London - Jockeying for power among Libya's well-armed and
fractious new leadership may intensify after the death of deposed autocrat
Muammar Gaddafi, an anxious and, for many, joyous moment in a country hungry
for stability and impatient to swap the bullet for the ballot box.
The interim government will be determined to ensure that
lingering pro-Gaddafi forces are prevented from launching any rearguard
guerrilla insurgency from the countryside that could destabilise the north
African OPEC member and its oil industry.
One of Gaddafi's most politically influential sons, Saif
al-Islam, and his security chief Abdullah Sanussi are apparently still at large
and may still be able to recruit armed followers.
But perhaps the most important test for the interim National
Transitional Council will be manage the enormous expectations of Libya's 6
million people, now freed definitively from the fear that Gaddafi could ever
reimpose his long strongman rule.
"There is now this massive expectation. Up to now
they've had an excuse that they are running a war. They don't have that
now...Everything now has got to happen," John Hamilton, a Libya expert at
Cross Border Information, told Reuters.
"That's a hard task. They have to deliver for the
people ... On the other hand, this may renew the honeymoon they enjoyed when
Tripoli fell, if they can put a decent government together in a short
The news of Gaddafi's capture and killing came minutes after
reports that his hometown Sirte had fallen amid raids by NATO warplanes,
extinguishing the last significant resistance by loyalist forces.
Huge task ahead
The capture of Sirte and the death of Gaddafi means Libya's
ruling NTC should now begin the task of forging a new democratic system which
it had said it would get under way after the city, built as a showpiece for
Gaddafi's rule, had fallen.
Some fear instability may linger and unsettle that process.
"Gaddafi is now a martyr and thus can become the
rallying point for irredentist or tribal violence - perhaps not in the
immediate future but in the medium-to-long term," said George Joffe, a
north Africa expert at Cambridge University.
"The fact that NATO can be blamed for his death is
worrying, in terms of regional support, and may undermine the legitimacy of the
National Transitional Council."
But the interim NTC authorities are also faced with a
possibly more critical task, namely getting under control a clutch of
anti-Gaddafi armed militias competing, so far peacefully, for ample share of
funding and political representation in a post-Gaddafi Libya.
Libya expert Alex Warren, of Frontier MEA, a Middle East and
north Africa research and advisory firm, said the death of Gaddafi "is
clearly a momentous event and far more than just a symbolic one."
But he added, of the NTC militias: "These groups need
to be either carefully disbanded or integrated into the armed forces ...
Questions remain about who these militias answer to, how they manage their
relationships with each other and what their demands are."
Under rules drawn up by revolutionary forces who overthrew
Gaddafi in September, the fall of Sirte will lead to an official declaration
that Libya is liberated, which will set in motion a process towards democratic
On declaring liberation, the NTC will move its headquarters
from Benghazi to Tripoli and form a transitional government within 30 days. A
200-member national conference is to be elected within 240 days, and this will
appoint a prime minister a month later who will nominate his government.
The national conference is to be given deadlines to oversee
the drafting of a new constitution and the holding of elections for a
Some worry that the politicking involved in forming a new
government in the coming days may strain to the limit the alliance of
convenience between provincial forces that constituted the armed opposition to
Now he is gone, the glue that held the alliance together may
Warren said it was not clear whether the current NTC
chairman Mustafa Abdel Jalil, widely seen as the most widely supported
politician in the NTC, would step down or not.
"In the current absence of any other organised
political institutions, it is vital that there is leadership to oversee crucial
elements of the transition, including the licensing of political parties, the
organisation of elections, and the disbanding or reintegration of
militias," he said.
In recent weeks Tripoli has seen an apparent competition for
the title of top militia in the capital, where the many armed groups now
exercising authority in the city portrayed themselves as the sole legitimate
US Republican Senator John McCain called on the NTC during a
visit to Libya last month to move quickly to get the armed groups under their