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.
â€œWhat happened?â€ asked a student on his way to class. â€œWhy are you out here?â€
â€œGadhafi died!â€ said the 28-year-old Fort Collins resident.
Issa joined the handful of CSUâ€™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 nationâ€™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 â€“â€“ many of which were friends and family of CSU students.
â€œI was personally affected by this regime. My dad was imprisoned for 18 years. Political prison. Itâ€™s different for me to see (Gadhafi killed),â€ Issa said. â€œIâ€™m not really happy for his death and getting killed. But Iâ€™m happy that itâ€™s over. Heâ€™s gone. Heâ€™s not there. He canâ€™t hurt anyone anymore.â€
But with the death Thursday of Gadhafi, Libyaâ€™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 Libyaâ€™s first free elections within eight months of what is expected to be a declaration Saturday of â€œliberationâ€ from Gadhafiâ€™s rule.
â€œThe Libyan people now have a great responsibility: to build an inclusive and tolerant and democratic Libya that stands as the ultimate rebuke to Gadhafiâ€™s dictatorship,â€ 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.
Libyaâ€™s infrastructure remains relatively intact, some government offices continue functioning, and where they donâ€™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 Libyaâ€™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 Gadhafiâ€™s regime.
â€œWhen 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,â€ said Daniel Serwer, a former U.S. diplomat.
Senior Reporter Andrew Carrera can be reached at email@example.com.