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Rebuilding Libya

BENGHAZI – Six months after Libyan rebels took up arms against the country’s leader, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, they have finally toppled him. But, while victorious on the battlefield, they have not been triumphant in political and economic terms. If the rebels are to ensure their revolution’s long-term success, they will have to overcome the weaknesses that plague them.

In the days following the start of the uprising in February 17, the rebels formed a political body known as the National Transitional Council (NTC) and a cabinet known as the Executive Committee. Though drawn from across Libyan society and staffed by people with technical skills, the groups have been hamstrung by several problems.

Critics have derided the NTC’s lack of transparency and complained about its opaque decision-making. They have also questioned the criteria used to select its members. Libyans say the Council’s chairman, Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, favors dissidents who spent time in Qaddafi’s prisons over those with the training and skills needed to rebuild the country. If the NTC does not address these concerns, it is difficult to see how it will manage the complex challenges ahead.

It is not only the NTC’s policies that could imperil the success of the Libyan uprising. Though admired in parts of eastern Libya under rebel control, Abdel-Jalil is a dour figure who lacks the charisma characteristic of revolutionary leaders. Indeed, he is a provincial player who so far has been unable to communicate a compelling vision of a new Libya.