Libyans frustrated one year after revolution

Little progress toward democracy

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One year after the start of the revolution that ended Moammar Gadhafi’s 42-year rule, Libya's government has no control over militia groups in a country awash with weapons. Human rights groups have accused some militias of torturing detainees, and many Libyans are frustrated with the lack of openness in the transitional government.

The National Transitional Council, an interim body that comprises unelected members, has become a lightning rod for criticism.

“People who once supported the revolution are now not quite sure about their feelings because they don’t see any light at the end of the tunnel,” said Hakeem Gadi, a Tripoli-based pro-democracy activist.

“Many of the old problems are re-emerging in an uglier way,” he added.

For many Libyans, the revolution that started in the eastern city of Benghazi a year ago is far from over.

“Our revolution has not run its course. All we have done so far is get rid of the head of the regime, and that is not enough,” said Mohamed Benrasali, a resident of the western city of Misrata.

“The problem is that you have a new minister at the top, but the same old machine behind him. The revolution has to reach every corner of the government,” he added.

Gadhafi was killed by revolutionary militias on Oct. 20 in his hometown of Sirte, a city on the Mediterranean coast about 230 miles east of Tripoli.

Libyans will mark the anniversary of the beginning of the revolution on Friday.

Security checkpoints have sprung up in cities and towns, and the government has banned celebratory gunfire and ostentatious parades, which were familiar sights during the Gadhafi era.

“The problems facing Libya are very serious, and there is a possibility that the country could not come through this period successfully,” said Marina Ottaway of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

“It is a fluid situation, and things could go very wrong.”

Despite the widespread hatred for the Gadhafi regime, 35 percent of 2,000 Libyans surveyed last month supported the idea of a strong leader, and only 29 percent said they would prefer to live in a democracy.

“I reckon we need political education to introduce the Libyans to alternatives to autocratic rule,” said Christoph Sahm, director of Oxford Research International, a private research organization that conducted the survey with the University of Oxford and the University of Benghazi.

Pro-democracy activists worry that Libya is not moving toward becoming a democratic state.

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About the Author
Ashish Kumar Sen

Ashish Kumar Sen

Ashish Kumar Sen is a reporter covering foreign policy and international developments for The Washington Times.

Prior to joining The Times, Mr. Sen worked for publications in Asia and the Middle East. His work has appeared in a number of publications and online news sites including the British Broadcasting Corp., Asia Times Online and Outlook magazine.


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