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.

Photo: Getty
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Who will win in Manchester Gorton?

Will Labour lose in Manchester Gorton?

The death of Gerald Kaufman will trigger a by-election in his Manchester Gorton seat, which has been Labour-held since 1935.

Coming so soon after the disappointing results in Copeland – where the seat was lost to the Tories – and Stoke – where the party lost vote share – some overly excitable commentators are talking up the possibility of an upset in the Manchester seat.

But Gorton is very different to Stoke-on-Trent and to Copeland. The Labour lead is 56 points, compared to 16.5 points in Stoke-on-Trent and 6.5 points in Copeland. (As I’ve written before and will doubtless write again, it’s much more instructive to talk about vote share rather than vote numbers in British elections. Most of the country tends to vote in the same way even if they vote at different volumes.)

That 47 per cent of the seat's residents come from a non-white background and that the Labour party holds every council seat in the constituency only adds to the party's strong position here. 

But that doesn’t mean that there is no interest to be had in the contest at all. That the seat voted heavily to remain in the European Union – around 65 per cent according to Chris Hanretty’s estimates – will provide a glimmer of hope to the Liberal Democrats that they can finish a strong second, as they did consistently from 1992 to 2010, before slumping to fifth in 2015.

How they do in second place will inform how jittery Labour MPs with smaller majorities and a history of Liberal Democrat activity are about Labour’s embrace of Brexit.

They also have a narrow chance of becoming competitive should Labour’s selection turn acrimonious. The seat has been in special measures since 2004, which means the selection will be run by the party’s national executive committee, though several local candidates are tipped to run, with Afzal Khan,  a local MEP, and Julie Reid, a local councillor, both expected to run for the vacant seats.

It’s highly unlikely but if the selection occurs in a way that irritates the local party or provokes serious local in-fighting, you can just about see how the Liberal Democrats give everyone a surprise. But it’s about as likely as the United States men landing on Mars any time soon – plausible, but far-fetched. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.