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From the Blog
Libyans hoping for a brighter future
“I was woken up at five in the morning by the sound of pounding on my door,” said Omar Ezubeik, a Tripolitan. “It was my dad, announcing in complete joy to me and everyone in the house that Gaddafi is dead, that Libya is free.”
That fateful morning, news of Gaddafi’s capture and subsequent death jolted Libyans across the west coast from their sleep. Entire families stumbled into living rooms to witness the end of four decades of oppression and injustice. In joy and relief, Libyan families and friends woke each other to share the news. “It seemed inexplicable, like a dream,” said Ebrahim Siala, an American Libyan whose family is from Tripoli, as he described his feelings that morning. “It was like waking up on Eid, but even better.”
As Libyans across the world celebrated, an almost palpable sense of euphoria reigned. In Libya, Ahmed el-Sheikhi, a former Libyan Air Force cadet from Benghazi, couldn’t find the words to express his joy over the phone. “I don’t know how to describe it,” he said. “The air is free, we can say what we want, it’s like a black cloud is gone and we can breathe again.”
Gaddafi’s death marks the end of a heinous era of exploitation, manipulation, and oppression. Recovering from the aftermath of the destruction he left in his wake will be a long and arduous journey for a country still reeling from his rule. Facing the challenges of its newfound freedom, Libya is a reborn nation in the international spotlight.
The transformation from dictatorship to democracy is no easy feat, and Libya is facing extraordinary challenges. Of immediate concern is the issue of Libya’s governance. The National Transitional Council (NTC) has promised to set up an interim cabinet in the immediate future, and to hold elections for a democratic national assembly by the beginning of the summer. The assembly will then “spend a year drawing up a new constitution before a parliamentary poll,” AP reports. Currently, the NTC chairman is Mustafa Abdul Jalil, a favorite of the Libyan people, and its interim prime minister is Abdurrahim El-Keib, a relative unknown.
The issue of Libya’s governance is a complicated one, as Libyans are still figuring out the monumental task of deciding how they want their country to be run and who should be tasked with running it. However, the unifying goal of all Libyans regardless of political or religious allegiance, is that of democracy and freedom. The people of Libya want a democratic, prosperous, and, most of all, a secure nation.
Establishing security in the streets of Libya is second on the list of Libya’s most pressing challenges. The armed militias who freed the country are still roaming the post-Gaddafi streets, and there are scores of unaccounted weapons in the hands of ordinary citizens. When asked what they envisioned for Libya’s future, the unanimous response given by all Libyans is security.
The ceaseless cacophony of endless bombardment punctuated by celebratory gunfire is a now familiar sound to all of the people of Libya, a sound they wish to put behind them as they look towards a future free of violence. Eliminating weapons from a free Libya fresh from the revolution is a daunting task faced by the NTC, especially when those weapons are in the hands of the armed militias who freed it.
After democracy and security, Libyans want stability and normality in their everyday lives. Libya’s streets are brimming with armed jobless youth whose optimism and joy will run out if not supplanted with the promise of employment and education opportunities. As a country, Libya has the potential for great prosperity, but this potential is hindered by its damaged infrastructure and its weakened schools and hospitals.
In order to prosper and thrive as a nation, Libya needs solid leadership and structured management when it comes to rebuilding its infrastructure and restoring its natural resources. The NTC has already taken positive steps in this direction. Everyday utilities are back in Libya’s major cities, and the price and availability of food is already returning to normal. There is still a need for medical supplies in the hospitals hardest hit during the revolution, but conditions are gradually improving. Most of Libya’s schools are back in session, with plans for a new and updated curriculum free of Gaddafi’s propaganda.
Perhaps the most important factor that will determine Libya’s future prosperity is the restoration of its oil production to post-revolution levels. Several oil fields have already reopened, and production is making a gradual comeback. However, some of Libya’s major oil fields are still abandoned or damaged, and most are understaffed, as the foreign laborers who managed them fled during the revolution. Restoring Libya’s oil production will require careful management and staffing, as well as cooperation with foreign operators.
As NTC chairman Mustafa Abdul Jalil stated at the beginning of the revolution, "We want a democratic government, a fair constitution, and we don't want to be isolated from the world anymore." Abdul Jalil’s statement sums up the goals of all Libyans, who, after having their voices stifled for four decades under Gaddafi’s brutal dictatorship, want freedom of expression and democracy.