By Sufyan Maghur.
Tripoli, 24 October:
As the world observes the first anniversary of Qaddafi’s death, Libya’s political system continues to adapt to . . .[restrict]its new reality. The country’s politicians and revolutionaries are still not integrated into one unified political body. A functional government has not yet been created, and the Libyan people are awaiting the opportunity to discuss a long-awaited (and much-deserved) constitution.
However, the far more troubling trend – and one that requires the people’s utmost attention – are the ongoing armed confrontations between different factions in some Libyan cities. Equally unsettling is the careless use of the terms ‘Liberation’ and ‘National Reconciliation’, which sound uncomfortably similar to the idea of ‘Cleansing’ – a process which the world has seen before in Bosnia and Rwanda, and that appears to be happening now or where Libya is heading towards.
It is commonly agreed that Libya did not go through a ‘war of liberation’, but rather a revolution that united the Libyan people and inspired them to rise against a dictatorship that was holding the country and its people hostage. The revolution was not premeditated, nor did it carry a wide variety of banners from the country’s diverse population; instead, the revolution projected one voice against Moammar Qaddafi and his regime.
The revolution provided for many joyous occasions: the day that Tripoli and other Libyan cities joined in giving their support to the east; the day that Benghazi rose up against the regime; the day that NATO and the UN took action to support the Libyan people; the day that Misurata began its brave struggle to stop the regime’s march toward the east; the day that Zintan and the western mountains defied the regime’s militias and launched the revolution; the day Zawyia gave it’s youth and citizens a shield for the revolution and a became nightmare for the dictator; the day that Tripoli was liberated; and the day the dictator himself was captured and killed, which brought an end to a 42-year nightmare that forced us all to live in fear and question our own identity.
The past year has been unforgettable, with memories that will forever remind us of the price we paid and the future that we hope for. We have, on occasion, felt joy (when Seif was captured, and when Senussi was extradited to Libya); hope (when the people elected their first democratic National Assembly), and sadness (which occurs every time we hear of another martyr – of which I have personally received many calls about friends and family) – or when we hear about atrocities committed by the regime, and the loss of brave leaders like Col. Abdulfatah Younis, Mohamad Nabous and others.
One year later, our nation has still not decided where we are going or what we want to build for future generations. Politicians are still trying to woo the people and tease their emotions with useless slogans and speeches that do not give us a clear vision. Libya is now at a crossroads – it falls to us to decide which path we want it to take.
In my opinion, there are three different paths: Liberation, Cleansing or National Reconciliation. Despite their careless use today, these words convey very different meanings and achieve vastly different results.
Many politicians in Libya are now using the word ‘Liberation’. Their claim is that Libya is still not completely ‘liberated’ and that in order for the country to move forward, liberation must be fully realized.
This makes no sense. Libya is now a free country and never experienced a war of ‘liberation’; the revolution was not a contest between a liberation movement and a governing regime. It was a revolution by all Libyans against a tyrant and his entourage. Does it mean that Libyan cities that saw the fiercest fighting have the right to declare a ‘war of Liberation’ against those cities that were sympathetic to the regime? If so, then what should be the result? Do we expel from Libya every individual who supported Gaddafi? Or are those people more interested in ‘Cleansing’, which is to remove loyalist forces and groups from the country?
This, unfortunately, is precisely what happened in Tawergha. It is a fact that the Misurata suffered from savage attacks at the hands of Tawergha, and that many atrocities were committed during the revolution; however the destruction of an entire city is not a solution that Libya can withstand in the future. Now, we are also seeing the continuous branding of some cities as not yet being ‘Liberated’, to include Bani Walid where the current fighting is a direct result of the politicians’ need to ‘Liberate’ or ‘Cleanse’ the city from Qaddafi’s remaining supporters.
What is the goal of these continuing conflicts? They will surely not result in a clear victor, and those who are expelled will certainly carry hostility with them. Such people will undoubtedly dream of revenge and work hard to disrupt the government and any attempts at a lasting peace. Another result will be the need to create a national-level armed security entity, which will continuously “protect the revolution”.
There is little doubt that such actions would create a new dictatorship, and do much to eliminate the basic human rights that Libyans have fought and died for. History is replete with past examples of revolutionaries taking steps to eliminate anyone who opposed their ideas (e.g. Cambodia, Cuba), or anyone who created a “danger to the revolution”, even if only through speech.
Other examples to avoid can be found in Bosnia and Iraq, where the people live in constant fear of an outright war between different factions who refuse to forget their animosities and differences. In such cases a forced separation is the only choice for a peaceful future.
On the other hand, there is a different path that can assure Libyans of a bright future. It is the path chosen by South Africans after the end of apartheid and which made that country a clear example of nation building. That path is of National Reconciliation. Although a healthy dialogue can be very difficult under our circumstances, it will surely bring all Libyans together to define their future and encourage them to integrate into one society. National Reconciliation does not require general amnesty or unconditional forgiveness, but rather the pursuit of a common goal without forgetting the sacrifices and crimes committed during the past period.
Why can’t our politicians and revolutionaries create a plan to bring Libya together? They could, and should, work to form a national reconciliation committee that will hold meetings across Libya with all tribes and cities, in order to hear their voices and understand each group’s concerns and dreams for their region and for Libya.
The victors in our revolution do not necessarily need to dictate their terms to the losers. For example, at the end of the American Civil War the North did not force its will upon the South. Instead, it built a united country and focused on “Reconstruction”, which created a national plan to move ahead.
When the British defeated the French in Canada, they did not require the expulsion of the French from North America and the creation of a British colony. Instead, they created a harmonious country that gave equal rights to all. With some effort and wise decision-making, Libya’s leaders can do the same.
The Libyan Revolution was one of the happiest and proudest events of my life. I hope that it eventually wins the hearts of all Libyans, and incorporates our dreams and aspirations, instead of creating a new regime of security and fear. Our leaders have a monumental task ahead, and many difficult choices to make. I hope, for Libya’s sake, that they will choose peace and reconciliation. [/restrict]