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Libya’s Zeidan now a hero after his abduction

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

Published: Updated:

A surprised observer had been asking how the abducted Libyan Prime Minister was released so quickly over the weekend. Ali Zeidan, who was kidnapped at dawn by local militias in his pajamas, was released that evening! The surprise was not that he was kidnapped, but rather that he was released.

Not all Libyans are skeptical about it, as in their eyes he is a hero owing to his position and courage in expressing himself despite the persistent threats to his life. But being brave is not be enough for Libyans; they need heroic determination to change their ruthless situation. Organizing parliament, elections, and international support to build a state have all been ongoing, however authorities have not succeed in establishing genuine ruling institutions yet. Libya is still shredded by militias, tribal, regional and political groups.

Qaddafi’s legacy remains

It is not surprising that Libya is insecure; it is the result of 40 years of Qaddafi’s rule, established by armed militias ruling the country for him. He conceived a regime of revolutionary and popular committees that encouraged criminals to form gangs, pass bills and manage the cities and ministries. It is very similar to Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria, which managed to rip up and destroy the country, and the opposition failed to unite although all components have the same goal.

Why did Libya split into groups, more so than in Tunisia and Egypt? Why is the country now facing the real threats of civil war and divisions? For the same reason: the legacy of Qaddafi’s regime.

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

Col. Qaddafi is gone but he left behind him his legacy. Armed groups claiming legitimacy are spread out in Tripoli; they kidnap and claim that they are the authority. Politicians in parliament are allied to these militias. After his release, the Prime Minister described what happened as political quibbling; he said that his abduction was masterminded by a rival political group seeking to overthrow him, after it failed to obtain the required votes in the parliament!

Why did Libya split into groups, more so than in Tunisia and Egypt? Why is the country now facing the real threats of civil war and divisions? For the same reason: the legacy of Qaddafi’s regime.

Libya has more elements for recovery and success than the rest of the Arab Spring countries. Libya's population is half the population of Tunisia, and its government’s budget is $70 billion compared to the $10 billion in Tunisia. Nevertheless, the political and security failure in Libya is much greater. The Libyan government will need international support to restore security, get rid of the dozens of militias, and install a new regime. Even if the situation gets worse, it will not be surprising that concerned countries like the European Union, will rush to provide help in order to restore security in Libya. Europe is interested in Libya for three reasons: oil, al-Qaeda and illegal immigrants. The demonstrators have publicly raised the flags of al-Qaeda to protest against Americans “kidnapping” Abu Anas al-Libi, a senior al-Qaeda suspect.

This is what the politicians – before the Libyan people – have to realize; quibbling political groups that are resorting to militias and selling regional and tribal opportunistic slogans will plunge the country in a big mess. Here lies the responsibility of Zeidan’s government to be keen on eradicating militias. What has happened has turned him into a hero in the eyes of the majority of Libyans, who saw him standing bravely, refusing bargaining and extortion.

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on Oct. 13, 2013.


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Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.