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FACTDROP: Libya: “A Post-War Democracy”


Libya: “A Post-War Democracy”

From the comfort of someone’s office, or his well-paid bureaucratic position, the temptation for a westerner to blame Gaddafi on every single misfortune of the Libyan society is more than comfortable as even unintentionally engulf the realm of reality in that of propaganda. The relating problems over democracy within African societies is not new ones. Back in 2006 Mr. Bernard. A. Muna in his paper “The Challenge of Democracy in Africa: Establishing democracy in multi-ethnic and multi-tribal societies” was very cautious on the difficulties of the issue as “it is too easy to place all the blame on successive political leaders and governments for the lack of acceptable progress in the process of democratization in Africa”. This of coarse is not a way to defend authoritarian governments or dictators who denied human rights to their people, but to underline the realities that somehow are downplayed from those that are presented as promoters of the Western type of democracy to the African nations. Libya is such a case even it have no ethnic divisions as it do have tribal ones. It is a natural consequence of the recent civil war that these fragmentations that had been suppressed under Gaddafi’s rule surfaced after the end of the conflict even more tenuous.

The realities of the difficulties of democratization do exist even without the presence of a post-war situation. In 1998 on a sub-regional seminar on "Democratic Institutions and Peace in Central Africa", that was held in the Republic of Equatorial Guinea, Prof. Mwayila Tshiyembe, Director of the Institute of African Geopolitics, based at Nancy, France, made the following observations in his opening address:
"The debate that we are engaged in, will surely be futile, if it is limited to lyrical recitations, on the rule of law democracy, participation, elections, multi-party politics the separation of powers and other well known gestures that are lacking in real social significance. The futility of such an exercise is even more apparent because about eight years ago, sovereign national conferences and similar forums on the establishment of democratic societies, drew up new constitutions, which were meant to provide solutions to most of the issues that are now subject of our present conference. The fact that these same issues are again the subject of this conference, is enough proof, if ever one was needed, that the process of democratization in black Africa, has been a complete fiasco. Instead of stubbornly refusing to face this fact, common sense requires us first of all to examine the reasons for this failure and then to propose a means of finding a way out of the present exercise that is getting us no where".
Mr. Muna acknowledging the difficulties suggests that the African nations might have to move away from the West-type of democracy which describes as “Conflictual”:
“The adversarial systems of party politics that have been copied from western democracies, will still produce winners and losers, the winners shall be mainly of one or more ethnic groups, and the losers shall equally be from other ethnic groups. Africa, he proposes, may have to move away from the western style of democracy, which he has described in this essay as “Conflictual” and seek a form of democracy, which can be described as “Consensual”. Conflictual systems of democracy tend to emphasize the differences in policy rather than the areas of agreement. A consensual system of democracy, will seek to reach agreement and compromise, as a condition for getting everybody to participate in the process of political decision-making. It is hoped that such a system will reduce the chances of conflict and violence”.
He additionally underlines that parliaments in African nation states while representing the interests of individual citizens, who elect its members, must also recognize and protect the collective legitimate interests of ethnic, tribal and cultural entities that still form the basic social structure of African societies. Even Gaddafi in his “Green Book” condemned the west democracies reflecting in part the above mentioned observations equalizing the tribal sectarianism with the struggle between different parties:
“The party system is the modern equivalent of the tribal or sectarian system. A society governed by one party is similar to one which is governed by one tribe or one sect. The party, as shown, represents the perception of a certain group of people, or the interests of one group in society, or one belief, or one region. Such a party is a minority compared with the whole people, just as the tribe and the sect are. The minority has narrow, common sectarian interests and beliefs, from which a common outlook is formed. Only the blood relationship distinguishes a tribe from a party, and, indeed, a tribe might also be the basis for the foundation of a party. There is no difference between party struggle and tribal or sectarian struggles for power. Just as tribal and sectarian rule is politically unacceptable and inappropriate, likewise the rule under a party system. Both follow the same path and lead to the same end. The negative and destructive effects of the tribal or sectarian struggle on society is identical to the negative and destructive effects of the party struggle”.
One can swiftly realize that in Libya where there is a defacto post war winners-losers situation, where at least 7,000 thousand “pro-Gaddafi” citizens are detained without any legal right, where “justice” breaching the Geneva convention delivered summary executions both to Gaddafi and his son, where Saif al-Islam who “lost” his three fingers allegedly from a NATO bomb is waiting a trial according to the international standards even no one will dare to defend him as a witness, where thousands of black Africans were deliberately abused by the rebels, where hundreds of the Amazigh tribe are demonstrating on the door of the Libyan prime minister, where some lived the complete distraction of their home towns, where the ex-oil minister Mr. Tarhuni already accuses the government “as an unrepresentative "elite" supported by outside powers”, the project of democratization is rather a Herculean deed. Many westerners do hope that the legitimization of the new government by the fore coming elections will ease the tensions. I doubt it. Instead, many will think that the demised Gaddafi was right at least on this one: “parties are like tribes” aka exclusive.

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