Oct 202011
Authors: Andrew Carrera, McClatchy-Tribune

Ahmad Issa stood outside the Lory Student Center Plaza clutching the Libyan flag and waving it in the air as scores of curious CSU students passed by.

“What happened?” asked a student on his way to class. “Why are you out here?”
“Gadhafi died!” said the 28-year-old Fort Collins resident.

Issa joined the handful of CSU’s 44-member Libyan student population that stood grinning on the Plaza from 1-3 p.m. on Thursday in reaction to the death of the nation’s leader, Col. Muammar el-Gadhafi. His 42-year reign was considered internationally to be a dictatorship marked by the rape, murder and imprisonment of Libyans –– many of which were friends and family of CSU students.

“I was personally affected by this regime. My dad was imprisoned for 18 years. Political prison. It’s different for me to see (Gadhafi killed),” Issa said. “I’m not really happy for his death and getting killed. But I’m happy that it’s over. He’s gone. He’s not there. He can’t hurt anyone anymore.”

But with the death Thursday of Gadhafi, Libya’s de facto leaders now face the challenge of preserving the fragile unity that they enjoyed while the deposed dictator was on the run, even as they begin transforming their war-battered nation into a democracy after 42 years of tyrannical one-man rule.

The task is daunting. The National Transitional Council, the top revolutionary authority, confronts a vast array of problems: bringing the rag-tag militias that ousted Gadhafi under control; recovering looted arms; halting revenge attacks on Gadhafi loyalists; caring for thousands of casualties; restoring oil production; repairing war damage; and keeping a lid on regional tensions and radical Islam.

At the same time, the self-appointed group of former officials, academics, military officers and others, who are driven by personal and ideological differences, must proceed with an ambitious democratization plan. It includes holding Libya’s first free elections within eight months of what is expected to be a declaration Saturday of “liberation” from Gadhafi’s rule.

“The Libyan people now have a great responsibility: to build an inclusive and tolerant and democratic Libya that stands as the ultimate rebuke to Gadhafi’s dictatorship,” President Barack Obama declared hours after a wounded Gadhafi was captured and likely killed by opposition forces after a nearly six-week siege of his hometown of Sirte.

Libya begins its new era with advantages over other former authoritarian-ruled states, for which the period between civil war and the establishment of the first elected government is historically the most dangerous.

Libya’s infrastructure remains relatively intact, some government offices continue functioning, and where they don’t, self-organized civic groups have taken over. There is little prospect of the sectarian or ethnic turmoil that convulsed Iraq. The National Transitional Council enjoys respect among Libya’s 6.4 million people as well as international recognition, and it soon is expected to win access to some $110 billion in assets frozen by sanctions on Gadhafi’s regime.

“When I was in Tripoli last month, the water was on, the electricity was on, the police were on the streets and the garbage was being picked up,” said Daniel Serwer, a former U.S. diplomat.

Senior Reporter Andrew Carrera can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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