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The rebuilding of Libya

Sunday Times Editorial | 2011-10-23 02:24:47.0
An anti-Gaddafi fighter shouts
An anti-Gaddafi fighter shouts "Allahu akbar" (God is great) as he celebrates the fall of Gaddafi in Sirte.
Image by: SAAD SHALASH / REUTERS

Sunday Times Editorial: THE death of Muammar Gaddafi and the fall of his last redoubt, Sirte, has brought about a critical moment for Libya.

The ragtag resistance coalition - which includes many former Gaddafi operatives with dubious histories of their own - now has the authority to pave the way for a new Libya.

It could choose to bring about democratic change by demilitarising society, developing a progressive constitution and preparing the country to choose its leadership freely for the first time in its history.

Or it could choose to impose a new era of military rule in which those who came to power by the gun choose to stay in power through force.

The African Union, which ought to play a leading role in plotting Libya's new direction, has lost its credibility among that country's new power-brokers.

It's soft-pedalling on Gaddafi, epitomised by the "road-map" initiative led by President Jacob Zuma, has placed it in a weak position to influence events.

Far more influential will be the European and US powers that provided military support to the toppling of the Gaddafi regime.

There is no guarantee that they will see the emergence of a democratic Libya as their first priority.

It may sound cynical, but it is probably true that they would like to see its oil flowing smoothly through the pipes of their oil companies before anything else.

An independent and democratic Libya which places its national interests before those of the Nato military powers might drive a harder bargain than one which is led by a dependent military.

South Africa may have played some bad cards, but all is not lost.

We should be offering Libya access to our considerable experience in the building of democratic institutions.

We should make sure that the result of this conflict is that Africa gains a new democracy which can help build this continent's independence and strength.

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