Gaddafi’s death the 'end of the beginning'

18 October 2011

Muammar Gaddafi’s brutal and erratic rule is at an end in Libya after more than four decades. The country’s National Transitional Council now faces an struggle to rebuild the country

As a photograph that appeared to show the bloodied head of the former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, began circulating on the internet on Thursday 20 October and the country’s National Transitional Council (NTC) announced his death, world leaders went into overdrive in their attempts to describe the significance of the end of a dictator who went from pariah to reformer to pariah once again during his four decades as head of the state.

An NTC spokesman, Abdel Majid Mlegta, announced Gaddafi’s death at a hastily arranged conference in Tripoli. “We would like to present our sons and daughters in Libya and all countries of the world the following news,” he said. “The news of the end of tyranny and dictatorship in Libya, which will never return again. The revolutionaries were able to get to the head of the tyrant who has met his fate and destiny, which is the destiny of all dictators and tyrants. We announce to the world that Muammar Gaddafi has been killed.”

Libya will be formally declared “liberated” either late on 20 October or by the end of the following day, said NTC prime minister, Mahmoud Jibril.

“There are celebrations everywhere,” a Tripoli-Based former university professor and government consultant, tells MEED. “It is a huge moment. We are starting a new chapter.”


For British premier David Cameron, 20 October was a day to remember for the victims of Libyan state-sponsored terrorism and those who were tortured and killed under the Gaddafi regime. Alain Juppe, the French foreign minister, described Gaddafi’s death as a “historic event” and “the end of 42 years of tyranny”. Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi declared Libya’s civil war “over”.

But perhaps the most apt statement came from the UN secretary general Ban Ki-Moon, who delivered the least euphoric statement on Gaddafi’s death, perhaps mindful of the recent history of nation building in the region. “This is only the end of the beginning,” he said. “Now is the time for all Libyans to come together. Libyans can only realise the future through national unity and reconciliation.”

Ban Ki-Moon called for all combatants in the recent civil war to disarm, for the NTC to begin preparations for national elections and to look to the future. And that future is no more certain for the end of Gaddafi’s life.

Some facts are known. Once liberation has been declared, the NTC is committed to moving its headquarters to Tripoli from Benghazi, Libya’s second city, which was a base for rebel leaders throughout the uprising of 2011, by the end of November. The council will then have 210 days to prepare for the election of a 200-member national conference, which will in turn have a month to appoint a new prime minister - Jibril has already said that he will step down upon the declaration of liberation.

Gaddafism ended

The new premier will select a government, which he will submit to the council for approval, and will then set to work creating a new Libyan constitution. “The programme has been laid down and the principles are laid down under the NTC’s own plans, although this will obviously be easier said than done,” says Richard Dalton, former British ambassador to Libya, now an associate fellow at UK thinktank Chatham House.

Dalton believes that Gaddafi’s death will effectively spell the end of any resistance to the NTC. “Senior Libyans used to assure me that Gaddafism would not survive his passing, and I believe this to be absolutely true,” he says. “Some people may try to take revenge on the people who dispossessed them in his name, but it will be no more than that.”

Although efforts to rebuild other Middle Eastern states in the past have been met with internecine violence drawn down lines of sectarianism and loyalty to deposed leaders, Dalton believes that the NTC, and Libya, is in a strong position to return to stability and growth quickly. 

“There are excellent opportunities for stability now that Gaddafi has met his end,” he says. “The government is better placed to deal with the rising expectations of the population than countries less blessed with the kind of natural resources Libya has. The NTC will also get a warm international response, and will be supported in its reconstruction of the country.”


The main issue, he argues, will be the creation of new armed and security forces and making sure that they remain under civilian control; further, that the new government remains accountable to the wider population.

Beyond politics, a key concern for the new government will be the reconstruction of the country, particularly the infrastructure related to the production and export of Libya’s lucrative oil and gas resources, which will be a major priority as they are likely to generate most state revenues for the foreseeable future.

Oil and gas executives say that the NTC has already opened up talks over contracts to rebuild the country’s energy infrastructure as quickly as possible, while French major Total has already returned to the country. However, returning to pre-civil war production levels, 1.67 million barrels a day (b/d) in 2010 according to the UK’s BP, is likely to take 1-2 years, says one senior engineering executive with knowledge of the negotiations.

A glut of other contracts are likely to be tendered in the coming months and years in Libya, from town planning to power and water infrastructure by way of road-building. The more oil the country produces, the more it will be able to spend.

In the short term, says one diplomatic source, contracts to repair key infrastructure like roads and get public services like healthcare up and running, are already being tendered, with the NTC entering into direct negotiations with construction firms and service providers. In the short term, the Washington-headquartered World Bank has taken on responsibility for tendering contracts to rebuild the country, and has been working with the NTC since it recognised the council as the country’s legitimate government on 13 September. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has also been working closely with the council since it recognised its legitimacy on 10 September.


In the future, a key issue for the government in preparing and awarding these contracts, however, is one of state capacity. “Although there are a number of former civilian managers in the NTC, there is a real issue with planning and tendering deals right now,” says a development official who has worked with the NTC recently. “The main tender they have now is actually for assistance in building their capacity so they can conceive and get contracts out there.”

To date, the NTC only has issued one formal public tender, to “Develop Executive Office Capabilities”. In the council’s first budget, which ran for the six months to 30 September, it noted that of the LD55m ($44.8m) it spent, around 82 per cent of all expenses were salaries while operational expenses made up just 1.4 per cent of all spending.

In the longer term, as state capacity grows international aid and growing oil revenues are likely to fund a boom in spending. The country will need to spend around $30bn on oil and gas infrastructure alone by 2015 in order to hit production targets of 3 million b/d, Christophe Lecourtier, the director general of the French trade commission, Ubifrance, said on 17 October after meeting with NTC officials.

“If there is relative stability and they manage to get their act together in Tripoli there could be a massive boom in contract awards,” says one UK-based oil and gas executive. However, he adds, oil companies’ experience in Iraq means that, although they will gladly meet with the government to discuss future plans, they will also remain extremely cautious and watch for developments in the creation of new oil laws and will closely follow the way firms with contracts awarded under the Gaddafi regime are treated.

Regional impact

In an August interview with Reuters, the NTC minister for reconstruction, Ahmed Jehani, said that oil contracts signed in the country were “sacrosanct”, while oil minister Ali Tarhouni has told officials that his major concern is ramping oil production up to 1 million b/d in 2012. This is good news for companies like Total, Spain’s Repsol, Italy’s Eni and German’s BASF, which owns the oil production firm Wintershall.

In another positive move, the NTC has also retained a number of technocrats who previously worked for state firms including National Oil Corporation (NOC) under Gaddafi, rather than following the Iraqi path of purging Baath party members which effectively destroyed most institutional knowledge of the country’s inner workings.

Ultimately, Dalton says, the key to Libya’s future will be political stability, something on which he declares himself an “optimist”.

Meanwhile, one Bahrain-based political analyst, who asks not to be named due to the sentitivity of his position, tells MEED that Gaddafi’s death could have wider repercussions in the region. “It will give a boost to opposition movements in other countries,” he says, naming Yemen and Syria as prime candidates for an increase in unrest in the coming days.

MEED Insight Reseach Report

Libyan Projects Market Report 2012

A comprehensive overview of project opportunities in the new Libya. Through more than 120 pages, get up-to-date exclusive data, research and analysis into the Libyan projects market post-conflict.

Key figures within the National Transitional Council:

More stories on the NTC in Libya

Business opportunities

  • Libya tenders: With the exception of the sole tender issued by the NTC, there have been few tenders issued within Libya this year.

More business news on Libya

A MEED Subscription...

Subscribe or upgrade your current package to support your strategic planning with the MENA region’s best source of business information. Proceed to our online shop below to find out more about the features in each package.

Get Notifications