What will make the Libyan rebels' government-building attempts successful?
Guest blogger Laura Seay interviews the author of a book on governance by rebel groups about what Libya's National Transitional Council will need to do to build a stable government.
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One other thing to think about is what might have happened had the North African revolutions swept through a non-divided Sudan as they did in neighboring Egypt. It is at least possible that instead of two Sudans today, a unified Sudan might have succumbed to the pressures from protesters and begun a process of democratic reform. Ironically, this was more in tune with what the SPLA and its late leader, John Garang, had always called for.Skip to next paragraph
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TiA: What does your research tell us about likely outcomes for the success or failure of the NTC in Libya? Based on what we know today, do they strike you as more similar to the RCD-Goma, the SPLM, or the LTTE?
Mampilly: The National Transitional Council in Libya is a somewhat unique case in that it faced much more acute international pressure as a result of fighting a war in an oil rich economy, with NATO support, and against a dictator seemingly designed for cable news networks. Still, they faced many of the same challenges in ensuring a degree of social and political order in Benghazi and other towns that they controlled over the past six months. Reports from rebel held territory were initially discouraging, but over time, rebel leaders recognized the importance of projecting governance competence to the international community. Proving they could rule became an important component of their claim to be the authentic Libyan government and hence worthy of international recognition.
Of the three insurgencies that I studied, the NTC resembles both the RCD in Congo and the SPLA. It resembles the RCD in that the rebellion was initially ill-prepared for the tasks of governance. Like the RCD, the political wing of the NTC only came together after the fighting had already begun, a weakness the RCD was never able to overcome. In addition, both groups faced questions about who was really calling the shots-- the political leadership of the insurgencies or their foreign patrons. However, the NTC shares with the SPLA a close relationship with the Western powers which pressured both groups to improve their civilian governance performance in exchange for tangible rewards. In addition, it appears that as with South Sudan, the new Libyan leaders continue to look to the West for guidance which may bode well for their post-conflict transition.
At the same time, as with the SPLA, its important not to let our contempt for figures like Qaddafi and Sudan's Omar al Bashir to cloud our judgments of their challengers. Throughout its rule in South Sudan, the SPLA faced considerable pressure from both local and international activists concerned about their often brutal treatment of civilians. This was a good thing and led to important changes in its behavior. But following the outbreak of the conflict in Darfur, Western activists in particular were more concerned with demonizing Bashir than scrutinizing the anti-Bashir rebellions. Similarly, in Libya the NTC has not always treated denizens of their territory fairly, a fact often ignored by their advocates. For example, the NTC has continually faced accusations of collective punishment targeted against Black Libyans and sub-Saharan Africans who were falsely presumed to all be mercenaries in Qaddafi's employ. Even after taking power in Tripoli, accusations of black African being rounded up have continued. This partially explains why many sub-Saharan African countries and AU members have been reluctant to recognize the NTC as the sovereign government of Libya. Ultimately, while it did make strategic sense for the rebellion to align with the NATO powers to win the war, the former rebel rulers will need to reconnect with their own neighborhood, particularly south of the Sahara, if they are going to survive. Improving governance performance for all Libyans is a good place to start.
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