From: Berhane Habtemariam (Berhane.Habtemariam@gmx.de)
Date: Tue Aug 30 2011 - 17:37:54 EDT
ion_rises> Gadaffi falls, revolution rises
Declaring victory after six months of war, the new regime in Tripoli has
rejuvenated the Arab Spring and may promote political change further south
30th August 2011
With its victory over the forces of
i> Moammar el Gadaffi this week, the Transitional National Council (TNC) has
proved it has more staying power than suggested by its initial hesitant
appearance at the head of the insurrection. Now it enters a more perilous
period, trying to manage its disparate supporters, launching a complex
political transition and dealing with residual military support for the
The biggest threat is that the collapse of the Jamahiriya may leave a power
vacuum in both Libya and the region or, certainly, more room for well-armed
insurrectionists to undermine the new Tripoli regime and post-revolutionary
regimes in Egypt and Tunisia. Governments in Algeria, Mauritania and Morocco
– the three North African states whose regimes have not been overthrown yet
– watch Libya with growing concern. Gadaffi’s fall has rejuvenated the Arab
Spring and will strengthen oppositionists in Algiers, Nouakchott and Rabat.
Also at risk are regimes in Sahelian countries such as Burkina Faso, Chad,
Mali and Niger, which are battling a combination of dissident soldiers and
foreign-backed rebel movements. They are already struggling to cope with the
return of hundreds of thousands of African economic exiles from Libya,
including trained mercenaries. Further south, the demise of Gadaffi will
shore up the diplomatic influence of Nigeria, which has a history of
confrontation with the Gadaffi regime over its sponsorship of rebellions in
Chad, Niger and, most bloodily, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
The value of Libyan largesse to the African Union and to individual African
states has been declining in recent years, compared to the growing financial
and technical power of Africa’s new Asian suitors. Nigeria will be able to
flex its muscles more in the Sahel, alongside its new ally Côte d’Ivoire,
and in the high councils of the AU.
In contrast, the South African government’s ambiguous policy on Libya –
initially backing the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation’s bombardment, then
denouncing it, then blocking the transfer of Gadaffi’s funds – has managed
to alienate both the new government in Tripoli and Gadaffi’s erstwhile
supporters in the African National Congress. Sudan’s Islamist regime proved
a little more consistent, offering strong support to the Libyan rebellion,
partly in revenge for Gadaffi’s meddling in the Darfur war and particularly
for his support for the Justice and Equality Movement, whose advance on
Omdurman in 2008 wobbled the National Congress Party regime.
The Colonel’s mercenaries
Gadaffi sponsored armed rebel movements across Africa and Europe, but his
fall does not eliminate their threat. Some will find new sponsors; some may
access his substantial weapons caches. With Western special forces and
Salafist movements stepping up operations in the Sahel, the region will
become increasingly militarised.
Much will depend how quickly the new regime in Tripoli can stamp its
authority on the country. The TNC has pulled in some impressive Libyan
technocrats from exile in Europe, North America and the Middle East. In
Dubai, a 70-strong TNC ‘Libya Stabilisation Team’ has been drafting plans
for the immediate takeover, once Tripoli definitively falls and the Brother
Leader’s death, capture or exile becomes fact, according to Aref Ali al
Nayad, a TNC loyalist and Libyan Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates.
Libyan exiles have also been converging on Doha, Qatar, for planning
sessions. The United Nations offered advice on a ‘stabilisation framework’,
as did officials from the European Union, Britain and the United States. A
measure of the TNC’s self-confidence is that it has borrowed from all of
them in drafting its own plans, probably taking most from the UN
suggestions, we hear. Despite disquiet about the influence of radical
Islamists, the TNC is currently dominated by politicians with liberal,
It has drawn up a draft constitutional charter, setting out a path towards
parliamentary and presidential elections. Its leaders talk about a
referendum and holding elections ‘within eight months’, which looks
improbable. Tunisia’s transitional government was keen to hold polls quickly
but had to postpone them until 24 October because of the lack of election
planning and systems, yet Tunisia is far ahead of Libya on that front.
Jalil and Jibril in charge
TNC leader Mustafa Mohamed Abdel Jalil and the fast-rising Chairman of its
Executive, Mahmoud Jibril, are showing strong leadership. Yet their history
as ‘Seif men’ – participants in
_Gadaffi> Seif el Islam el Gadaffi’s efforts to reform his father’s regime –
rankles with some in the NTC. Others argue that their credentials as
ministers who were prepared to stand up to the Colonel are solid.
The US military’s references in March to ‘flickers’ of radical Islamism
within the revolutionaries’ ranks focused wider attention on the involvement
of Salafist elements in the anti-Gadaffi movement. One leader of the final
assault on the Bab el Aziziya barracks was an Islamist militant who had been
renditioned back to Libya by the USA, only later to be rehabilitated as part
of Seif el Gadaffi’s initiative to co-opt former members of the hardline
Libyan Islamic Fighting Group. Whether the fighter in question has remained
a radical Islamist is unclear.
Those most worried by Islamist infiltration concentrate on the still
unexplained killing (and perhaps torture) of the rebel army Chief of Staff,
General Abdel Fatah Younis el Obeidi. Some rebels saw him as a Gadaffi
cuckoo in the nest; others, simply as a poor military leader. Unlike Abdel
Jalil or Jibril, however, Abdel Fatah Younis was compromised as a former
Interior Minister and was involved in some of the worst aspects of Gadaffi’s
rule. As a key securocrat, he is also thought to have provided intelligence
on Al Qaida and allied groups to Western agents after the 11 September
attacks a decade ago.
Although Islamist groups are taking a higher-profile role in revolutionary
Egypt and Tunisia, they are, so far, working within the electoral framework.
In Libya, no such framework exists, so there is a high risk of
faction-fighting as the new regime tries to consolidate power. ‘The TNC is a
very broad mosque,’ said one long-time Libya watcher.
Other North African states have concerns about the new order in Tripoli.
Both Egypt and Tunisia recognised the TNC as the legitimate government soon
after its assault on Tripoli on 20 August. For the shaky regimes in Tunis
and Cairo, the end of the Libyan conflict will remove a dangerous political
distraction – Gadaffi had been trying to defend the ousted despots Zine el
Abidine Ben Ali and Mohamed Hosni Mubarak – and help to boost their
economies, especially tourism revenue. Both the Tunisian and Egyptian
regimes have managed the sudden flow of refugees from the Libyan war with
relative efficiency and humanity.
Regular demonstrations on the Avenue Bourguiba and Tahrir Square have
established street politics as a force in Tunisia and Egypt. That may also
happen in Tripoli and Benghazi. The influx of foreign interest and money to
the ‘new’ Libya will shore up investor interest in North Africa more widely
if the new regimes stay broadly constitutional. The three revolutionary
regimes in North Africa have a common interest in each other’s success in
The view from Morocco and Algeria is more ambivalent. King Mohammed VI has
worked hard to present his government as the exception to the rule of
corrupt autocracies in North Africa. After talks between his government and
parties, elections will be held on 25 November to produce a government that
reflects values written (mainly by the King’s hand-picked team) into the
constitutional reforms which were agreed by a big majority in Morocco’s 1
These are early elections: the poll was not due until September 2012, but as
well as meeting the demands of the 20 February reform movement, an early
vote will allow Mohammed VI to replace the weak Istiqlal party leader Abbas
el Fassi as Prime Minister.
In Algeria, some on the street may take heart from Gadaffi’s fall and it
will encourage Parliament to work quickly on reforms when it reconvenes in
early September. The elite concentrates on the succession to President
lika> Abdelaziz Bouteflika, even if he stays well enough to see out his
third term to 2014.
Political Islam is returning to the public arena with a noisy debate on
rehabilitating the banned Front Islamique du Salut (FIS). Since the
President promised sweeping political reform on 15 April, Islamist activists
have been calling for political recognition.
Algiers may again court Islamists to stay in power. There have been secret
negotiations between top politicians led by Front de libération nationale
dem> Abdelaziz Belkhadem – whose strong Islamist credentials make him a
much-loathed figure among politically secular Algerians – and former FIS
notables, including El Hachemi Sahnouni. Abbasi Madani (in Qatar) and
Belhadj (in Algiers) wait in the wings.
Islamists see opportunity
Bouteflika’s reforms have been widely derided but Islamists see the revision
of the law on parties as an opportunity. One potential player is former
Premier and respected economist Ahmed Benbitour’s new Alliance nationale
pour le changement. The former leader of El Islah and Ennahda, Sheikh
Abdallah Djaballah, has also created a new party, the Front de la justice et
du développement, to which he has invited former FIS members.
The Algerian authorities’ attitude was summed up when Tunisian singer Bendir
Man was expelled during a tour of Algeria after dedicating a song about
democracy ‘to all Arab dictators’. ‘You have come to export the revolution
to Algeria,’ one agent reportedly told him. He has been banned from entering
Algeria again. The 26-year-old singer, banned and repeatedly imprisoned
under Ben Ali, is one of the voices of Tunisia’s ‘Jasmine revolution’.
Algiers has been ambiguous in its handling of Libya, with the government
formally neutral but ‘le pouvoir’ privately hoping Gadaffi would stay to
avoid any ‘demonstration effect’. Intriguingly, top-selling Algerian paper
El Khabar reported (before the rebels entered Tripoli) that the Algerian
intelligence service had uncovered and aborted a spy operation targeting
Gadaffi. It reported that Major Gen. Mohammed ‘Tawfik’ Medienne’s
Département du renseignement et de la sécurité (DRS) had expelled a foreign
national with a false Beninese passport and interrogated two other ‘spies’
of Libyan nationality who were suspected of collaborating with French
intelligence to get close to the Libyan leader.
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