Life after Qadhafi
People were reluctant to accept the news of the former dictator’s death or to celebrate it until it was one hundred per cent confirmed. There have been many false alarms in the past. Once the graphic pictures of his demise filtered out of Sirte, Qadhafi’s hometown, and were transmitted around the world, Libya erupted with a fervour to match any celebration on Earth.
Tripoli was adorned in the red, green and black of the Libyan flag as people sang songs about the revolution and danced in the streets. An elderly man spun his robe above his head to drums and singing from the young men who will take Libya into the future. Celebratory gunfire and cars horns reverberated around the city. Nothing could dampen the euphoria that the people of Libya were feeling and after such strife and sacrifice to get to this moment people could not hold in their feelings. Young rebel fighters embraced each other and in a moment of respect and appreciation, an elderly man with the new Libyan flag draped over his shoulders, stopped a young rebel fighter moving slowly along on crutches from a leg wound and kissed his forehead.
“The Libyan people fought and struggled for a period of 42 years of injustice and duress,” says Abdul Naser Ali, a Revolutionary Fighter for the National Transitional Council. Muhammad Ali Khaam, a civilian sitting quietly next to a fountain in Martyrs' Square remarks, “It’s a happy feeling the fall of the dictator, it is a joy that you cannot express. We can now finally taste freedom for Libya,”
The next step
Walking around Martyrs’ Square the next morning, street cleaners are removing the debris from the previous night’s carnival-like celebrations. Being a Friday, the day Libyans take for rest and prayer, people can finally let the magnitude of the events sink in and think about what could happen in the future. “Next, democracy, constitution, liberty, freedom,” one man says, adding ‘freedom’ at the end as he was comically prompted of this important element by another passer-by.
It was announced recently that elections in Libya would happen within eight months, the first democratic election in over fifty years. The pressure is on, as people will want to see changes, proving that the struggle over the last nine months has been worth it.
“I hope for the new government to look at the people and their condition and consider construction and infrastructure,” says Osama Abdullah Akasha. “Qadhafi didn’t care about such things - he cared only about himself, I hope the coming government takes care of Libyan people and does things correctly.”
What role for NATO?
NATO has announced that it will wind down operations over Libya by the end of the month, since the systematic threat to civilians has been significantly reduced. None of this would have been possible without the support of the air campaign provided by NATO, which protected civilians from attacks by Qadhafi's forces.
There is clearly much gratitude for the role that NATO and its partners have played in the conflict, but also a pride that it was Libyans themselves who decided their fate and ultimately took control of their country. Feelings on the street are somewhat varied, on the one hand some feel that NATO’s job is done.
Abdul Rahman Tahunni, a student in his early twenties says,” I don’t think we need anything from the NATO or the United Nations because the Libyan nation is going to depend on themselves. No other help from other countries,” he says. Yet others feel that there is more NATO and the international community can do to help in the future.
“I hope they [NATO] will still help us, because we consider our self a new country which is newly running, one man comments. “Qadhafi has left nothing to Libya,” he says. And Ahmed Muhammad Al Atresh, a policeman says, “I hope that the National Transitional Council will talk to NATO about rebuilding and construction.”
On 6 October, NATO Defence Ministers and Partners involved in the mission for Libya expressed their readiness to support the new Libyan authorities with defence and security sector reforms, should Alliance support be requested.
End of the beginning
The end of the eight-month struggle of the Libyan people for control of their country was solidified by the death of Qadhafi and as the news quickly spread across Libya, de-facto Prime Minister and head of the National Transitional Council, Mahmoud Jabril declared, “We do not rejoice over the death of a man, but the rebirth of a great nation.”
Mufth Al Gmati is a businessman waiting to go back to work in Tripoli. “Thank God we can fold away this page which is full of blood so we can build a new Libya,” he says. “We will become as one to rebuild democracy and freedom which we were aiming for, for forty years.”