With Gaddafi gone, we must support the re-building of Libya

The UK and France should offer their help in training Libyan officials.

As 42 years of 'one-man rule' in Libya now ends with the death of Gaddafi, the National Transitional [NTC] Council have added momentum for their nation-building role but the task at hand is no small fete for any country, especially one that has no independent public or democratic institutions of any kind.

The expectations of the Libyan people are high, as they should be. Not only have they suffered from decades of despotic rule many civilians also risked their lives and took up arms to help overthrow the regime. The NTC now has to navigate the country towards political legitimacy and build a nation with transparent, independent, inclusive and democratic institutions, and move towards reconciliation in order to meet the demands of the many diverse tribes and clans in Libya.

But, how will they achieve this? Who will their future leaders be and how confident will Libyans be in the capacity of their new leaders to deliver real positive change? We should be under no illusion of how difficult and complex this will be. Even leaders of the NTC, though playing strong and decisive leadership roles in the rebel movement cannot escape their part in the Gadaffi regime - Mustafa Abdul Jalil himself was the Minister for Justice where he imprisoned many dissident Libyans.

Beyond the politics of leadership, there is the harder more day-to-day issue of transitioning towards and actually running a democratic government and forming independent public institutions. Earlier in the Arab Spring I wrote about the strong benefits of institutions like the London School of Economics in providing training for senior Libyan government officials in transparency, good governance and public service delivery. The programme itself was sound but sadly the process followed fell foul of university decision-making boards of avoiding association with regimes with human rights abuses.

Now that Libya must start from scratch in forming an Interim Government, holding democratic elections next year and then actually running a country of six million covering a large land mass, it is perhaps time to re-visit this issue of training, equipping and supporting new leaders and officials in Libya and other countries newly liberated in the Arab Spring. Even the long-established parties of the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats had to be steered by the Cabinet Secretary and senior civil servants on how to form and deliver a strong, stable coalition government in the UK.

Libya also has the added challenge of ensuring inclusion of the many tribes who were also loyal to Gaddafi as excluding them from a 'new Libya' will only marginalise and disenfranchise them, and risk possible future retaliation.

Just as the Franco-British led NATO push supported the Libyan people in their uprising and while of course Libyans will want overall control of the design and delivery objectives of their future public institutions they will establish, maybe the UK, France and other countries with strong, respected and independent civil services should now also offer their help in training Libyan officials to meet the many challenges of good governance, transparency, accountability and institutional set-up and national public service delivery, ahead of them.

On the up-side, if Libyan leaders and government officials transition well towards democratic governance, institution and nation building they have enough oil resources - tapped and un-tapped - to re-build Libya and distribute the wealth effectively through investing in national education, health, economic and civil society programmes. Lessons could be also learned from successful examples in the region of such of long-term national re-distribution, investment and institution building from countries such as Qatar, to meet the needs and aspirations of the Libyan people.

What is clear is that Libya has many challenges ahead of it and it is the role of everyone, including those who supported the NATO intervention, to now also help the transition towards a democratic, inclusive and well governed Libya.

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Meet Anne Marie Waters - the Ukip politician too extreme for Nigel Farage

In January 2016, Waters launched Pegida UK with former EDL frontman Steven Yaxley-Lennon (aka Tommy Robinson). 

There are few people in British political life who can be attacked from the left by Nigel Farage. Yet that is where Anne Marie Waters has found herself. And by the end of September she could well be the new leader of Ukip, a party almost synonymous with its beer-swilling, chain-smoking former leader.

Waters’s political journey is a curious one. She started out on the political left, but like Oswald Mosley before her, has since veered dramatically to the right. That, however, is where the similarities end. Waters is Irish, agnostic, a lesbian and a self-proclaimed feminist.

But it is her politics – rather than who she is – that have caused a stir among Ukip’s old guard. Former leader Paul Nuttall has said that her views make him “uncomfortable” while Farage has claimed Ukip is “finished” if, under her leadership, it becomes an anti-Islam party.

In her rhetoric, Waters echoes groups such as the English Defence League (EDL) and Britain First. She has called Islam “evil” and her leadership manifesto claims that the religion has turned Britain into a “fearful and censorious society”. Waters wants the banning of the burqa, the closure of all sharia councils and a temporary freeze on all immigration.

She started life in Dublin before moving to Germany in her teens to work as an au pair. Waters also lived in the Netherlands before returning to Britain to study journalism at Nottingham Trent University, graduating in 2003. She subsequently gained a second degree in law. It was then, she says, that she first learnt about Islam, which she claims treats women “like absolute dirt”. Now 39, Waters is a full-time campaigner who lives in Essex with her two dogs and her partner who is an accountant.

Waters’s first spell of serious activism was with the campaign group One Law for All, a secularist organisation fronted by the Iranian feminist and human rights activist Maryam Namazie. Waters resigned in November 2013 after four years with the organisation. According to Namazie, Waters left due to political disagreements over whether the group should collaborate with members of far-right groups.

In April 2014, Waters founded Sharia Watch UK and, in January 2016, she launched Pegida UK with former EDL frontman Steven Yaxley-Lennon (aka Tommy Robinson). The group was established as a British chapter of the German-based organisation and was set up to counter what it called the “Islamisation of our countries”. By the summer of 2016, it had petered out.

Waters twice stood unsuccessfully to become a Labour parliamentary candidate. Today, she says she could not back Labour due to its “betrayal of women” and “betrayal of the country” over Islam. After joining Ukip in 2014, she first ran for political office in the Lambeth council election, where she finished in ninth place. At the 2015 general election, Waters stood as the party’s candidate in Lewisham East, finishing third with 9.1 per cent of the vote. She was chosen to stand again in the 2016 London Assembly elections but was deselected after her role in Pegida UK became public. Waters was also prevented from standing in Lewisham East at the 2017 general election after Ukip’s then-leader Nuttall publicly intervened.

The current favourite of the 11 candidates standing to succeed Nuttall is deputy leader Peter Whittle, with Waters in second. Some had hoped the party’s top brass would ban her from standing but last week its national executive approved her campaign.

Due to an expected low turnout, the leadership contest is unpredictable. Last November, Nuttall was elected with just 9,622 votes. More than 1,000 new members reportedly joined Ukip in a two-week period earlier this year, prompting fears of far-right entryism.

Mike Hookem MEP has resigned as Ukip’s deputy whip over Waters’ candidacy, saying he would not “turn a blind eye” to extremism. By contrast, chief whip, MEP Stuart Agnew, is a supporter and has likened her to Joan of Arc. Waters is also working closely on her campaign with Jack Buckby, a former BNP activist and one of the few candidates to run against Labour in the by-election for Jo Cox’s former seat of Batley and Spen. Robinson is another backer.

Peculiarly for someone running to be the leader of a party, Waters does not appear to relish public attention. “I’m not a limelight person,” she recently told the Times. “I don’t like being phoned all the time.”

The journalist Jamie Bartlett, who was invited to the initial launch of Pegida UK in Luton in 2015, said of Waters: “She failed to remember the date of the demo. Her head lolled, her words were slurred, and she appeared to almost fall asleep while Tommy [Robinson] was speaking. After 10 minutes it all ground to an uneasy halt.”

In an age when authenticity is everything, it would be a mistake to underestimate yet another unconventional politician. But perhaps British Muslims shouldn’t panic about Anne Marie Waters just yet.

James Bloodworth is editor of Left Foot Forward

This article first appeared in the 17 August 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Trump goes nuclear