News / Middle East

Despite Military Struggles, Rebels Plan for Post-Gadhafi Libya

Drivers talk as they wait for fuel in a queue stretching for some hundreds of meters, in central Tripoli, Libya, (File)
Drivers talk as they wait for fuel in a queue stretching for some hundreds of meters, in central Tripoli, Libya, (File)

Libyan rebels have been bogged down in their military fight to unseat Moammar Gadhafi, but that hasn't kept them from planning for a country without the long-time leader. 

Libya - post Gadhafi

The rebel efforts have been somewhat disorganized, starting with the name of their opposition government. They have played around with the order of the adjectives in Transitional National Council, but the main point they want to stress is that the group is both national and transitional: something temporary, and encompassing all of Libya.

The eastern-based council has said from the start it wants a united nation, with Tripoli as its capital. Some in the west and abroad have expressed fears about an eastern dominance in any new government. Libya already has a geographical divide - a vast stretch of desert splits the cities that dot the northern coast.

More significant perhaps is the political division, with the east long feeling slighted by Gadhafi's government and his allies in the west.

But even as fighting cuts the rebels off from anti-government forces in the west, rebel officials in Benghazi say they are doing their best to work together.

Opposition Interior Minister Ahmed al-Darrat, who is part of the council's executive committee, says he believes some rebels in the west have been able to establish councils of their own, and they've been coordinating with opposition officials in Benghazi. He is convinced that will ensure a smooth transition after what he expects to be Gadhafi's fall.

Balancing transitions

The eastern-based rebels are planning for that day with a provisional constitution, though the details are still fluid. They want to expand the council to make sure the entire country is represented, a bid to show they have no interest in a power grab.  They also hope to hold legislative, then presidential elections within a year, with some council members pledging not to take part as a demonstration of their neutrality.  

How effective has the transitional council been so far?  It's uneven, with some basic services still not sorted out.

At a local bank, Benghazi native Tariq stands in frustration before the teller.  Once again, there's a shortage of cash.

He says there are difficulties these days with money, with the bank limiting how much one can withdraw. He feels that even with cash infusions from abroad, the situation is getting worse.

There are also power shortages.  The local council has organized rolling blackouts that can last up to a third of the day. But given the circumstances in which the opposition started, it could perhaps have been worse. Towns in the east were under siege, making military protection the immediate concern.

But simultaneously they began to organize, with volunteers coming out to help with everything from administration to street cleaning.  It was no small task for a people who, for most of their lives, had been largely limited to carrying out Gadhafi's instructions.

Building a political infrastructure

Council spokesman Jalal elGalal argues that Libyans will continue to overcome the lack of political infrastructure and a tradition of democratic decision-making. He argues that a sense of freedom, and the responsibilities that come with it is inherent.

"Same with justice. We all have a sense of justice. So although the institutions have been unavailable for 40 years, people understand the concept of justice. They understand the concept of tolerance. They understand the concept of freedom. And I think it will be very easy for them to fall within the [democratic] institutions' guidelines once they're set up," elGalal said.

It's a hopeful start, but they still have a long way to go. Even successful uprisings, such as in Egypt, have seen the struggle for a more representative government falter.  And with Gadhafi declaring he will not give up power, the foundation of the rebels' plan has yet to be laid.  

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