New Libyan PM faces daunting task

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BY JOSHUA KUTUNY

Libya, last week got a new Prime Minister, Abdel Rahim al-Keib, a US educated engineering professor with little political experience. While the desire of many Libyans is to see their country prosper, restoration of security and the rule of law are paramount.

But the militias are certain to demand, as a reward for their role in the ouster of Muammar Gaddafi, a share in Libyan wealth and power. Then there are the foreign actors whose motives remain sinister or mysterious.

But I doubt that this could come to pass, because the country is faced with a daunting task of enacting a new Constitution that will guide the country to transit from totalitarian rule to democracy. NTC’s desire to hold elections within eight months looks ambitious on paper but these may yet turn out far more complex in practice.

The installation of al-Keib, who was elected by Libya’s new rulers National Transitional Council, winning 26 of 51 votes cast, could reassure the world that the country could be on its way to normalcy after eight months of turmoil.

Western Powers, under the NATO umbrella who helped topple long serving ruler Muammar Gaddafi must be crossing their fingers in the hope that the new PM will within two weeks form a new interim government that will clear the path for the drafting of a constitution as well as general elections.

But al-Keib, who now lives in Tripoli, has daunting challenges ahead, uniting the deeply divided militia controlled country and where nobody knows who owns the popular revolution.

Libya for the past eight or so months has been in limbo. After Sirte fell, Gaddafi captured and killed and the “national liberation” declared Libyans are now faced with the moment of truth.

Considering that all recent western interventions, from Iraq to Afghanistan started sceptically well. Administration change was the easy bit but afterwards, trouble started and this may as well prove to be the case in the North African nation.

The liberation fighters who have been fighting in Gaddafi’s bastion Sirte will be drifting back to Tripoli and once there they will come into contact with the heavily armed militias that already control the streets.

The rag tag revolutionary soldiers, many of whom were unemployed before the revolution, do not represent anything like a unified army. The revolutionary rebels in Libya were united by one common thing; to overthrow Gaddafi.

There are fighters who fought the fallen regime from the western mountains who now control Tripoli’s central square, another dominated by Misratan’s who claim credit of killing Gaddafi and who control the port while another group of rebels that controls the airport.

The heavily armed and bolstered fighters following the ouster of Gaddafi have already mapped out their own territories that represent diverse regions and rival ideologies and in some instances engaged each other in spontaneous battles in Tripoli.

The challenge therefore is who among these rebellious groupings will claim legitimacy of the liberation and in ruling Libya. Each of these rebel groups are heavily armed, pompous of its new status, and convinced that it represents the actual power in post Gaddafi Libya.

There is real danger staring at Libyans and in particular the new PM. The militiamen, having accomplished their mission of ousting the strongman, will now turn to the country’s wealth. At stake is the more than $160 billion in the Libyan sovereign wealth fund, the running of the state monopolies and control of the lucrative commission payments for government contracts.

al-Keib and his anticipated government must rally the entire Libya to achieve and overcome these challenges. He must already know that the problems facing the new regime are massive. Gaddafi’s military barracks were emptied of their weapons which will find their way to the black market at rock bottom prices.

Some of Gaddafi’s stockpiles will certainly pour into the neighbouring countries through the Mediterranean nation’s porous and un-policed boarders. This is a potent threat in a region already destabilized by popular revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt and the rise of Al Qaeda through the Maghreb.

The biggest nightmare, however, concerns Gaddafi’s anti-aircraft missiles some of which may have left the country following the protracted revolution. The late Libyan leader is believed to have stockpiled some 20,000 of these so-called Man Portable Air Defence Systems which can down a commercial airliner.

Consequently, it is critical that Gaddafi’s forces are integrated into the new transitional government. If the weapon-rich and murderous tribes loyal to Gaddafi are excluded or victimised, they could continue guerrilla operations and may as well form dangerous coalitions of convenience with the terrorist groups already operating in the area, particularly in the vast southern Libyan desert.

In view of the foregoing, it is expected that structures and institutions are laid to run in government and political system the country wants to chart. Libya is a country that for over four decades has been ruled under the tight grip of one man. No formal government or political structures are in place with the ouster of Gaddafi. Matters are even made worse with the election of a little known political novice al-Keib.

There are no experienced persons in areas of governance to head the new administration as Libyans have never had any say in the running of their affairs. The new PM himself has not been in government. TNC under the chairmanship of Mustafa Abdul Jalil should urgently but steadily lay ground for democratic elections within the stated time of eight months.

The new government, guided by NTC which brings together a variety of anti-Gaddafi forces must do everything possible to remain united and avoid divisions which threaten efforts to transform the country into a democracy.


(The writer is a Member of Parliament for Cherangany. Email: joshkutuny@yahoo.com)

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