Gaddafi is dead: What's next for Libya?

Oct 20, 2011

Revolutionary fighters overran the last loyalist stronghold in Libya and killed former Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi on Thursday, bringing to a dramatic close an eight-month war backed by NATO.

The Post's Tara Bahrampour, who recently returned from Libya, chatted about the impact Gadaffi's death might have on Libya and the rest of the world, and about what's likely to happen next.

Related content:
Libyan state TV reports Gaddafi killed after his home town is overrun
Photo Gallery: Libyans capture Sirte, Gaddafi's home town

Hi, this is Tara. I'm looking forward to your questions today.

What will happen to the pro-Gaddafi protesters now? Where will they go?

Hi, that's a good question and it's one that's been on the mind of the new government as pro-Gaddafi towns and neighborhoods have fallen.  In some cases the pro-Gaddafi folks have melted into the cities, staying mostly quiet about their support; in other cases they have fled the country. The Transitional National Council has promised there will be free speech, even for pro-Gaddafi folks, but that would come later, and that it was not the time to publicly support him while the war was still going on. We'll see if this changes as the new government solidifies.

So, can the NTC maintain control or are we going to be watching Egypt-like scenes in 3 months?

Another good question. There are some significant differences between Egypt and Libya. First of all, whereas Mubarak's departure left Egypt's basic institutions intact, the fall of Gaddafi leaves much more of a blank slate in Libya. The TNC has had eight months to plan how to fill that blank page, and they have a timetable for getting a national assembly in place that can write a constitution and pave the way toward new elections. At the same time, there are definitely unstable elements at play, in particular the struggle between Islamists and secularists, and the disparate militias still heavily armed across the country. The TNC has a lot of motivation to avoid Egypt-like scenes, but whether they can, time will tell.

The time to respond with this type of action was quite a few years ago, when Lybia claimed responsibility for downing the flight over Scotland.  As a result, I don't know how to interpret this delay, other than to say that it took europe this long since to make a step forward, together.  And now look at what they face today, right ?

If by "this type of action" you mean NATO involvement, that is only one aspect of this uprising, and it is unlikely that NATO would have gotten involved if there had not been a grassroots movement among Libyans rising up to overthrow Gaddafi. They had long been fed up with his dictatorship, but the timing of their uprising has much to do with the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt. Many Libyans I talked to there told me that when they saw that those countries could do it, it gave them the hope and courage to try it themselves.

What will they do with Gaddafi's body?

Good question. I've not heard of any plans for that, but I did hear that today (though haven't confirmed it) it was taken to Misurata, a city that put up a fierce resistance to him. It will be interesting to see if he is given a burial at a site that is made public. If so, the site is likely to become symbolic, both for Gaddafi's supporters and opponents. It would have to be well-guarded, if its whereabouts are known.

What will happen in Libya now in the political sense? What are the next steps for their people to build the government they want? And how long will this take?

Once the country is officially liberated, which is supposed to happen once Sirte falls, the Transitional National Council is charged with selecting a prime minister, who will appoint an interim cabinet. That cabinet will have eight months to prepare for the election of a national assembly, which will be Libya’s first legitimately elected body. The assembly, which will replace the Transitional National Council, will appoint a committee to draw up a constitution and move the country toward further elections.

So what will happen to the troops? Are they the basis of military command? Or do they return home?

Great question. Some have already joined the army. For the others, the TNC is hoping they can be convinced to join the national army or the police, or that now that the country is liberated that many of them will turn in their arms and go back to their civilian lives. Whether any of these things happen will probably depend a lot on how much confidence Libyans have in the ability of the TNC (and whoever succeeds it) to run the country fairly and securely. The less confidence they have, the more likely they are to stick with their separate militias, and that would be a sticking point for building a new country and a new army.

Will this event make a difference in Syria?

It is likely to inspire Syrian protesters, but I don't know whether it will make a difference in how the government is dealing with the uprising there.

I must say that I envy the Lybians for their ability to rid themselves of a definable enemy, a cause for celebration and a new beginning. For us, however, being as civilized as we are, we can not place the blame on any one group or set of individuals. I guess its just one of the problems with living in a democracy; we can only blame ourselves.

The Libyans are hoping they can put a democracy in place, and you're right - once they do they'll have to get out of the habit of putting all their hopes/anger/blame on a single, unchangeable leader.

Can the U.S. be effective in preventing what has happened to "Arab Spring" in egypt - prevent an Islamist regime from taking power?

Each of these countries has its own particular elements. Libya is much smaller and wealthier than Egypt, and while there are strong Islamist factions there, there are also strong secular ones, and many Libyans I have talked to have stressed that they want to avoid extremism in any realm. As for the U.S. preventing or promoting a new regime in Libya,  they have been pretty clear that they are going to leave the decision up to the Libyans, and while the U.S. and other countries will be advising them on democracy-building, they have always said that it is up to the Libyans in the end to decide what kind of future they want.

Thank you all for your questions. I hope you'll keep reading our post-Gaddafi coverage as events progess.

In This Chat
Tara Bahrampour
Tara Bahrampour has been a staff writer for the Washington Post since 2004. Based in Washington, she covers immigration, and has also reported for the Post from North Africa, the Middle East, and the Republic of Georgia. She is the author of To See and See Again: A Life in Iran and America, a memoir about revolution and growing up between two cultures.
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