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Libya - Politics - 2011

On 20 October 2011, the Libya National Transitional Council announced that it had captured Moammar Gadhafi during its offensive in the city of Sirte. The NTC also announced that Gadhafi had subsequently died of wounds sustained during his capture. These wounds were reported to have been sustained as he tried to escape NTC forces. Gadhafi was reportedly found hiding in a large drainage pipe. NATO reported that they had been warned he might attempt to flee the city in a convoy, which was subsequently attacked by NATO aircraft.

Inspired by the ouster of authoritarian regimes in Tunisia and Egypt, opponents of Gaddafi demanded an end to his 42-year rule. But the civil war in Libya was fundamentally different from the revolts in other countries, reflecting the fundamental geographical distinction between eastern Cyrenaica, which was liberated from Gaddafi's rule, and western Tripolitania, which remained largely loyal to the regime. By early March 2011 more than 2,000 people had been killed in clashes that began in the North African country on 15 February 2011. Small, hastily formed rebel groups take over town after town, as government forces retreat. Speculation is rampant that more bitter battles lie ahead, and serves to dampen some of the rebels' euphoria. The question, as yet unanswered, about the westward march of the opposition: why has Colonel Gadhafi, not known for his restraint, held back the full might of his remaining battle force?

In Benghazi, the opposition National Council held its first formal meeting Saturday 05 March 2011. As the makeshift group tries to consolidate control of governance in the east, it was expected to renew the call for limited international military help against Colonel Gadhafi. By 06 March 2011 rebels had pushed beyond the town of Ras Lanuf, more than halfway between rebel headquarters in Benghazi and the city of Sirte, and were eying that Gadhafi stronghold.

With the declaration of liberation on 23 October 2011, the clock has started running on commitments made by the National Transitional Council in its Constitutional Declaration of 3 August 2011. In the latter, it was stipulated that the Council would relocate to Tripoli and establish an interim Government within 30 days; then, within a 90-day period, it would adopt electoral legislation and establish an electoral management body. Within 240 days, Libya would hold elections for a national congress, which would give democratic legitimacy to a new government and to the drafting of a new constitution. The constitution would be put to a popular referendum within 30 days of its adoption by the national congress, and Libya would proceed to its first elections according to the constitution.

The declaration of liberation by the National Transitional Council of Libya on 23 October 2011 in Benghazi signalled the end of armed hostilities in the country, eight months after the Qadhafi regime attempted to suppress a peaceful movement sparked on 15 February, when families held a protest calling for the release of a lawyer who was representing their claims in respect of the 1996 Abu Salim massacre. The fall of Sirte, which the Council had indicated in early October would trigger the declaration of liberation, and the death of Muammar Qadhafi on 20 October, came three days after Council forces announced the capture of the town centre of Bani Walid. These events followed weeks of intense street-to-street combat operations in both cities, and occurred against a backdrop of mounting pressure on the Council to achieve a decisive victory against heavily entrenched pro-Qadhafi forces and snipers in the two strongholds. On 31 October 2011, having relocated to Tripoli, the National Transitional Council announced the appointment of Abdurrahim el-Keib as the countrys new interim Prime Minister. Mr. El-Keib was selected by the Council from among nine candidates through a transparent voting process. He stated that he expected to form his Government within two weeks, within the 30-day period.

The declaration of liberation was widely hailed in Libya and beyond as marking a new beginning for the Libyan people, setting their country on the path to national reconciliation and the building of a modern nation-state, based on the principles embraced by the revolution: democracy, human rights, the rule of law, accountability, respect for minority rights, the empowerment of women and the promotion of civil society.




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