CAIRO — Three years ago Monday, opponents of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi declared a “Day of Rage” against his rule. Gadhafi was killed in the civil war that followed, but the nation has found little calm in the years since.
The anniversary against long-time Gadhafi gave Libyans an opportunity to take a break from continuing troubles to celebrate a turning point in their nation's history. In the capital Tripoli, revolutionary flags were out in force and the streets cleaned up. Resident Abd Alraof Mohamed is among those hoping for a better future, and said he has been looking forward to the celebrations.
He adds it marks the end of tyrants and humiliation, and that "God willing, the country will now find peace."
It's an optimistic view.
Just last week, retired General Khalifa Haftar, one of the heroes of the uprising, went on television and declared what seemed to be a veiled threat of a coup. He called for Libya's parliament and Cabinet to be dissolved to "rescue" the country from, in his view, turmoil.
Political leaders, aware the Libyan army is so small and in such disarray it had little chance of success even if it backed Khalifa, quickly dismissed the threat and ordered Khalifa's arrest.
Yet the threat highlights the country's biggest challenge. Libyans may celebrate the end of Gadhafi's one-man rule, but they have yet to build strong institutions to fill the vacuum he left.
The country is divided by regional and tribal affiliations. Many of its factions are backed by private militias. The central government is mired in a stalemate between nationalists and Islamists - and as critics note -- its mandate has already run out.
Protester Lofti Mosbah argues that by continuing to work beyond its original expiration date, the General National Congress is illegal and is now “manipulating the law.”
Some steps toward normalcy are underway. Libyans will vote Thursday on a special assembly to draft a new constitution, which could be a milestone in this so-far rocky transition.
But for some, competing interests were put aside for one day, to mark the fact that the transition got under way at all.