Friday, September 16, 2011
Rebuilding Libya after Gadhafi begins now
By Ali Suleiman Aujali
Published 12:05 a.m., Friday, September 16, 2011
For decades, the possibility of a Libya withoutMoammar Gadhafi seemed just a dream. Today, Tripoli's central square is adorned with the three colors of the pro-democracy forces' flag. The once-omnipresent pictures of Gadhafi are gone. The Libyan people and the National Transitional Council are writing the first chapter of a free Libya.
The NTC has been planning this transition for more than six months. Our accomplishments in the midst of the turbulence of war foreshadow what a free Libya can accomplish.
Some in the international community question the NTC and what it stands for. The answer lies in our name. We are a "transitional" government responsible for steering the nation from an intense conflict with Gadhafi regime forces, now approaching its end, to the establishment of a democratic government. We are committed to establishing a stable Libya, where all citizens, regardless of background, gender, affiliation or faith can return to their daily lives, be free and have a voice in civic affairs.
Our plan for building democracy and civil society includes the drafting of a constitution by a representative authority, the approval of the constitution by a popular referendum and, then, for the first time in Libya's history, holding free elections for a representative government.
There is a great deal of work ahead. One of our most important tasks will be preventing further unrest. The order of the day must be justice and not revenge. Libyans will always remember what we fought for and what we sacrificed, but the NTC is committed to the process of forgiving, rebuilding and moving forward.
The NTC has made clear that it condemns any form of reprisal attacks; in the new Libya, the human rights of all citizens must be respected. We recognize the importance of making sure every Libyan has a stake in the creation of a democratic nation.
The NTC could not have achieved its military successes without the help of NATO and the countries that rushed to its aid. We now call on those same countries, and the many others that have since recognized the NTC, to assist with rebuilding. As with the military campaign, the NTC does not need a significant international presence on the ground, but Libya does need international support.
Libya will need substantial funds to rebuild, but it is not looking for handouts. Billions of dollars the Gadhafi regime invested around the world have been frozen -- $35 billion by the United States alone. This is the Libyan people's money. Washington recently unfroze $1.5 billion for humanitarian needs. Britain and France have unfrozen similar amounts. This is a good start, but it's just a start. The international community should work with the NTC to unfreeze more of these funds and transfer them in a responsible, transparent manner to the NTC so that the council can address Libya's needs and begin rebuilding. The NTC also calls on the international community to help it track down funds still hidden by Gadhafi.
In February, the youth of Libya rose up. They were the driving force in making this beginning possible, and Libyans everywhere are thankful for their incredible bravery and sacrifice. We are rebuilding Libya for them and for many future generations. We are asking them to participate in all aspects of civic affairs and government.
Ali Suleiman Aujali is Libya's ambassador to the U.S. He was previously the official representative of National Transitional Council to the United States. He wrote this for The Washington Post.
I HAVE A BUSINESS TO RUN
By Mike Taibbi, NBC News Correspondent
TRIPOLI, Libya – Three weeks after Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi was driven out of Tripoli, effectively ending his 42-year reign, his would-be successor addressed a cheering crowd of thousands in what used to be called Green Square, the now renamed Martyrs’ Square.
"We seek a state of law and prosperity," said Mustafa Abdul Jalil, the interim head of the anti-Gadhafi forces’ National Transitional Council. The interim government has been recognized by scores of other countries as Libya's new governing authority. With fireworks crackling in the early evening (not gunfire), Jalil warned his own forces against acts of retribution aimed at the remaining Gadhafi loyalists.
"To anyone who harmed the Libyan people in any way," he intoned, “we need the courts... the judicial system... to decide." With that there were more fireworks, a crescendo of shouted acclamation.
Just off the square, a Ferris wheel glittered brightly among the other children’s rides in the city's now re-opened amusement park. In the harbor that had been empty only days earlier, no fewer than 15 tankers were tied up and waiting for the signal to start taking on fresh shipments of oil and natural gas from two refineries lurching back into production. The shops and cafes in the city's retail sections have come back to life. Sanitation crews are on full schedule, cleaning the city and white-uniformed traffic control officers are back working patiently at the task of keeping the rivers of cars moving.
Tripoli basically liberated itself on Aug. 21. There had only been a few brief, albeit bloody, skirmishes as rebel forces moved in – Gadhafi “loyalists” simply melting away as they had in many smaller cities and towns as the revolution made its way to the capitol.
The city’s painters have been busy since then, too – the green of the Gadhafi Revolution of 1969 has already been replaced in thousands of places by the tri-color standard of the National Transitional Council.
And yet no one we've spoken to or heard from – including Abdul Jalil – has proclaimed a "declaration of liberation." The civil war isn’t over, and won’t be over until one question on the minds of all Libyans is answered: “Where is Gadhafi?”
On the hunt
A half mile from Martyrs’ Square where Jalil was speaking, a quiet man in a neat charcoal grey suit sighed at the question. "Psychologically," said Hisham Buhagiar, pausing at the word, "it is hard to believe that Libya is free. I look over my shoulder when I call people on the phone, and wonder if the phone is tapped. We still talk in codes..."
A carpet salesman by trade, there are colorful rugs hanging on the walls of his modest office and sample swatches in the entranceway of the nondescript building, Buhagiar has spent almost his entire adulthood in a secret group fostering opposition to Gadhafi and planning his ouster.
When the war started on Feb. 17 his group came out of the shadows and took up arms – they had trained for it over the years, Buhagiar said, in clandestine trips to weapons camps outside Libya. Buhagiar had been a soldier in four battles during the war earlier this year, suffering gunshot wounds to both legs along the way. Now he's no longer a soldier, but has a different task: He's the man leading the hunt for Gadhafi himself.
"He's always on the move, going back and forth and not in one place for long," Buhagiar said of his target. "He's now under our surveillance. I think we are close enough to get him, perhaps in 10 days or so. I really mean it."
But by "close enough," Buhagiar concedes it means an area of some 150 square miles in the southern Sahara around the town of Sabha, near the border of landlocked Niger.
Buhagiar's team is made up of around 60 hunters – but there's no catchy name for the unit or for their mission, nothing like "Operation No More Moammar.” The team relies on both technology and “human assets,” people on the ground in the southern desert enclaves whose reported sightings of Gadhafi's large contingent match the chatter they've picked up through cell phone triangulation.
"But we don't have the technology to track satellite phone conversations," he said, saying carefully that "we have help with that" from other countries. From the U.S.? Great Britain? NATO countries? He nodded in general assent, but said nothing more on the subject.
"The guy has a lot of money, a lot of power," Buhagiar said of his nemesis. "He can hide. Libya is a big country, there's a vast desert with a lot of different tribes. Believe me, that's his neighborhood…That's where he grew up, it’s home for him. And he's been paying his people a lot of money."
Hisham Buhagiar has been searching for Moammar Gadhafi and recently spoke with NBC's Mike Taibbi about the hunt. He says if Gadhafi is caught, he will be put "through courts."
By "his people," Buhagiar estimates a core traveling contingent of 300 to 500 people, including security forces and his remaining inner circle intimates. At times, Buhagiar reports, his team has received reports of groups that size on the move, pitching tents for a night, gone again the next day.
And what happens if and when his chase teams catch up to the group…and to Gadhafi himself?
"They will just catch him," he said. "We're not going there to kill him...We need to bring him to justice."
Buhagiar said it would be "good for our ego...if we catch him ourselves," but that he'd have no qualms if Gadhafi escaped to another country which then handed him back to Libya for trial. What about Interpol's "Red Alert" placing Gadhafi at the top of its international "Most Wanted List" for prosecution by the International Criminal Court on charges of crimes against humanity?
"The Libyan people will put him on trial," he says. "Perhaps they will hang him."
Hoping the end is near
As civil wars go, this one was quick and surprisingly efficient. Barely six months from beginning to end, perhaps 30,000 killed on both sides, ragtag clusters of rebels armed at first with hunting rifles and the ardor of the oppressed morphing into an actual fighting force.
It helped immeasurably that tens of thousands of Gadhafi's loyalists – weary of his brutal and increasingly eccentric rule – simply laid down and cut and run in one town after another as the war progressed, leaving mercenaries to do much of the fighting. They left their weapons behind when they ran, providing each class of better-trained rebels with increasing firepower of their own so that in the end it wasn't just an equal playing field, it was tilted toward the rebels' way.
And, of course, there was the U.N. resolution and subsequent NATO bombing campaign. Without it, Gadhafi’s Air Force and Navy – through whatever motivation – might have supplemented the Gadhafi ground forces and made the rebels' march to Tripoli impossible.
Buhagiar conceded that point. "I am a realist," he said, observing that despite years of planning, hoping and the authentic passions of the opposition, there would have been little chance of success, without the help of a real international coalition. “We had no organization, no weapons, no money; no nothing...We were just ordinary people saying ‘no’ to Gadhafi. He had the guns, the money, the power, the land."
Now things seem to be near the end, a couple of holdout towns are refusing to let the National Transitional Council fighters plant their flag, and Gadhafi is still on the run, in hiding. Buhagiar is certain he'll be caught, sooner rather than later.
"We'll put him through the courts. We'll see what his faith is...but we should hear from him. Hear why he was doing all this, why he killed all the people he killed."
And when that part of the story is done, when liberation is final and complete, what will Buhagiar do?
"I have a business to run..."
Oil workers saved key parts of Libya's lifeblood
Rebels and Gadhafi loyalists fought pitched battles, but Libyan staff stayed on the job, occupying key oil installations 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in a move to discourage wanton destruction.
By Roy Gutman
BREGA, Libya — When Moammar Gadhafi's loyalists fled this sprawling refinery and petrochemical complex in late August, shortly after Tripoli fell, they left behind lethal "forget-me-nots" for the revolutionaries who unseated him.
There were 40,000 mines, both anti-personnel and anti-tank. A minefield still surrounds the town, and 6,000 mines were planted on what had been a popular beach. The grounds are littered with shells filled with explosives, plant officials said.
Russian-supplied Grad rockets were stacked by the thousands inside the methanol plant, still in their wooden cases, at a location that loyalists no doubt assumed NATO aircraft wouldn't bomb. Grads, which have a range of 25 miles, had been launched from Brega in banks of 40, with devastating impact on the forces trying to overthrow Gadhafi, officials of the national oil company said.
The refinery and liquid-gas plant, a component of the Sirte Oil Co. — named for Gadhafi's hometown farther west on Libya's main coastal road — is now the only business in town because the departing forces destroyed both other sources of income.
"They erased all the small businesses. They killed all the livestock," Ali Tarhouni, the rebels' minister of finance and oil, said during a tour of the facility.
But the story of Brega isn't what was destroyed but what was saved.
Tarhouni, who taught economics at the University of Washington in Seattle until the uprising in Libya, said that less than 10 percent of the refinery's facilities were damaged during the five months of warfare. Elsewhere, he said, the damage was less than 15 percent. He credits the country's oil-sector workers with saving what is Libya's major source of income.
While foreign workers largely fled Libya after NATO began enforcing its no-fly zone, and rebels and Gadhafi loyalists fought pitched battles, Libyan staff stayed on the job, occupying key installations 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in a move to discourage wanton destruction.
"The story is not, as we told you officially, that the engineers had just come to the (oil and gas) fields" at the beginning of September, Tarhouni said. "They've actually been working there over a long period of time, making sure that the maintenance was done."
The same applied to the refineries. At the electrical generating station in Brega, for example, employees said they ate, slept and lived there, just to make sure no one else could take it over.
"The untold story of the revolution was the courage of the people who work in the oil sector," Tarhouni said. "We have engineers who had no cover, no protection. They ventured into the desert, they protected the oil fields." He added that the risks they took "will make this industry rebound, and rebound a lot faster."
Brega and the half-dozen other petroleum-processing complexes that dot Libya's Mediterranean coast provide nearly all the country's export income and hold the key to the oil-rich land of 6 million people getting onto its feet.
Tarhouni has lived in American exile for nearly all of Gadhafi's 42 years in power, and he's on leave from his post at the UW's Foster School of Business.
Tarhouni used the visit — his first field trip out of the capital, where he'd proclaimed the fall of Gadhafi on Aug. 25 — to announce that Libya would resume oil production soon, though it would take a year to reach full prewar production levels.
The Brega complex, built by Esso in the 1960s, includes an oil refinery, a gas plant that produces liquid natural gas and a petrochemical sector built in the 1970s that produces methanol, urea and ammonia. It provides gasoline to serve the region as far as Benghazi. In peacetime, it exported about 20,000 barrels of oil a day, said Salleh Abdali, a Tarhouni deputy.
Gadhafi's forces destroyed at least four oil-storage tanks, plant officials said, and many of the others were in need of substantial maintenance. NATO bombed the complex clubhouse, a communications tower and other facilities after plant employees tipped the alliance that they were being used to store weapons, Tarhouni said.
According to plant officials, the biggest problem for the facility now is ensuring its overall security and the safety of its employees.
A loyalist guerrilla-style assault Sept. 12 on the refinery at Ras Lanouf, 60 miles west, was a reminder that Gadhafi's forces remain capable of mayhem. Seventeen security guards were killed in the attack.
At Brega, the Grad rockets have been mostly removed from the methanol plant. The number there — at least 1,000 cases were visible in one facility alone — was staggering, but not unusual, according to Peter Bouckaert of Human Rights Watch. Bouckaert said he'd visited a base in Tripoli after the capital fell where there were "dozens of warehouses, each holding 10,000 to 12,000 Grad rockets."
Rebel forces had the luck to capture the colonel in Gadhafi's army who'd supervised the mining, together with his map of where the mines had been placed. Security personnel are now removing them, though the plant managers appealed to Tarhouni for more military protection and assistance.
No foreign mine-clearing organizations are on the scene — or had been requested.
The most shocking discovery for the refinery complex workers, at least from the description by Fathi Issa, the chief manager, were the mines on the beach. Gadhafi loyalists had a plausible military reason for placing the mines there: to prevent NATO or rebel forces from even contemplating an amphibious landing. But they'd rendered the sand where children used to play explosively dangerous.
Between 10 a.m. and early afternoon on a recent morning, "our men removed 700 mines from the beach," Issa said. That leaves roughly 5,300 to go.