How ready are Libya's new leaders?
Libya's new leaders responded well to the water crisis earlier this month, making sure citizens had water even as pro-Qaddafi forces turned off access to drinking water supplies. But trouble may yet loom.
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Deep in the desert, pro-Qaddafi loyalists shut off the wells and pumps that provided one-third of Libya’s parched population with water from desert aquifers, part of the vast underground “Great Man-Made River Project” that Colonel Qaddafi dubbed the eighth wonder of the world.
Suddenly, Libya’s long-expected post-revolution humanitarian emergency turned critical, with a desperate deadline. The United Nations raced to provide 11 million bottles of water to Tripoli by road, sea, and air. But much more needed to be done.
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How Libyans coped with the crisis, alongside the interim leaders of the National Transitional Council (NTC), is one illustration of how Libya may deal with the challenges of turning revolution into credible rule in the coming months. Still, there are signs of factionalism, uncertain planning, and even questionable relationships among some of Libya's new leaders that have prompted criticism and may hinder progress.
“We had a nightmare scenario ... people dying of dehydration,” recalls Panos Moumtzis, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Libya. UNICEF set up an emergency hub in Tunisia to deal solely with the water crisis. “What is interesting is to see the coping mechanism of the Libyan people. They went back to old wells in their neighborhoods; there was an incredible feeling of solidarity.”
Libyans say they hope that feeling grows, after Libya’s historical flag – the green, black, and red banner that has come to symbolize the revolution – was raised at the UN on Tuesday for the first time in 42 years.