Just a few weeks ago, British Foreign Secretary William Hague declared the Libyan National Transitional Council as the ‘sole’ legitimate representatives of the Libyan people, a statement consolidated with expulsion of the Libyan diplomats in London and replaced with those that would represent the NTC. Shortly after this recognition, army commander General Abdel-Fatah Younes was killed in mysterious circumstances.
Last week, however, Mustafa Abdel Jalil, chairman of the NTC, sacked the 14-strong executive committee over Younes’ assassination, which included several top ministers, including those responsible for finance, defence and information.
Jalil said in an interview with Aljazeera that the move was made because the cabinet had made "administrative mistakes" in investigating the assassination of General Younes, whose burned, bullet-riddled body was found on 28 July.
This is certainly embarrassing for the western countries that have recognised the NTC as the representatives of the Libyans, who are showing visible signs of divisions in their midst. U.S. State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said on Wednesday: "This is an opportunity for renewal, not only in political terms, but in terms of the confidence that the Libyan people are going to have to have in NTC leadership."
Don’t get too excited folks. We may be praising the NTC for attempting to remove factions and ‘those responsible’ and rejoicing at ‘democracy’ in action but let us read on. Shamsiddin Abdulmolah, the council's media director, said: "Some of the people who served on the board can definitely be included in the new Cabinet." So basically, potential criminals (if they killed or help kill Younes then yes they are criminals) will remain in the cabinet? If I was in Benghazi right now I would not be feeling so confident.
It is evident that this is just a cabinet reshuffle. A reshuffle is just that: a reshuffle. It’s out with the old and in with the, well, old. This reshuffling of the cabinet was supposedly a move, according to rebel leaders, to appease Younes’ Obeidi tribe who are angry and outraged at his death. Younes was not popular among certain divisions in the opposition forces. This looks like a tribal conflict and it is incorrect to assume that all the rebels are united.
And who exactly represents the Libyan people when neither the cabinet nor the opposition is united? The rebels hope that, if they reach Tripoli, the population will join them in rising up against Gaddafi. This is clearly going against the will of the Libyan people. Commentators in the west, such as Deborah Haynes, and even in eastern Libya, can say however much they want about the propaganda being fed to government troops and its citizens, but the fact is, whether we like it or not, Gaddafi is still popular in many parts of the country, which explains why he is still in power. How then is this democratic?
Is there a strategy for what will happen if the rebels do manage to overthrow Gaddafi?
Perhaps not. On a final note, I leave you with the wise words of Independent reporter Patrick Cockburn:
As with Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003, the US and Britain found it was one thing to overthrow the Taliban or Saddam Hussein and quite another to replace them. Treating dubious local allies as the legitimate government has a propaganda value, but it is unwise to pretend that the local partner carries real authority. With this experience under its belt, it required real fecklessness for Britain to plunge into another conflict on the assumption that this time we were betting on a certain winner. Gaddafi may be overthrown but the struggle for power between internal factions is likely to continue.