TRIPOLI, Oct 8 – Six weeks after Moamer Kadhafi lost control of Tripoli, the mood among youths in the Libyan capital is split between joy at the despot’s ouster and unease over the ongoing power vacuum.
“Having a government is our number-one concern,” said Walid Mohammed Beshir Darwish.
“Once a government is appointed, we will have laws after Kadhafi’s jungle rule (and) we will be able to feel safe and relaunch the economy,” said the 19-year-old medical student.
Darwish was taking part in a carnival celebrating the “revolution” held at the American School of Tripoli, where wealthy families of the capital’s posh Gargaresh district send their children.
A huge flag in the colours of “Free Libya” is splashed on a wall, and the entrance monitored by a guard in military fatigues has a stall offering face-painting, stickers and pins in the same green, black and red.
The atmosphere is festive, and everyone appears still on cloud nine after forces of the National Transitional Council (NTC) overran and captured the “tyrant’s” Tripoli compound on August 23.
However, concerns are emerging about the enormity of the task that lies ahead to end the transition and to establish rule of law after 42 years of a dictatorship.
“There are already internal struggles for power, and everyone wants a chair,” said Darwish, referring to the bid to form an interim government drawn out by tensions among liberals, Islamists and tribesmen.
After weeks of intense negotiations, the NTC announced a shake-up of its executive on Monday, pending the formation of a transitional government once the entire country is freed from the last remnants of Kadhafi forces.
“We are facing an obstacle course that will last for years,” said 24-year-old Sofia el-Harezzi.
“There is also the mentality that will not change as quickly as we would like” in a country long entrenched in a system based on favouritism and fear, she said.
But Harezzi dismissed any threat from the Islamists.
“Libyans practice a liberal form of Islam; women drive and work, and the headscarf is not compulsory,” even though an overwhelming majority of women cover their heads, she added.
Her opinion is shared by a 45-year-old geography teacher who spoke on condition of anonymity.
“Libyans will never allow the Islamists to control the country and, if so, we will stop them. When the government is formed, everything will be perfect.”
But the Canadian-Egyptian, who is married to a Libyan, said the formation of a government is a matter of urgency in order to ensure that scenario.
“If there is a vacuum, extremism will come from the outside,” he warned.
“They will sow their bad seeds which will proliferate and, if they do not catch Kadhafi quickly, the conditions will be ripe to bring these seeds to the country.”
For Darwish, though, one thing is certain.
“Libyans are hopeful but we must be realists; the road will be long,” he said.
“Given the high price paid by Libyans (in lives lost) for their revolution, we will never have another Kadhafi.”