West bids to avoid post-Gaddafi chaos


Without even waiting for the fall of Tripoli, the West is already preparing for life after Moamer Gaddafi with two main concerns: avoiding Libya’s partition after four decades of authoritarian rule and ensuring a genuine transition to democracy. NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen on Monday urged the rebel political leadership, Libya’s Transitional National Council (TNC), to “make sure that the transition is smooth and inclusive, that the country stays united, and that the future is founded on reconciliation and respect for human rights.”
US President Barack Obama expressed similar concerns, calling on the TNC to “demonstrate the leadership that is necessary to steer the country through a transition by respecting the rights of the people of Libya.” And EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton again urged the rebel forces to “fully respect humanitarian and human rights law and protect citizens.”
With the rebels seemingly set to take Tripoli, the West worries that Gaddafi’s fall after four decades of strongman rule to keep tribal factions in their place could give rise to new vendettas between victor and vanquished, leaving little chance for national reconciliation.
“Many Libyans tell us there will be scores to be settled because we are in a situation of civil war and the conflict has only exacerbated tensions that were bubbling away under the surface for so long,” an EU diplomat who works on the ground told AFP.
“History shows us that when power is obtained through arms rather than peaceful means, military legitimacy enters into conflict with democratic legitimacy,” says Alavaro de Vasconcelos, the head of the EU Institute for Security. To avoid that, a real integration is required also including “very conservative Islamist forces, close to the Muslim Brotherhood, but non-violent,” he adds. “Each has their place.”
However, “the danger is that the TNC based in Benghazi thinks it should dominate the future transitional government,” he warned, flagging up deep cultural differences between the east and the west of this desert nation.
The task for Libya in transition is enormous, as Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said Monday, calling on a big effort from the UN and others too.