“The Libyans Started this revolution on Feb 15 when 30 ppl came out demanding Freedom, The Libyans are now ending it #Libya”
Its sentiment could not be more fitting. For desperate as some camps have been to portray this uprising as a ‘Western’ military scheme led by NATO, the US government, the CIA or MI6 (take your pick) – we must never forget how it really began: unarmed, Libyan civilians, inspired by the Arab Spring and angry with the abusive regime of Gaddafi, bravely taking to the streets in defiance.
And desperate as some camps were to stoke fears of a NATO led invasion, a bloody massacre of Gaddafi supporters or years of protracted stalemate, it is clear how the uprising is now reaching its conclusion: with Libyan civilians pouring onto the streets of Tripoli to greet the rebels and a celebratory convoy winding its way through the city meeting little if any resistance. In short- the Libyan people taking their country back.
It could have all been so different. Just months ago Gaddafi’s troops were at the gates of Benghazi, poised to crush the rebels and in the tyrant’s own words show “no mercy.” This decade’s Srebrenica moment looked imminent. Military intervention is never a pleasant prospect and will never be without controversy- but at that time a decision had to be taken; and tonight the tough choice for NATO to support the rebels has been vindicated.
For we are not adding Libya to the long list of the international community’s failings, after the likes of Rwanda, Bosnia or Burma. We are not academically pondering what difference military support could have made as thousands suffer Gaddafi’s promised retribution. We are watching Libyans finish what they started. The intervention did not ‘hijack’ or ‘exploit’ the people’s struggle – it allowed them to succeed in it.
Of course this comes with a great burden of responsibility. Those states that provided support to the NTC now have a duty to help it rebuild Libya and to hold the new leaders to account. Abuses that took place during the uprising must be addressed and investigated– along with allegations of NATO bombs harming civilians. And crucially, any former members of the regime who are arrested – including members of the Gaddafi family, must be given fair trials in Libya or at the ICC. They must face the justice that Gaddafi denied so many.
All of this is still to come, and if governments such as Cameron’s, Obama’s or Sarkozy’s fail in these duties then the grievances of those who opposed the intervention may become valid. However, tonight as Tripoli celebrates, the many states that helped bring this about can look back on their work since March with pride. The real heroes of the uprising are those Libyan men and women who have given their lives for their country’s freedom – but the contribution of those nations that stood by them has truly been justified.