By Nafissa Assed
Tripoli, 15 April:
We all know that Libya has suffered too much, but there are still Libyans who are able . . .[restrict]to decide the future of the country. It is the Libyan people who have the right to plan for their own future. The role of other countries is to be there and lend a hand and give advice when needed. However, even though Western decision-makers keep insisting that they will not interfere in Libya’s internal affairs in the aftermath of the war, it is hard to believe that Libyans will have the last word and be in the driver’s seat when deciding the country’s future.
Only the naïve and deluded can ever think that the NATO bombing which led to regime change in Libya was purely about saving Libyans from a ruthless dictator. The fact is that the Western coalition has a deservedly appalling reputation. Actually, apart from some environmental disasters and humanitarian crises, no country in the world acts solely out of kindness and compassion. That’s not how the US and their fellow supreme rulers in the UN and NATO operate.
They have motives other than protecting innocent children, women and unarmed civilians – and in Libya’s case, the motive reeks of OIL. Otherwise, what is so different about Bahrainis, Yemenis and now Syrians? Why is so little being done against the tyrannical Syrian regime?
The real political cliques know the answer to this and it is quite simple: the West either can’t or doesn’t want to do anything about the Syrian regime. Hypocrites! YES! That’s why we must rejoice each time a tyrant falls because if you are looking for morality, you will rarely find it in politics. International relations are based on realism and pragmatism that lead governments to act. They do not act according to moral and legal principles but according to considerations of power and geopolitics, economics and other strategic interests.
Though Libya is a rich country and has the means to pay for its recovery, war healing and rebuilding, international financial institutions and western governments are still determined to provide financial aid and assistance to the new government in Tripoli. And of course the conditions for external aid and assistance will allow the supporters or the donors to meddle in the internal affairs of Libya and have a significant say, if not a final say, when it comes to liberalisation, privatisation and macroeconomics. The end goal in Libya is likely to be the creation of a “paying guest state,” unable in the long run to function without foreign help and assistance.
Without a doubt, Libya is facing a hard climb when it comes to governance and economic development. However, bringing in foreign consultants will not improve the situation significantly in the long-run. In addition, many foreign experts have little knowledge of the local context and conditions in Libya. Furthermore, instead of building local capacity, external support will only exacerbate dependence on foreign assistance.
Unfortunately, local ownership in Libya is little more than empty rhetoric. There is not enough communication or connection between the interim government and ordinary Libyans. Local people and political elites have little to say to each other and communicate about what’s going on in Libya.
This huge gap in communication between the government and Libyan citizens is disappointing and greatly helps rumors and false news to spread rapidly and be believed. In fact, from the beginning, the plan of funding and implementation of post-war projects has been carried out by outsiders. And in addition to the mass group of Western NGOs and aid agencies coming to Libya, the country has witnessed is a mushrooming of local NGOs and civil society groups funded by donor money.
While some of these organisations are actually attempting and intending to reform and build the country, a large number of them are not actually rooted in the needs of the Libyan people and society; they exist solely to sustain donor objectives and outlines.
Western policy makers unfortunately don’t have the time and determination for long-term plans and projects in Libya. They need achievement and credit now. Why? Here is the answer: We all know that the pre-election campaigns are starting in many Western countries, whose presidents need rapid and immediate success in Libya in order to improve their images in their own countries. For example, President Sarkozy of France, who is facing a difficult election, has already openly claimed that Libya was ‘’his war’’!
The fact that externally driven quick repairs or fixes aimed at postwar recovery, democratisation and economic liberalisation can easily aggravate the unhealed divisions in Libya and worsen the current hostilities and conflicts in different Libyan cities and so prolong instability and enmity in Libya will very likely not cross the minds of Western policy makers.
And at the end of the day, if the liberal peace project fails yet again, Western organisations, donors and international financial institutions will not accept any responsibility. They will put the blame on the lack of capacity of the new Libyan rulers, the spread of corruption and the inability of Libyans to compete in the free market.
As Libya enters this highly critical stage and the NTC and the interim government are ‘’supposedly’’ running things in Libya, there will be important lines of responsibility to watch in order to predict what Libya will become. In fact, as divisions continue to deepen and factual errors in reporting increase, the vision of an embattled Libya is almost certain. Take a few seconds and consider the grim prospect of constant conflicts that often emerge in different cities in Libya and America’s eagerness to continue its war on terror. Al-Qaeda — and other so-called Islamic extremists which have nothing to do with Islam — is said to make up the ranks among Libya’s revolutionaries and thus an expanded American involvement does not at all seem out of the question.
Internally driven recovery and state building in any country is a long, hard and uncertain process. Yet we still hope that we Libyans can rebuild our lives. After years of oppression and months of suffering and destruction, we must decide on our own to establish a Libyan society based on democratic principles and local customs and traditions, rebuild the civil administration, infrastructure and economy, disarm local militias, repatriate refugees and provide basic security, stability, law and order without any large-scale external help and assistance.
Qaddafi has gone once and for all but Libyans are now facing multiple challenges: not only conflicts between one other but also between the countries that invested in the attack on Qaddafi. Now France is firm to have the upper hand politically and economically; Italy regards Libya as its backyard; the UK wants to safeguard and maintain its contracts; Turkey is keen to restore its influence in the old Ottoman world; and US oil companies want their share. At the same time, China and Russia are likely losing their foothold in Libya.
I hope Libyans read this article carefully and are aware of what’s going on around them, especially when it comes to deciding their own future. Though I have no doubts that we Libyans are not fools or naive, we didn’t overthrew the tyrant dictator just to have others tell us what to do and not to do, or how to decide our future. We fought for freedom and we deserve to live in freedom.
Nafissa Assed writes for numerous blogs and on-line publications. She is a former Libyan exile who was born and brought up in Morocco. Her father returned in 1990 but was murdered by the Qaddafi regime in Libya. After his death she lived with her grandfather, Mohamed Othman Assed, Libya’s prime minister from 17 October 1960 to 19 March 1963. In 2010, she moved to Libya full-time.
After the Libyan revolution started, she wrote anonymously from Tripoli on what was going on inside the country.