Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Libya: Filling the void of a stateless state

The Libyan struggle for self-determination must be rooted in its core by a strong civic society, scholar argues.


Larbi Sadiki

"Winning the moral fight for a democratic Libya, as challenging as it may be, is compellingly imperative; it remains the most potent ammunition in the rebel's inventory for defeating Gaddafi.

The battle for Libya must not be solely focused on and reduced to a fight for the gain of territory or the ousting of a tyrant. Military victory will not determine who rules the Libyan people. The Libyan people will determine who earns their consent and trust to rule.

The Maghrebi peoples – in Libya as in Algeria – know too well that at the end of military victory could lurk despotic nationalism, populism and demagogy, spawned from singular and brutal revolutionary legitimacy. The current popular empowerment movement in Libya challenges the country's nascent civil society to seize the day in order to rally democratic voices and construct an emancipatory civic society (demos).

Therein lays the seeds of self-realisation, self-definition and a new imagining of a democratic community.

Earning democracy

The current situation though shows a temporary hiatus in the people's power struggle in Libya.
However, this hiatus can be capitalised on to construct the building blocks of a civic society that will, in the future, sustain and deepen popular empowerment, and road-mapping post-Gaddafi political renewal in order to avoid an institutional and democratic void when the Gaddafis are departed.....

Militarisation of Libya's people's revolt

Gaddafi is now left only with the consolation prize of winning small battles against a people whose majority clearly no longer want him or his sons.

There is nothing else Gaddafi can now win – maybe only safe passage for himself and his family. Although his sons will now proceed and attempt to re-package themselves as 'prophets' of good government in the territory under their control.....

The search for symbols

The biggest challenge confronting the construction of a Libyan demos is the institutional void. Unlike Egypt and Tunisia, Libya is a state only in its capacity to coerce and distribute. It is not an exaggeration to state that Gaddafi's Libya is an oddity or rarity: a 'state-less state'.

Note how the rallying myths and emblems of the popular uprising and current rebellion are pre-Gaddafi. They include the tricolour flag or the liberal constitution dating back to the era of King Idriss, in the late 1950s. As if Libyans are invoking the symbols of King Idriss to counter the delegitimised symbols and icons of 'King' Gaddafi....

Finally, equally challenging is to know how to manage relations with EU states and the US, who only in the recent past backed Gaddafi despite his malfeasance, and today are putting their weight behind the Libyan people's struggle against autocracy.

The Libyan people's collective consent and authorship over its uprising must not be traded off for any price that might compromise their right to self-govern."

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