Now a battle for our future really begins

Daily Express - 23 August 2011

YESTERDAY was a great day for Libya in so many different ways – but there is no doubt that the feverish atmosphere was as confused as it will be for many weeks, months, and indeed years to come.

The truth is that the partial liberation of Tripoli, following 42 years of Colonel Gaddafi’s rule, is just the beginning of what could turn out to be another long period of chaos.

As someone who has spent many years visiting this traditionally troubled land, I know that Muammar Gaddafi is not its only delusional “strong man”.

Even now there will be armed rebels wheeling and dealing as they stake their claims to lead what is arguably one of the richest states in Africa.

Foremost among them are members of the National Transitional Council, the West-approved organisation whose leaders are already in negotiation with David Cameron.

Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president who only four years ago hosted Gaddafi on a state visit to Paris, will tomorrow entertain rebel chief Mahmud Jibril.

Britain and France will, like the US, maintain that their motives are altruistic. But, as always, it will be selfish economic concerns that inevitably guide Libya’s fortunes.

Billions of pounds worth of oil and natural gas are what Libya ultimately represents to avaricious Western powers. And everything will be done to stop extremists replacing Gaddafi.

The murder of rebel commander Abdel Fatah Younis by his own side this month was a prime example of the tribal divisions within the rebel movement.

Already there are claims that militiamen from different parts of Libya cannot work together, with Al Qaeda factions calling for an end to cooperation with the hated “infidel” Western powers.

All this amateur army has proved is that it can fight a civil war while supported by the firepower of RAF planes and their Nato allies. But this backing is only temporary.

If Libyans are to establish true democracy, to maintain internal peace and security, to rebuild a shattered infrastructure, and to redistribute wealth, then they will have to do it alone.

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