Gaddafi’s gone and the honeymoon is over

Libyan rebels are jubilant, but many have mixed feelings about Gaddafi’s end, the future.

Former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi 311 (R) (photo credit: Reuters)
Former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi 311 (R)
(photo credit: Reuters)
At a rest stop between the cities of Ajdabiyya and Brega during the fighting in June, four Libyan rebels were debating what they would do if they caught the country’s strongman Muammar Gaddafi. “I would take him to see the houses he destroyed in Ajdabiyya,” a short, stubbly bearded man said. “I would make him sit in the back of a [Toyota] Hilux and let everyone throw eggs and shoes at him all over Libya,” remarked a young man not even 20 years old.

“I would take out my pistol and just shoot him,” chimed in a third man. The other three men, caught off guard, looked at him with an air of shock. Finally, the bearded man replied, “Our revolution is not about killing, it’s about building.”
The summary execution of the Libyan dictator on October 20 has marred the celebrations of his fall and left the rebel leadership exposed to accusations it cannot control its troops. And though many Libyans are relieved the man who controlled every facet of their lives for 42 years is gone, some are troubled by his gruesome demise.
In the former rebel capital of Benghazi in before spiraling into a nationwide movement. Gaddafi’s government neglected eastern cities like Benghazi, leaving him few supporters here. “Muammar butchered us, stole our money and told us everything was fine,” complains 43-year-old Anwar Adissi outside a downtown bank. “If he died violently, he deserved it. How many of our children died in this revolution, first here at the courthouse in February and then at the front?” It is a refrain often heard in the east, where the National Transitional Council (NTC) quickly established itself in March.
Many are not disturbed by accusations that rebel fighters killed Gaddafi in cold blood after they captured him alive.
Blurry video filmed by a fighter showed a stunned but very much alive Gaddafi being manhandled by rebels following his capture. Hours later, however, the deposed leader was dead. Doctors announced that a gunshot wound to the head killed him. But in the battlefield pictures circulating on the Internet, Gaddafi shows no such injuries.
The NTC, the rebels’ political leadership, promised to investigate the mysterious death, but few Libyans believe anything will emerge from the inquiry. “There is little the NTC can do,” says a political science professor at Garyunis University in Benghazi. “The people who supported the revolution from the beginning wanted Gaddafi’s head. Now the NTC is going to condemn them for this? They just don’t have the power to do that.”
Though many Benghazi residents are not keen on an NTC investigation, they are troubled by fears that the council has not been able to rein in the hundreds of militias that patrol the country’s cities. “The revolution is over,” says Ali Frawdi, 58.
“So why do all these kids have to continue driving around with these heavy weapons and shoot up the skies all night? I am afraid the NTC just can’t disband them.”
Ever since its creation in March, the NTC has not received high marks in Libyan society. A hodgepodge of political exiles, bureaucrats and social activists, it has Although rebels and their supporters in eastern Libya are jubilant, in the west of the country many have mixed feelings about Gaddafi’s violent end and Libya’s uncertain futureno natural leaders and few have any real political skills leading large institutions.
The body has been respected merely because its members defied Gaddafi.
But today, as the council transitions into becoming a new government, Libyans are beginning to closely scrutinize its decisions and many are not pleased by what they see.
“We want order and security,” complained 41-year-old Muhammad Amnisi at a fruit stand in the city of Tobruk. “We thought the end of the revolution would bring this.
But this is not happening.”
The cit y of Tarhuna lies about 90 miles southeast of the capital of Tripoli. Throughout the seven-month revolution, it remained loyal to Gaddafi as did most regions in western Libya. Today, rebel pick-up trucks laden with heavy weaponry barrel through its streets, letting residents know they chose the wrong side in battle.
Tarhuna residents have been reluctant to embrace the country’s new rulers and the rebels’ tricolor flag is rarely seen waving in houses and shops. “Any man deserves a trial and not an execution,” says Ahmad Sawi, 39, when asked about Gaddafi’s grisly end.
He gazed scornfully at a rebel convoy on its way south to the city of Bani Walid, where Gaddafi loyalists put up fierce resistance for over a month after Tripoli fell. “And if that man is the leader, people must respect him even if they disagree with him.”
Throughout Tarhuna, it is openly accepted that the rebels executed Gaddafi.
They give various reasons. Some believe that the deposed leader would have revealed how his downfall was a Westernengineered plot. Others boast that the NTC feared that the sight of him behind bars would generate sympathy for him and erode the council’s support. Almost all residents believe Gaddafi was a good leader who did much to improve the lives of Libyans during his four decades in power.
In contrast to the decrepit cities in eastern Libya, which Gaddafi neglected, Tarhuna and other western towns have a modern feel to them.
“There are many communities throughout Libya like Tarhuna,” explains an economics professor at Tripoli’s Al-Fateh University. “Especially in the west a lot of people supported Gaddafi. But the media has ignored these areas and focused on the east. This is not one big happy Libya.
We have a divided country and I don’t know if the NTC can heal these rifts.”
In the capital, residents are mostly happy Gaddafi has passed from the scene. They bore the brunt of a NATO air campaign targeting the government’s command and control centers, which led the fighting against the rebels. The fierce bombing reduced dozens of security service buildings to pancaked rubble. But they are eager to see the dozens of militias that have taken over large swaths of the city break camp and return to their towns and villages.
“It’s time for these fighters to go home,” laments Samir Suwayhli outside a café.
“They have no need to protect us anymore from Gaddafi.” The 63-year-old retired petroleum engineer pauses to take a sip of his European-style espresso. “Where is the NTC? We heard so much about how great it was during the revolution. But I don’t see much today.”
An NTC member from eastern Libya sympathizes with Suwayhli’s concerns.
“We are trying to build a new government.
But we can’t just produce a prefabricated government out of a hat. Gaddafi destroyed the country. He demolished its institutions.
We are just a few people trying to construct a new Libya. These things take time.”
But with Gaddafi dead and the revolution over, time is a commodity in short supply for the NTC. As Libyans’ patience with their missteps and false starts begin to wane, their honeymoon period is over.