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Libya’s NTC struggles to stay the “good guys”

Libya’s NTC struggles to stay the “good guys”

As a relative unknown gets elected as interim PM in Libya, cracks begin to show in the NTC solidarity started with wrangling over Gaddafi's body.

November 2, 2011 1:27 by

Having picked a new prime minister, Libya’s fractious interim ruling council must now restore its own credibility, dented by unseemly haggling over Muammar Gaddafi’s rotting remains.

The nature of the man’s death – insulted, battered and abused before being shot dead – has done some damage to its standing, with many observers asking themselves, just who are the men who have replaced him?

“The good guys,” one Western diplomat insisted when asked that question in Tripoli last week.

But the halo awarded to the so far unelected National Transitional Council (NTC), hurriedly put together as the war against Gaddafi started, is under temporary review by their foreign backers as the headaches of state-building emerge.

The selection by the NTC of little known academic Abdurrahim El-Keib as interim prime minister on Monday also highlighted how mysterious the internal workings of the new ruling group can be to perplexed diplomats, journalists and Libya analysts, as well as – especially – to an increasingly impatient Libyan public.

“Your time is done, NTC,” a young Libyan blogger wrote this week. “Thank you – the Libyan people.”

Many of them are worried about whether a coalition of armed factions that were bound mostly by hatred of Gaddafi can hold together now his regime has crumbled and he has been buried.

Rights groups are attacking the NTC, too. First it was accusations of the illegal detention and torture of thousands of pro-Gaddafi fighters and, now, reports from Human Rights Watch that fighters loyal to the NTC may have executed scores of captured Gaddafi loyalists in his hometown.

Revenge attacks are common in other parts of the country.

Reuters reporters have heard residents of one Tripoli suburb shout, “You’re just the same as he was! One dictatorship for another!” at a patrol of NTC fighters, combing the neighbourhood for locals they say still worship a dead man.

Another sign that the road ahead for post-Gaddafi Libya could be rocky is the wrangling and political horse-trading that took place over Gaddafi’s corpse – four days of haggling about its fate before it was finally buried in a secret grave.

It all adds up to a clock of patience slowly ticking down – amid a potentially dangerous power vacuum – as the NTC faces its biggest challenge so far – shepherding the country peacefully to what it has promised will be a functioning democracy.

Keib has promised he will select an interim cabinet over the next couple of weeks after which it will serve for an eight-month run-up to an election for a national assembly charged with drawing up a new constitution.

That will then sit for a year before elections proper – what kind of elections will depend on the form of the constitution.
The question for Libya is whether or not the country can get there without regional, religious and policy divisions knocking things off course or back towards violence.

“A basic problem is that the allegiance of most fighters who helped defeat the pro-Gaddafi forces is firstly to their own militias, whose identity is mostly based on specific towns, and only second to the NTC,” Alex Warren, of Frontier MEA, a Middle East and north Africa research and advisory firm, told Reuters.

“That raises the question of who could maintain stability in the case of any major clashes between the different armed groups themselves. I don’t think those will…(CONTINUED TO NEXT PAGE)

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