The February 17th Revolution shocked the world: after 42 years of tyranny and corruption, the dictatorship of Muammar Qaddafi met its . . .[restrict]end — over seemingly insurmountable odds. How was this accomplished? Much as the graffiti left behind from neighbouring revolutions documents, this immense act of courage came through people power.
As Libya moves from authoritarian rule to a viable democratic system, the government must remain aware of precisely this invaluable natural resource and harness it to the fullest of its potential, not petroleum but instead the Libyan people.
To preserve the unity that toppled Africa’s longest reigning dictator, a number of issues must be addressed concerning the potential of Libyans to the building of a vibrant new democratic order. Libya has inspired the world, and will continue to do so.
The Libyan government must remain attuned to the vast potential of the nation’s human resources, as we have many qualified Libyans in the country and abroad. All must be given opportunity and support to work together in forging a better, unified future.
Concerning the Libyan community abroad, this group largely lacks experience from inside the country; not be fully accustomed to the needs and wants on the ground (in comparison with qualified Libyan residents), this group is ideally suited to advisory and consultancy positions. Such a move would create a balance, ensuring efficiency and effectiveness in solving Libya’s challenges with a wide base of expertise and diversity of viewpoints. A joint effort is needed, in particular, with regards to the following sectors:
The post war situation in Libya is now becoming a matter of grave concern for thousands of Libyans residing in the country, as well as for those abroad. Throughout the revolution — and indeed, until the present moment — hundreds of new civil society and volunteer organisations have been formed, working round the clock to aid the Libyans in every possible way. It certainly is a laudable sight: both large and small organisations forming in record numbers.
This birth of grass-roots organising reveals positive phenomena of the revolution’s progression. However, we must remain aware of the challenges they face, especially in terms of inefficiency and lack of proficiency. These problems must be addressed in order to rectify potential negative impacts of such enthusiastic (but occasionally under-regulated) operations.
All the organisations claim to be working and aiming towards a similar goal — that is, to work for the welfare of the Libyan people. Why not, then, operate under one umbrella and use respective expertise whilst working as a unified organisation? We should not forget that we are operating in the era of a revolution which is prominently marked in Libyan history. This demands that every member of the newly-forming civil society to be realistic, composed and rational.
The current position of the country is still unstable because even though the war against Gaddafi has been won, struggles against the regime remain necessary—a system deeply rooted within the social order. While interacting with some of these organisations, I discovered that many of them are striving to get ahead in a race for acknowledgment and prominence.
This must not be the goal of civil society movements — rather, in prioritising transparency, we must highlight hidden agendas, if extant, and effect measures to regulate the operations of non-governmental actors that ensure equal protections for all Libyans.
Safety and Security
Muslim states, particularly those with deeply entrenched histories of political oppression such as Libya, must remain patient, even after Revolution. ‘Al-sabr jamil’. God teaches patience as the best guarantee of success. A country that has lived in misery, and waited to breathe in the air of freedom for forty two years should not lose out on tolerance; rather it should endure the reach of liberation and deliverance of ideas of common struggle achieved.
A political system and culture embedded within every act, by definition, necessitates time for evolution, for change — and this is what must be encouraged in our current situation.
Another facet to bear in mind is that we, as a people, are in a transitional phase. It is not merely the government’s responsibility to take up the burden of correcting the predominate system, but citizens ourselves. Hence, while being patient and managing the crisis, it is incumbent upon every individual to contribute towards his or her fellow citizen’s well-being.
This will ultimately improve the country’s welfare — we have an invaluable chance to act in a positive manner and, by so doing, prevent the blood of the martyrs from becoming desecrated in continued corruption and power grabs.
The vast majority of Libyans agree that safety and security must be the top priority for the government. Citizens, as well, play an important role in pressuring those in charge to ensure that all members of society have the fundamental human right to a sense of safety and security.
Thus, we must together call for the government to:
1) Ensure that criminals are brought to account as swiftly as possible, and given appropriate and transparent treatment before the law.
2) Awareness programs addressing growing drug problems must be set up in schools, universities and grass-roots levels.
3) The Minister of Transport, in collaboration with the Minister of Defence, must enforce the law with regards to transportation. Rules of the road must be enforces, insurance compulsory, and a type of road or car tax — together with a certification of road worthiness — implemented. A newly developed structure with regards to transportation should be created and law enforcement given flexible capacity and training for its implementation.
4) Local mosques must be encouraged to function no longer as a channel for state propaganda, but rather as a forum of communication to the people, to encourage pro-activeness and responsible practice of citizenship and good governance.
5) Revised policies ensuring accountability and transparency must be implemented in regards to civil workers. Punctuality and attendance should be monitored. Accountability for neglect, corruption and misconduct is vital.
I believe that the Qaddafi system prevented Libyans resident within the country from obtaining better education and healthier living conditions; the regime’s disastrous policies have had an adverse impact on the vast human resource potential in Libya. By contrast, those who had to leave the country did not do so voluntarily; rather, they left for political reasons, and faced death or prison for choosing to remain.
These Libyans, non-residents of Libya — yet thoroughly Libyan — have devoted their lives abroad to aid the people of their country, in a multitude of ways. At every opportunity, they stood up and facilitated their countrymen in any manner available without doubts or hesitations — and, in many cases, at great personal cost. Particularly in the last few years, we witness the prevalent activities of Libyans abroad in communicating with Libyan residents, through different mediums providing appropriate assistance.
Nonetheless, I deeply hope that the Libyan expats who now wish (and are finally able) to return, will not be misunderstood and accused of appropriating job opportunities or positions of authority; they have an equal right to live in their country and are fortunate enough to be in a position to help improve the country’s growth and prosperity.
Now is the time—time to accept that, in one way or another, every Libyan suffered under Qaddafi. It is time to realize that integrity and unity provide the best and longest-lasting solution. It is the time to realize that empowering ourselves, and by extension, those around us. This is the ideal path to achieve lasting peace and unity.
Education and Health
The over-haul of education and health systems remains a paramount priority. Individuals should seek to attain optimum education keeping their self-interest in view proactively; this is something that economics teaches us: the development of every individual is consequently the development of the nation. Keeping this theory alive, development strategies should focus upon highlighting an individual’s right to education, followed by attaining training in all disciplines from successful and recognized experts in their respective fields.
Adapting such a strategy is not something new, and openness to dynamic innovation must also remain a priority. We know that when the United Kingdom discovered that the traditional British education system was not producing quality results, they moved to adapt relevant aspects of the American system. Starting from scratch is no longer the dictum. Rather, the ultimate ambition must be starting from the top: individual success for each person contributes to greater success for all.
Over the years, many valuable assets of Libya have been the possession or stewardship of foreign countries. Existing contracts with the old regime, moreover, mean that many foreign investors remain uninterested in ceding control to post-Qaddafi Libya in the foreseeable future.
Security demands time and expertise, and I suggest that the infrastructure of the country should be further developed with the aim of strengthening people’s confidence in the state — so mismanaged under Qaddafi.
By carrying out fruitful negotiations proactively, productive deals can be made in favor of Libya’s growth; such as encouraging and attracting foreign investment with countries who are currently exploiting Libya’s assets, improvements to fair trade can be made.
It is beyond axiomatic that we must look to history in order to avoid repeating its mistakes. Today, as plans for a better Libya are being drawn up, we must continually reference our own progress by looking back at Qaddafi-era policies.
Analysis reveals that the unemployment rate remains high, and more disappointing, even highly qualified individuals are deprived of job opportunities. The labour force in Libya does not exceed the number of job opportunities; rather, the problem lies within the employment system.
Employment preferences are often given to foreigners— facilitated, moreover, by higher rates of renumerations and benefits, as a blatant example of the manner in which the Libyan employment sector is suffering.
This disparity must be addressed, and radically changed. New and improvised mechanisms should be developed, and embedded into the new system. Patience, assurance, and faith are pre-requisite; input from every individual contributes towards development of a striking strategic plan for the well-being and progress of all Libyans.
Leading the way…
Alhamdullah, we are all blessed to be Libyans. Honestly, it’s a privilege. Our country has immense potential —most of all, living as part of its people. The way in which the world now sees Libya allows us the chance to prove ourselves, improve our lives and our country, not just now, but for the future, for our children and the coming generations.
The future of Libya is more than promising, but to turn this prophecy into reality, we all need to work together and remember those who gave up lives and limbs for our freedom. Our Martyrs did not die in vain. No one said the revolution was going to be easy, and things will not change overnight.
We would be foolish to think otherwise. Libyans stood up against oppression and demanded long-denied rights—but with rights come responsibilities. Everyone must focus on removing the corruption, the tension and bitterness that still lingers within the Libyan population. We must remain positive and respectful as we move forward. Working together, learning from and listening to one another is vital for success.
There are still so many challenges ahead However, having already demonstrated our seemingly limitless capacity for patience, I am confident that as Libyans—working together, helping one another—things will improve.
Rome was not built in a day, nor will the new Libya be. Gaddafi’s destruction of Libyan civil society took time; so too will our creation of it. For the common good, when you hear about a problem that happened in Libya, do not get mad and say “Why is this happening?” Instead, fix it. Seek out those who can fix it; improving our country means improving ourselves.
We can all do something; we are all able to contribute. More importantly, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” Whether we are in Libya or outside, young or old, rich or poor, we can all do something.
United we stand; divided we fall.
Danya Bashir Hobba is a Libyan author and social activist. She is a two-time winner of the UAE Young Entrepreneurship Competition. During the revolution she organized aid shipments of medical supplies and needs to Libya. She recently spoke at the Yahoo Change Your World Conference, in Cairo, as well as the United Nations, General Assembly on Fostering Cross-Cultural Understanding for Building Peaceful and Inclusive Societies. She was also featured in ‘20 Empowering Women to be followed on Twitter,’ by Community of Women’s Entrepreneurs, and named by CNN, as an Agent of Change. Her twitter account is @ceoDanya