Libyan rebels must restore peace

23 August 2011

Stability is desperately needed in Libya, but will not be easy. Libya is in a better position than Egypt to start the reconstruction

The ease with which the rebel forces marched into Tripoli and took control of large parts of the capital was a shock.

Muammar Gaddafi remains at large, and security in the city is still a serious concern, but clearly the old regime is in its last days.

Attention must now turn to the future of Libya and the National Transitional Council (NTC) must demonstrate that the faith that has been put in it by Western leaders has not been misplaced. Although plans for a post-Gaddafi Libya have been drawn up by the NTC with the help of Western governments, the immediate attention will turn to restoring peace, and preventing any further conflict or reprisals arising between the country’s various tribes.

Under its mandate to protect Libyan civilians, the UN is likely to continue to enforce a no-fly zone, perhaps until elections take place, currently scheduled to occur within 240 days. The more difficult challenge, as post-revolution Egypt has discovered, is to restore the economy, restart development projects, and get a functioning government in place that enjoys broad support.

Libya is in a better position than Egypt, which is struggling to make ends meet. Libya already has billions of dollars of assets and once the oil sector is back online, which may take up to three years,it will have a steady income stream to finance development projects.

That means a new government should have an easier time than Cairo will have designing economic policies and trying to meet the aspirations of the people. The wealth will also make Libya attractive to foreign companies, many of which have already been looking to get into the country over the past few years.

After the conflict, much of the reconstruction will seem a long way off. The longer the remnants of the Gaddafi regime hold out, and if the NTC splinters into its various factions, the further away that will drift. In the long term, holding Libya together under a post-Gaddafi leader may be more difficult than removing him.

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