Libya's new danger

Barely freed from dictatorship, Libya now stands at the edge of division, an Arabic-language editorial notes. The executive needs to do better. Other topics today: Egypt's generals have made a mistake, and so has Syria's regime.

Just liberated from despotism, Libya now faces the prospect of division, if not renewed fighting

The surviving children of Muammar Qaddafi and the few admirers of his legacy must be gloating over what the situation in Libya is coming to, only months after the despot was killed by Libyan rebels, the pan-Arab newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi noted in an editorial yesterday.

"Libya is going from bad to worse, as the reform process is extremely slow and the state and its executive apparatus are totally lacking," the newspaper claimed.

"We're no longer talking about the collapse of the security situation and the supremacy of armed militias … we're talking this time about a far more momentous danger that is looming over the country: division or perhaps even fragmentation."

On Tuesday, tribal and militia leaders in the north-eastern city of Benghazi, the birthplace of the uprising against the four-decade rule of Qaddafi, declared Libya's eastern oil-rich half to be a semiautonomous region.

As a result, clashes erupted between Benghazi natives who want to restore a pre-independence system - when a region called Barqa used to be an autonomous territory - and the defenders of Libya's territorial unity. For many analysts, the declaration sounded like the first step towards breaking the country into pieces.

Following a well-attended convention on Tuesday, Benghazi's tribal leaders appointed Ahmed Al Senussi to be head of a "higher council" tasked with running the new region's affairs and handling relations with the hitherto only legitimate representative of the Libyan people, the National Transitional Council.

"The Barqa region, like Iraq's Kurdistan province, may easily become an independent country," Al Quds Al Arabi said.

The fact that this newly proclaimed region is rich in energy resources means that the other parts of the country, namely the Tripoli area to the west and Fazan to the south, are going to be deprived of these riches, which feed about $60 billion dollars a year into the country's coffers.

Back in 1943, after the end of the Italian occupation in Libya, the country was divided into three provinces: Barqa (under British rule), Tripoli (under US rule) and Fazan (under French rule), the newspaper recalled.

Then, after formal independence in 1951, Libya was reunited under a central government led by King Idris Al Senussi.

Trying to repartition the country would take Libya "70 years back" and set fire to an unpredictable ethnic and tribal tinderbox, the editorial said.

"We fear the day when Libyans may rue the time when they were ruled by a corrupt dictator," the newspaper said.

"What a shame it would be to come to the conclusion that a despot managed to preserve the country's unity for more than 40 years, yet those who toppled him quickly divided it, justifying all his previous claims."

 

Generals' cosmetic scheme goes awry

The story of Egypt's Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (Scaf) and the American rights groups is quite similar to that of the ultraconservative Egyptian MP Anwar Al Balkimy who went to get a nose job, columnist Abdallah Iskandar suggested in the pan-Arab daily Al Hayat.

The now former Al Nour party MP appeared on television last week, claiming to be the victim of a carjacking, when in fact he had willingly had a rhinoplasty. His tricky attempt to come out as a heroic victim with a satisfying nose, resulted in him losing his party membership and his seat in parliament.

"The same happened with Scaf," the columnist said. "When the foreign, mainly American, NGOs were the only option, the council had to 'beautify' its failing image."

When the newly elected MPs and the majority of Egyptians were demanding a quicker transition of power, the NGO issue was created to assert Scaf's national image, something Egyptian are clamouring for, and to confirm Egypt's independence.

"However, the entire scheme backfired as SCAF was forced, under pressure and out of dependency on US aid, to back off from prosecuting the members of the NGOs and release them."

SCAF's mistake was that it chose to launch its propaganda campaign against the US fully knowing it must retain strong ties, given the ever-degenerating economic bind Egypt is in.

Silence about Syria is no longer possible

Damascus seems unable to realise the changes on the international scene concerning its current situation, the Dubai-based daily Al Bayan said in its Wednesday editorial.

As the popular uprising is about to mark its first year, Syrian authorities are still pressing ahead, escalating their violent clampdown on their people, unaware that the network of international relations they rely upon is about to disintegrate.

"The allies of Damascus, mainly China and Russia, have begun to change direction and come closer to the Arab consensus as they realised that no solution is possible without Arab patronage," said the paper.

Moscow's announced participation in the Arab ministerial meeting on March 10, to discuss the Syrian issue, constitutes a Russian admission of the importance of the Arab role.

"In addition to international pressure, it was Damascus's stubborn adherence to violence that led to the change in its allies' position," Al Bayan added.

At the same time, no surprise looms on the Syrian horizon. This is regrettable because a voluntary change of method could save Syria and the region a lot of trouble, now that silence is no longer an option for the rest of the world.

 

* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk

translation@thenational.ae

Published: March 8, 2012 04:00 AM

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