Libya Uprising Six Months On: Was it Worth it?

The Libyan uprising ended six months ago this week and the response to the interim government’s stumbling attempts to restore the country to order have left many questioning if it was even ‘worth it’.

Attempts by the Libyan government to integrate former rebels into a national force to have thus far failed and deadly armed militias still roam the country. Incumbent Prime Minister Abdurrahim al-Keib and the National Transitional Council (NTC) have battled over the operation of Libya and today the NTC’s claim that it had sacked the cabinet after 65 of its 72 members approved a no-confidence motion was fiercely denied by al-Keib.

The power vacuum created by Gaddafi’s demise has left religious, tribal and ethnic factions of Libya competing for power and a sense of control and order is yet to be established.

As part of coverage for The Times, I attended a discussion at Chatham House, the Royal Institute of International Affairs, which featured key speakers and experts on the Libyan uprising. Lindsey Hilsum, the International Editor of Channel 4 News, stated that rectifying Libya was well within its ability, as “there’s only 6 million Libyans. They’re rich. They’re intelligent. They should be able to do this”.

She stressed, however, that Libya’s problems were deep rooted, and that the country’s failings didn’t even originate with Gaddafi himself, but with his predecessor King Idris I. She argued that the Libyan uprising was definitely “worth it” and that critics were wrong to “expect to go from dictatorship to democracy overnight”.

The biggest victim of Libya’s success is Syria. Hilsum stated that the NATO intervention “worked… without it there would be a lot more refugees and a lot more people killed”. She also stressed that “in terms of intervention, I believe Libya will be the last one for quite a while”. The Russians and the Chinese have been explicit in stating that they do not want intervention to be the new world order.

The Chatham House discussion also predicted a Muslim-governed phase across the Arab-Spring region, not least because Islamist parties such as the Muslim Brotherhood are more organised. Despite over thirty secularist parties forming to create one united party, there are still several fractures across the secularist campaign group.

Elham Saudi, Co-Founder and Director of Lawyers for Justice in Libya, urged for the continuation of independent media and rallied for Libyans to form “a sense of citizenship rather than entitlement”. She also called for forward-thinking and maturity, and that, as Libyans “[We] need to own our past in order to own our future”.

Sian Boyle


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