Libya's liberal landslide
It is presumed that Libyans under the reconciliatory liberal Mahmoud Jibril can regulate their ways out of their woes. Gamal Nkrumah
contemplates conceivable scenarios
It is a neat trick. Across the Arab world the trend was to keep getting more Islamist in political orientation. The Arab Spring kicked off in Tunisia where the Islamists garnered an impressive chunk of the electorate in the first free and fair elections since the ousting of ex-president Zein Al-Abidine bin Ali.
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A Libyan militiaman stands at a checkpoint while another rests in a warehouse near the border of Bani Walid in Misrata, Libya, Sunday
Other Arab countries seemed to be following Tunisia's lead. Hottest on the Tunisian trendsetter's heels was Egypt, by far the Arab world's most populous nation. Libya proved to be the exception to the rule.
The wrath that suffuses Libyan politics was vented against the Islamists giving the liberals a comfortable lead. The Libyan general elections, in which almost three million Libyans voted -- in polls that commenced on 7 July -- elected a General National Congress (GNC) to replace the country's interim legislative body, the National Transitional Council (NTC).
Now the Islamists' moment has passed. Libya's recent elections seem to suggest that the Islamists are in retreat. Abdel-Hakim Belhaj, leader of the Islamist Al-Watan (Homeland) Party failed to gain a seat in his own constituency in Tripoli. The tide is turning against political Islam.
Libya's Islamists are divided in almost everything. Early predictions of a liberal landslide victory proved to be true. However, there are no specific signs yet of the dying spasms of Islamists.
The other argument was practical and maybe implicit. There are those that regard Africa's richest country per capita as being doubly cursed by its politics.
The general disgruntlement of Libyans and the state of lawlessness in the country was highlighted on Monday by the abduction of the president of Libya's Olympic Committee Nabil Al-Alim.
"We condemn this kind of action. Whoever did this are criminals. This goes against the revolution, this brings us back to the Gaddafi culture," Libya's Sports and Youth Minister Fethi Tarbel told Reuters.
In a stinging critique, to complicate matters further, the president of the International Olympic Committee Jacques Rogge expressed "grave concern".
Any fair reckoning of the situation in Libya paints a macabre picture of the country. Strangely, the saga of Islamists versus liberal/secularist strife may be bookened by constitutional disputes.
All true, up to a point, but that's not the whole story. If leading Libyan politicians from the two major ideological strands -- Islamists and liberals/secularists speak angrily of each other they do it behind closed doors.
The leader of the Alliance of National Forces Mahmoud Jibril is widely perceived as a liberal, a pro-Western technocrat. He has considerable popularity in Libya, especially in western Libya, Tripolitania.
Yet the Muslim Brotherhood of Libya and its official political wing, the Justice and Construction Party, claim that Jibril was in cahoots with Gaddafi, an assertion he vehemently denies.
Libya's ruling NTC seems to have become obsolete overnight. Many Libyans often dismiss NTC Chairman Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, too, as being the very personification of the proverbial Western stooge. Yet, they voted for Jibril and his ilk precisely because they yearn for political stability, national security and economic prosperity.
A mixture of international -- Western to be precise -- pressure and domestic discontent has strengthened the hand of the militias in post-Muammar Gaddafi's Libya.
Beyond that Jibril has emphasised that what emerges is the task of kick-starting overdue institutional reforms. Jibril has made significant inroads into territory often regarded as the bastion of the Islamists such as Cyrennaica, eastern Libya. He has won seats in Benghazi and Al-Baida.
Questions clearly need to be asked about how the security services systematically fail to bring the various militias to heel. The militias that have instituted a reign of terror and lawlessness have exacerbated flagging morale in post-Gaddafi's Libya.
Jibril today to many Libyans represents forces that are fighting off hooligans. The militias and militant Islamists claim those pro-Western provocateurs such as Jibril hijacked the Libyan anti-Gaddafi uprising.
Jibril has rejected assertions of ballot-rigging. He cannot single-handedly contest the warring militias. Some of his economic remedies may be questionable, but they are within the realm of reasonable debate about the prospects of a prosperous Libyan economy.
Yet his strategy does have its flaws. Many Libyans fear their country's assets are being sold off for a pittance to Western powers.
Jibril also needs to think about how to integrate Libya's black and politically peripheralised citizens. His government has largely neglected the issue.
Jibril has the responsibility to ensure that the political impasse engulfing the country does not slip down the path that plays on racial prejudice and fear.
The Green Resistance became the excuse for post-Gaddafi Libyan politicians to ratchet up the already overheated rhetoric about security.
Questions clearly need to be asked about how the security services failed to anticipate the threat posed by the militias. The militiamen are on the watch-lists of international human rights organisations.
Jibril may have his shortcomings but he gives the impression of being aboveboard and straightforward while in truth he is a wily politician. This is partly because Jibril appears to be grounded and competent in economic matters.
Jibril is known for his ability to defy conventional wisdom to find solutions and an aptitude for crossing disciplinary boundaries. His impulsive nature is said to infuriate those who have to deal with him directly.
On the question of security concerns, the NTC demonstrated pitifully few tangible achievements. Jibril made national security one of his top political priorities. And, it paid off. He claims that his role is not to pontificate but to act.
His approval ratings, though apparently fast falling, remain high among many influential members of the post-Gaddafi Libyan political establishment, in spite of the disapproval of key NTC members. The NTC, however, does not constitute the entire fabric of Libyan political players.
Jibril's reconciliatory initiative in regards to his adversaries offers a more constructive way forward. But it is one that will only work if Libyans themselves support it. What is less commendable is the way in which the authorities are handling the North African country's host of problems.
Even so, the ghost of Gaddafi, nicknamed Abu Shafshufa or "Fuzzhead" in colloquial Libyan Arabic, hovers over Libya, still.
Fears remain of an abortive democracy in Libya on a scale unknown even in the Arab world. It may seem puzzling that the disruptive power of militias has been slow to collide with the powers that be.
Cruelty coupled with nepotism and corruption does have a cost. That should be the powerful message emanating from the NTC.
Whether that message will take off remains to be seen. It is also true that a close reading of the political situation in Libya points to the exclusion of blacks and women from the decision-making process.
Dark days ahead, one reckons, for Libya's black-skinned citizens? There is a risk of setting a precedent in the Arab world of institutional discrimination against blacks. Jibril ought to take this matter more seriously. The world will be watching to see how many of Libya's parliamentary representatives are black-skinned.
The debate about systematic institutionalised racism in post-Gaddafi Libya needs to start now. Human rights campaigners have long been arguing for more investigations into human rights violations.
Amnesty International urged the NTC to investigate the death of a Tawargha man under torture and prosecute the perpetrators of the crime. International human rights organisations warned that the systematic persecution of black Libyan, especially the people of the city of Tawargha, the Tebu people of the oasis town of Kufra in the southeast and Sebha in Fezzan must cease.
According to an Amnesty International report, the Misrata Security Committee, a branch of the city's post-Gaddafi local council, tortured and killed Barnous Bousa, a black Libyan from Tawargha. His corpse was found with a wound in the back of his head. He was a civilian and was wrongly accused of being a mercenary in the Gaddafi loyalists' army now renamed the Green Resistance.
"This brutal death highlights the continuing dangers to detainees in the new Libya," Hassiba Hadj Sahraoul, the Middle East and North Africa deputy director of Amnesty International said. "How many more victims will die from torture until the authorities realise the gravity of the situation and deliver on their promises of investigating, prosecuting and putting an end to such crimes," she added.
Militias from Misrata drove out the entire population of Tawargha in August 2011. Many have been publicly denounced politically and accused of treason. These incidents are not merely tribal skirmishes -- these barbarous acts are clearly racially motivated.
The blacks of Libya are entitled to feel hard put-upon. Nothing brought home the horrors of the mistreatment of the blacks of Libya in the post-Gaddafi era than the callous murder in cold blood of a citizen of Tawargha. Sadly, the murderers of the man cannot be brought to justice.
Jibril faces a groundswell of bitter opposition in spite of his impressive achievements in an almost fair election. Understandably Libya has been traumatised by the events. Libya needs a raft of new anti-torture legislation. Jibril has presented himself as a man who wants to unite all Libyans, regardless of their political persuasions. The pertinent question is whether the pawns of war will ultimately give him their backing.