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Libyans Optimistic on Democracy, Challenges Loom


In the first blush of enthusiasm after the nine-month struggle to oust Moammar Gadhafi, many Libyans are optimistic that the country will be able to move toward democracy with little payback for the iron rule and atrocities of the past. But some analysts are not so sure.

The private compound from which Moammar Gadhafi ruled Libya is flattened.

Youths play on what is left of some of his military vehicles.

University students celebrate their newfound freedom.

But there is serious work to do. The council that led the Libyan revolution gave way to an interim government, which is to lead the country to elections and a new constitution.

Along the way, Libyans will have to decide how to deal with those who supported Gadhafi, and those who allegedly committed atrocities in the name of the revolution.

Libyan politician Hadi Shalluf, of the Justice and Democracy Party, hopes to be part of the country’s future leadership. “If anyone committed any crimes, any violation of human rights, he should be judged. If the people didn’t commit any crimes in that time, we have no problem. These people should be integrated into life,” Shalluf said.

Rebel fighters also need to be reintegrated. These men are being honored because they handed in their weapons.

Rebel fighter Tariq Hussein fought in some of the toughest battles in Misrata and in Gadhafi’s hometown, Sirte. He’s guarding government buildings now, and he thinks reconciliation is already well along the way.

“I hope God will grant us reconciliation," Hussein stated. "I think it’s already at 70 percent, and I hope it will reach 100 percent soon.”

But some analysts outside Libya are not sure the country will have such a smooth a transition to democracy. They say tribal, regional and political differences, could become more pronounced in the coming months. Among them is Anthony Skinner of the Maplecroft risk assessment company, who spoke to VOA via Skype.

“We have to be careful, mindful of the risks, that you still have a large number of groups that are very well armed, that are very concerned to ensure that they lay their claim to the political landscape," Skinner said. "And the concern is now with Gadhafi actually removed from power, and actually killed, that this glue which held these groups together will have disappeared.”

All the Middle Eastern countries that overthrew their rulers this year are facing various difficulties along the road to democracy.

But for now in Libya, with children playing on the relics of the old regime, most people are eager to put any differences aside, at least for the moment, and to hope that after decades of dictatorship and months of war they can move forward together.

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