Libyans first

Statue of Gaddafi's head under a rebel's boot.

Libya.

The Western backed rebels overthrow a dictator hated by so many of his own countrymen and women. The dictator’s compound is overrun and symbolic violence is rife. Heads of statues, luxury items, destroyed in an overwhelming display of liberty. The actual dictator himself can’t be found, but that doesn’t matter anymore! It is too late for him now! Freedom!

Sound familiar?

Libya is entering into its most dangerous time, and not a single world leader, nor single Libyan citizen should detract from the outstanding (and frankly terrifying) worry of a collapse in unity from the rebel camp. This is to take nothing at all away from the people of Libya, and we must all rejoice in the end of such a brutal dictatorship. But in order for this to be exemplary in the region, a few warnings are probably best heeded. When a certain Saddam Hussein was overthrown, and statues and idols were desecrated, the West envisioned a smooth transitional period into a fully fledged democratic arena. The potential for in-fighting is absolutely crystal clear. With the overthrowing of Gaddafi comes the end of a unifying raison d’etre. For this reason, there needs to be a huge amount of effort, from various actors, in varying fields.

The West, but in particular Messrs. Obama and Cameron, must immediately provide financial aid to the NTC. The US is supposedly prepared to release frozen Libyan funds (of roughly $1.5 billion) in order to get the process underway. This is a great start, but more importantly, it is only a start. Here is where Western involvement should cease. It is not for the US, or the UK, or NATO to impose any predominantly ideological will in this transition. This would be absolutely disastrous, as it would provide a tipping point to ordinary North Africans and Middle-Eastern people. Iraq proved this. Afghanistan has proved this.

Here is where the AU, Egypt and Tunisia must step in. Guidance is crucial, but must remain only guidance. The Libyan people must decide the fresh direction the country should take, but they should heed the pitfalls of history, avoid them, and come out stronger at the other end. There needs to be relatively localised support in this sense, as it is obvious that when it comes to regime change, the West is at a loss in understanding the independence of the citizens of the country.

Finally, if Gaddafi and/or his sons are caught, it is imperative, perhaps even of paramount importance, that he is sent to trial at The Hague. Libya has been completely rocked by this rebellion, and the judiciary will be revamped in any circumstance that prevails. As this is the case, it is important that the trial be completely fair, and sadly this will not be possible in the country for a number of months or possibly even years. Gaddafi must face justice. However, Libya must provide the region with an example of how to successfully transition a country from unjust to just.

Rebel troops inside Gaddafi’s compound.

Nico Leon.

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