By David D. Kirkpatrick
October 20, 2011
“This isn’t justice,” Mustafa Haid, 32, a Syrian activist, said as he watched Al Jazeera’s broadcast in a Beirut office. Colonel Qaddafi should have been put on trial, his crimes investigated, Libya reconciled to trust in the law, he said, as though he still hoped better from the regional uprising that began with peaceful displays of national unity in Tunis and Cairo.
Across the region, Colonel Qaddafi’s bloody end has brought home the growing awareness of the challenges that lie ahead: the balancing of vengeance against justice, impatience for jobs against the slow pace of economic recovery, fidelity to Islam against tolerance for minorities, and the need for stability against the drive to tear down of the pillars of old governments.
“For all of us, it is a hard road, because our battle is against ourselves,” said Ahmed Ounaies, a former Tunisian ambassador who served briefly as minister of foreign affairs after the ouster of President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali. “We have to listen to our values, our aspirations, our present, against all the past that we have lived. It is a hard test, and success is not assured.”
Libya’s path is in many ways the most tortuous of the North African revolutions. When Colonel Qaddafi came to power 42 years ago, Libya was divided among three loosely confederated provinces and dozens of insular tribes. He forged Libya into a single nation built around his own bizarre cult of personality. He did not build any national institutions; he insisted that Libya was a direct democracy of people’s committees with no need for a government — that might challenge his power.
Even after he fled from Tripoli, the quest to capture him served as a glue holding together the loose confederation of local brigades that toppled his government. The provisional government in Benghazi, unable to resolve a contest among various power centers over government positions, put off a promised reshuffling until after the capture of Colonel Qaddafi’s last stronghold and hide-out, Surt, which means they are due to resume that work now.
“Libya is going to have a terrible time,” said Lisa Anderson, a political scientist who studies Libya.
“For a long time, what knit them together was a kind of morbid fascination with Qaddafi, and until now everybody felt that until they saw his body that he almost might come back, like a vampire,” said Ms. Anderson, who is the president of the American University in Cairo. But when the euphoria dies down, “they don’t have a credible institution in the entire country,” she said. “They don’t have anything that knits them together.”
Tunisia, poised to hold its first free elections on Sunday, may be the Arab state best positioned for a successful transition to a liberal democracy. Among factors in its favor are its relatively small, homogenous population of about 12 million, comparatively high levels of education, a large middle class, an apolitical military, a moderate Islamist movement and a long history of a unified national identity.
But with the removal of Mr. Ben Ali’s strong hand, the Tunisian elite has been bitterly divided by many of the questions soon to confront Libya, especially the role of Islam in their new society, law and government. In the final days of the election campaign, the biggest secular-liberal party has pledged to try to build a governing coalition that excludes the Islamists, while the leader of the Islamists said his party members would “take to the streets” if they deem the election stolen.
Nor has either Tunisia or Egypt resolved the frustrations of the legions of jobless youths who enlisted in the revolts for reasons of bread and butter, not civil liberties. In the hard-pressed southern Tunisian town of Kasserine, for example, many say that they are so disillusioned with the lack of change — lack of jobs — since the revolution that they no longer plan to vote. “They want me to vote so they can get a seat?” said Mabrouka Nbarki, 43, whose 17-year-old son was one of the dozens of young people killed in Kasserine during the revolt.
“Why would I vote?” she said, weeping. “There is no point.”
Source: New York Times