Libya – Crooked perspectives

Six months of NATO bombings, and a war on the ground, were not enough to design a new nation. The acceptance of the new Libya by the General Assembly of the UN and the forming of a government, still say little about the future of this country. Kaddafi’s defeat is now certain, nothing is clear about his future, and many questions remain unanswered. The most important question – why this war? –  is begging for answers. While Tunisia and Egypt chose a non violent way, the protest in Benghazi chose the use of weapons. Was that inevitable?

With Cameron and Sarkozy’s visit to Tripoli, we realize that NATO intervention was due more to financial and political reasons than humanitarian concern. After losing face in Tunisia, France wanted to recover some shine, and hegemony on the region. Yet, neither France nor Great Britain have been able to secure a dominant role in the area, for too many things have changed. While Egypt lost its primacy in Western Mediterranean, Turkey is ready to fill in the vacuum, also because Ankara did not find space in Europe. The same Europe that keeps aloof in the region. It seems that the old continent has no strategy in its dealings with Northern Africa and the Middle East. Yes, a few projects have received financing. Yet, Europe divided over the war, and over the admission of Palestine at the UN. The economic crisis is stealing the attention and Europe seems able only to react to events, with no master plan.

Other international bodies have been bruised in the melee. Africa has been sidelined by France’s intervention. Yet, a more courageous approach from single States or the AU would have saved the credibility of the continent. The Security Council mandate has been clearly not kept in consideration, placing the protection of civilians aside. What was important was to win the war. The belligerents reacted fastidiously to the International Criminal Court’s arrest warrant for the dictator and his main supporters. The Court was interfering with political decision, and the plan to kill the Libyan Guide. On a positive note, Tunisia accepted and plaid the role of guarantor of the human rights of Libyans. A good example for all, Tunisia has now the chance to lead the work of normalization in the region, creating new relations with Tripoli’s government.

On September 13, Amnesty International published a report confirming the violence of Kaddafi’s troops, but also documenting with precision the violations of the resistance. At this point, the question is how Libyans will benefit from the Kaddafi’s ousting.  The departure of the dictator was a condition for change, but it is not enough. The country needs institutions, which have been demolished by the Guide during his long tenure. Libyans start from zero. There are no political parties and civil society is nonexistent. The only organized movements are those linked to Islamic radicalism. Democratic groups are weak and divided.

During the war, the media advertises a comic version of the ‘tribal struggles’ that were to decide the destiny of the conflict. Tribal identities, in Libya, are different from ethnic belonging. People move freely within tribal identities, allegiances varies with the changing of interests. Mapping tribes is a dynamic task. This is why those intervening in Libya may influence the political discourse by providing weapons, money and promises of future investments. It seems that no country has shown a transparent behaviour in this field. Yet, this is a delicate matter. The war may generate monsters also after the liberation.

Much has been said about Kaddafi and his metamorphosis. Ibn Khaldun, a medieval historian from the region, in the introduction of his Discourse on Universal History opposed the Bedouins – sombre and virtuous people – to the people of the cities – sedentary and corrupt. We now know that the famous Tent of Kaddafi was a superficial statement of Bedouin-ness. Kaddafi had become a sedentary and so a corrupt leader. Maybe the last chance for the former dictator is to find a rebirth in that desert he abandoned years ago. There he might look for ways to conquer power once again, perhaps with the help of Al Qaeda which is very active in the region.

Luciano Ardesi


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