­mitted, which could hinder people’s ability to heal and move for­ward in the pos­i­tive and pro­duc­tive way that is needed for Libya to build a new state. Also, the cir­cum­stances sur­rounding his death raise issues about the absence of the rule of law — not nec­es­sarily unex­pected given the sit­u­a­tion — but very impor­tant nonetheless.

What sta­bility chal­lenges will Libya face in the wake of Gadhafi’s death? 

While many sta­bility issues loom for Libya, the nation’s key chal­lenges include: seeking a bal­ance between the com­peting agendas of the armed groups — they were not known to be a cohe­sive, con­ge­nial bunch; sorting through a way to hold Gad­hafi loy­al­ists account­able and pro­vide a mea­sure of jus­tice without having it become a matter of national divi­sion and pre­oc­cu­pa­tion that side­lines all other progress; finding con­struc­tive ways to mar­gin­alize those who seek to throw a wrench in the state-​​building works; cre­ating legit­i­mate state struc­tures that are cred­ible and respon­sive to the needs of the people while, at the same time, man­aging pop­ular expec­ta­tions; and ensuring that the state-​​building process is indige­nous and inclu­sive and that external assis­tance is just that, and not attempts to con­trol or manipulate.

How will Gadhafi’s demise affect global per­cep­tions of the Arab Spring?  

In the short term, it depends on who you are and where you are. If you had a vested interest in Gad­hafi, you may mourn the seeming sta­bility his regime pro­vided. If you are a regional leader whose reign is in peril, you may re-​​evaluate your options (yet again). Or, if you are a rev­o­lu­tionary, you could cel­e­brate the end of another despotic ruler, but mourn the lack of account­ability for his crimes.   In the long term, it depends on what comes next. The inter­na­tional com­mu­nity could exer­cise patience as Libya strug­gles polit­i­cally to build a demo­c­ratic state that is con­tex­tu­ally appro­priate. Or, Libyans could struggle vio­lently as fac­tion­alism, the pro­lif­er­a­tion of weapons and regional insta­bility all feed off of each other. While there is a middle ground in the midst of these two sce­narios, it is crit­ical to keep in mind that nei­ther is des­tiny — both are a product of choices made inter­nally and externally.

– by Lauren Dibble


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