Libya, a Difficult Transition
Azzurra Meringolo 30 March 2012

“The first issue we have to address is the institutional void we can clearly see,” observed Obeidi, explaining that concepts such as civil society, political parties and organizations are still foreign to local culture. When at the end of the ‘70s, Jamahiriya was created, the Republic of the masses, political parties were forbidden in Libya and “we never had any idea what it meant to be part of an organization of this kind. Even now, with Gaddafi gone, people continue to fear the word ‘party’ and prefer to speak of ‘movements’ or ‘alliances’.”

Furthermore, in recent months it has become increasingly clear that the Libyan state is immensely divided internally. “Initially, we all just wanted one thing. We wanted Gaddafi to be gone and his despotic regime ended, but now things have changed. Different groups are identified in one city rather than in another and more and more people are speaking of federalism,” said Obeidi. This is also confirmed by what happened at the beginning of March, when an assembly of the tribes and militias of Cyrenaica met in Benghazi to give life to the Transitional Council of Barqa (Cyrenaica), demanding full autonomy from Tripoli. The east thereby proclaimed itself an autonomous region led by Ahmed al Zuabair, great nephew of the last Libyan monarch, King Idris. In this region there are the most important ports and the highest number of oil fields and refineries. Although there are others in Tripolitania, Cyrenaica is the oasis of oil. It is also for this reason that Barqa’s secession did not please the western region of Tripolitania or the National Transition Council, which has scheduled the election of a national assembly for June, tasked with appointing the new head of government and a new constitution.

“Libyan society is extremely tribal and this influences all aspects of our lives,” added Obeidi. “Take, for example, the management of justice. Until now tribes regulated many matters among themselves. Now we must change the people’s mentality and attitude in order that they understand there is an institution guaranteeing justice to all citizens.” These problems are added to that of the demilitarization of society. Since the end of the civil war there have been frequent clashes between various revolutionary militias to gain control over weapons dumps. “University students walk around armed and in camouflage uniform,” explained Professor Obeidi, “We need to understand what to do about all these armed young people and the many others wandering around the country. It would be best to organize them as a national army.”

While on one hand Libya is far from being united, it is also far from forgiving and integrating into the new society being created all those who supported the Gaddafi regime. In recent months the situation seems to have deteriorated even more, as shown by fierce attacks against the Tawargha black minority accused of having raped and killed the inhabitants of Misrata on Gaddafi’s orders. Until December, this minority lived 250 km east of Tripoli in the now destroyed and deserted town of Tawargha that once had 35,000 inhabitants. “There is now an element of revenge in Libya. All one has to do is to see how many homes have been burnt down and abandoned in this city. Its inhabitants are finding it hard to integrate in the new Libya.”

Finally there are also economic problems because, “We are really unable to understand what has happened to all the wealth produced by our country in recent years. We are people obliged and accustomed to traveling beyond our borders for medical tests, health services and many families travel abroad constantly,” concludes Obeidi, “It is clear there are many challenges we must face. We have brought down the great dictator, but now everything must be rebuilt.”



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