By Arab News
The death of former Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi killed while trying to flee Sirte changes everything for Libya.
Of course, there has to be proof. Previous reports of some of his sons being captured or killed turned out to be false. Given that experience, the world will want irrefutable evidence that he is dead. Even then some people will not believe it. That does not matter. There will always be conspiracy theorists. Nor, if he is dead, will it matter too much how he died. There will be those who try to make something out of the apparent contradictions — that he was killed when NATO jets struck his vehicle or that he was alive when he was caught — but it will soon be forgotten.
If it is true — and the fact that the new Libyan leadership has confirmed it and so many foreign governments have accepted it suggest it is — it brings the conflict to final end and opens the door to a new democratic era in Libya.
The NTC had already said that it would start the process toward a new constitution and elections once it declared Libya free. That would happen when Sirte fell. It also said that it would move from Benghazi to Tripoli at that point. For good measure, the acting Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril said that he would resign as soon as liberation was announced.
Sirte finally fell yesterday as well. Libya is now liberated. That now triggers all the planned political changes. The first stage in Libya’s transition from dictatorship to democracy is over.
The point about Qaddafi’s death is that it makes the next transition stage that much easier, that much safer. As long as he remained at large, he would have been in a position to destabilize the country. He had money and the contacts to continue a guerrilla war. His son, Saif Al-Islam, may try to do so. But with his father now gone, it is difficult to see any foreign government offering him shelter or support.
Even so, the next stage in Libya’s transition is going to be a rough ride. Only a couple of days ago, Jibril warned of a possible power struggle ahead between rival politicians and political movements. That is likely to be the case, although it will probably be resolved via the ballot box. Given that situation, it would be best for Libya if elections to a constituent assembly to draw up the new constitution were held sooner rather than later. The longer the political void, the greater the chance of chaos.
For the moment, Libyans are fully united in celebration. The oppressor is gone. Forty-two years of dictatorship and tyranny are over. The Arab world also celebrates. With his consistent meddling, Qaddafi has been a threat, an embarrassment and a humiliation for Arabs too. The wider world too is happy to see the end of Qaddafi. But we will not say the tyrant got what he deserved. Of course he did — but a trial would have been far better. It would have provided some justice to his thousands upon thousands of victims. They should not be forgotten at this moment.
Meanwhile, elsewhere in the world, other dictators should take note of Qaddafi’s miserable fate. It could be their own.