The events to confirm the splitting of Libya into two countries are unfolding right in front of our eyes. The outcome of the collusion between the Benghazi rebels and the International Coalition backing them is emerging for us to know how it will change the political dynamics of Libya for the worse.
We are beginning to see clear signs of a country being torn into two—the East (with its capital city as Benghazi, to be under the control of the Transitional National Council) and the West (with Tripoli as its capital city, still in the hands of the country’s Head of State, Muammar el-Gaddafi). The moves toward sealing Libya’s fate as a split country are steadily being concretized as the fighting continues and no sign emerges to reveal that there will be a winner in the end. The picture is too dreary to be allowed to pass by without being commented on.
What I predicted about two weeks ago is gradually taking shape to leave us in no doubt about the major problems that face Libya beyond the humanitarian crisis that Gaddafi’s attempt to repress the mid-February uprising against him had created. If this split of the country materializes, Libya will be not be the same again. The country’s map will have to be redrawn and its future made difficult to predict.
Why am I saying all this? Evidence suggests that nothing else apart from the military bombardment is being done to change the course for the country to return to its former status as one big country of nearly five million people under one government. Instead, measures being devised are meant to stabilize the Benghazi rebels’ hold on the East and isolate the Gaddafi government and its domain.
Signs are clear that the Benghazi rebels are establishing themselves as the legitimate authorities to control the eastern half of the country that they have claimed and defended ever since they took up arms to fight the country’s leader. The strategies for setting up a parallel administration to oversee Eastern Libya have already been worked out at two levels—locally and internationally. Some of these strategies are analyzed below to confirm that far from being solved holistically, the Libyan crisis is worsening.
TRANSITIONAL NATIONAL COUNCIL’S POLITICAL “ROAD MAP”
Libya’s opposition has set out a political “road map” for the country if and when Col. Gaddafi falls from power, the BBC has reported. The road map includes installing an interim government while a new constitution is drafted and elections held. Mahmoud Jibril, a member of the rebels’ Transitional National Council (TNC), announced these plans for a post-Gaddafi Libya to members of the contact group, who met in Rome on Thursday.
The Associated Press news agency has also reported Jibril as explaining that under this political road map, an interim government would immediately take over to provide day-to-day governance and keep order. This interim government would comprise members from the TNC, technocrats from the Gaddafi regime, senior military and intelligence officers, and a Supreme Court judge.
Ultimately, a constitution would be drawn up and put to a referendum, followed a few months later by parliamentary and presidential elections. Jibril said that, as a dry run, the TNC would “shortly” be asking the United Nations to oversee municipal elections in current rebel-held areas.
These elaborate arrangements to shape the country’s life are based on conditions framed in uncertainty and ambiguity, as we can infer from the part of Jibril’s explanation concerning the implementation of the political road map—“… if and when Col. Gaddafi falls from power.” The “if” suggests uncertainty or indeterminacy, which is evidently clear because of the reality of the situation on the ground that the military option has led to a stalemate in the battle between the rebels (International Coalition) and the pro-Gaddafi forces. Thus, the rebels can’t be confidently sure that Gaddafi will fall.
The “when” aspect is merely a self-assuring consolation and the heightening of expectations that the rebels (International Coalition) will win the battle eventually. This aspect is difficult to foresee within the context of the International Coalition’s own admissions of a stalemate and the fact that the rebels can’t match the firepower of the pro-Gaddafi forces to be able to advance to other parts of the country still under Gaddafi’s control. Thus, we can’t agree with the rebels that Gaddafi will certainly fall for them to go ahead to implement their political road map.
We are told that the political road map may have room for technocrats from the Gaddafi regime to be part of an interim government; but I argue that the situation is still too fuzzy for one to know how those technocrats would be co-opted into such an arrangement, given the facts of the crisis. They are still with Gaddafi in his administration.
This so-called political road map may just be a smokescreen for the rebels to placate and lure their backers constituting the International Coalition into giving them the financial and technical aid that they are clamouring for. This is where the International Coalition has to tread cautiously in order not to regret later for being rash. The rebels still can’t be trusted to hold Libya together even if the International Coalition succeeds in eliminating Gaddafi for them.
FINANCIAL AID FROM THE WEST
Bent on propping up the rebels and their TNC, the International Coalition’s Contact Group on Libya has already met in Rome and initiated moves to provide financial aid to the rebels. The 22-nation group agreed to set up a temporary fund to provide humanitarian assistance in rebel-held areas. The TNC says it needs $2bn–$3bn (£1.2bn–£1.8bn) in the coming months for military salaries, food, medicine and other basic supplies, as the BBC has reported.
Enthusiasm to meet the rebels’ request is swift. Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini, said countries had pledged $250m for immediate assistance. Washington has pledged $53m (£32m) and authorized up to $25m (£15m) in assistance to the rebels, including medical supplies, boots, tents, rations, and protective gear. The first shipment is due to arrive in Benghazi in the coming days. The UK has already provided $21.5m (£13m) in aid to the rebels, which British Foreign Secretary, William Hague, insisted would not be spent on weapons.
A troubling aspect of this desire to provide financial aid to the rebels is what the United States wants to do. As US Secretary of State (Hillary Clinton) said on Thursday, the US is trying to free more than $30bn it had frozen in Libyan assets, making it “available to help the Libyan people.” Releasing this huge sum of money to the rebels will be unfortunate at this time when it is certain that those constituting the rebel front are not the majority of Libyan citizens nor can one say that they are the legitimate channels through which to dissipate the country’s resources.
Any rush to release the country’s money to these malcontents will create more problems. It will amount to an unconscionable act by the US, knowing full well that the money is meant for purposes other than supporting those fighting against the legitimate government of Libya under Gaddafi. We must be reminded that Gaddafi’s government is still in power almost three months after the initial protest erupted. It hasn’t yet fallen nor is there any sign that it is falling to warrant what the US intends to do.
If the US goes ahead to release the money to the rebels, it will create a nasty impression about itself and deprive Libya of its bona fide asset. That’s not what one expects the US to do if it is genuinely interested in helping the cause of Libya. The US needs to tread cautiously so it doesn’t misdirect this resource to support the wrong cause. Those leading the rebels appear to be mere malcontents who themselves have questions to answer in some circles in Libya. How credit-worthy are they to be so trusted and given the country’s money at a time that their future is even not known?
Although the British Foreign Secretary (William Hague) claims that the financial aid being given the rebels would not be spent on weapons, there is every indication that the rebels would have access to weapons. After all, the arrangements already drawn with Qatar provide that Qatar will sell Libya’s oil from rebel-controlled areas and use the proceeds to procure weapons for the rebels. So, who are the war-mongers and destroyers of Libya deceiving?
As a further punitive measure, efforts would be made to explore how Gaddafi’s government could be prevented from exporting oil or importing refined products, according to the British Foreign Secretary. This punitive move is just part of the grand design of the West and doesn’t surprise anybody.
DESTABILIZATION OF LIBYA’S FOREIGN SERVICE BY THE WEST
The decision by some members of the International Coalition to recognize the TNC as the “legitimate representatives of the Libyan people” is being reinforced by actions by Britain and France against the Gaddafi government’s envoys, meaning that they will no more be eligible to represent Libya. Britain expelled Libya’s ambassador last week, and France has followed suit by declaring 14 Libyan diplomats loyal to Colonel Gaddafi as “persona non grata.” The French foreign ministry has ordered them to leave the country within two days.
This stern measure against the representatives of Libya’s foreign mission is in keeping with the package of sanctions that the International Coalition considers a diplomatic effort to weaken the Gaddafi government by isolating and crippling it eventually. Such sanctions had already been agreed upon as complementary to the military bombardment of the Libyan government’s military capabilities. Other countries are expected to follow suit. It’s just a calculated attempt to achieve an already-known purpose. No surprise here either.
All these measures are designed to strengthen the Benghazi rebels, which will bring their administration into being; but for as long as the Gaddafi regime doesn’t collapse, the country will have these two parallel governments until the ultimate decision is made to seal its fate as it is divided by the artificial boundaries between the rebel-controlled East and the Gaddafi government’s territorial integrity.
In this sense, then, the problem would have been worsened for the country. It would mark the beginning of a long drawn-out battle that will go down in history as a huge failure on the part of the United Nations and its powerful voices, led by the member-countries of the International Coalition and the three African countries (Nigeria, South Africa, and Gabon) that endorsed UN Security Council Resolution 1973 for the International Coalition to be formed and used to destabilize Libya instead of solving the crisis that necessitated the passing of that resolution.
This state of affairs is a sad reflection on the inadequacies of the UN for allowing itself to be coerced into blessing the arm-twisting tactics of its powerful member-states against the weaker ones. Shame on brawn!!
By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor