Libyans Persist in the Fight for Freedom and Democracy

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TRIPOLI, Libya — Libya is in the midst of constant turmoil and has been ever since the revolutions of the Arab Spring, which overthrew the dictator, Muammar Gaddafi. While the revolutionary period was monumental in that it was the first step towards democracy, unfortunately the current government has not been leading justly. This has left the people of Libya suffering and relentlessly clawing their way to freedom through protests.

The Arab Spring brought on an air of hopefulness for the future democratic institution that would be established after the elimination of Gaddafi. Following the revolutions, the General National Congress (GNC) was designated to lead Libya until preparations for a new constitution and an outline for a democratic political structure were ready.

The GNC has unfortunately been gripping securely onto the power they attained, and despite continual protests, they have extended their stay in command from February to the end of December.

The pressure from protesters is persistent, as people demand for free elections. All representatives have said of future elections, however, is that they are still being organized. Preparations supposedly will take at least five more months, and even then the GNC might find another excuse as to why the elections cannot be carried out.

On March 2, armed protesters reacted to the stagnation of political progress and rallied in the streets of Tripoli. Armed demonstrators angrily stormed the government building where the GNC congregate. Protesters shot two representatives of Libya’s interim parliament as they attempted to flee from the commotion. Medical reports indicate that they were seriously wounded but that there were no casualties.

The aftermath left parliament members angered, but the message of the Libyan people was received. Authorities released a statement about their pursuit for democratic transition in the face of rising crime rates and unrest that has permeated the whole country.

The GNC has also requested that their allies, the ex-rebel fighters of the Operations Cell of Libyan Revolutions who physically overthrew Gaddafi in the first place, protect the surroundings of the congressional buildings. This added fuel to the fire for many young protesters, especially since these ex-rebel fighters have violently intervened with demonstrations and have even abducted protesters in the past.

Other recent events that have been turning the country upside down involve the removal of the Prime Minister, Ali Zeidan. The GNC held a vote of confidence March 11 to remove Zeidan. The official reason for the elimination of Zeidan is that he failed to prevent an oil tanker from distributing oil from the Sidra port, which is dominated by rebel forces.

It was decided that the new interim Prime Minister would be the former Defense Minister, Abdullah-al-Thinni. Removing Zeidan has been on the GNC agenda for some time now and this might bring about more difficulties with the speeding up of preparations for free elections. This has made many Libyans uneasy, and will probably add another reason to the list for violent protests.

Not all hope is lost, however, and not all Libyans are resorting to violence to try and change the country. While there is a profusion of violence within the streets of Libya, there are also individuals who are passionately striving for a stable Libya through other, safer means. Specifically, certain nonprofit organizations and the United Nations has developed initiatives for helping to change Libya through education.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has been working to improve the lives of Libyan people through its project called the Support to Civic Engagement in Libya’s Transition. This is a $4.37 million project which began in January 2011. It is made up of three initiatives, all of which use education as a means for influencing young people to understand democracy and the ways to achieve stability.

This project also aims to increase both youth and women involvement in the political evolution in Libya. One of the main aspects of the project is the Building Resources in Democracy, Governance and Elections (BRIDGE) approach, where 11 men and 15 women were selected to take a training course on civic education.

Fundamentally, the goal of the BRIDGE initiative is to teach a handful of younger individuals about the current political transition in Libya, and the urgency for democratic progression. UNDP programme analyst Amal El-Mograbi described the goal of BRIDGE as, “Deepening people’s understanding of democratic principles and processes, and their application in elections and constitution making processes is a priority today in Libya.”

After these young individuals complete their BRIDGE training, they become certified in civic education training, and can pass on the knowledge to others, as official BRIDGE instructors. Essentially, the education process generates a domino effect; the bridge instructors spread knowledge of civic engagement and politics for others to absorb, thus inspiring other individuals to become trainers, who will then keep passing on the information.

The plan is also that the trained individuals will be able to teach seminars in 10 universities all over Libya, which means the civic education will reach almost all of Libya’s young people.

The youth of Libya was the energizing force behind the Arab Spring revolutions in 2011, so it is revitalizing to see some of them choosing educational methods for continuing the fight to freedom. The riots and violent protests may persist in the streets, but behind closed doors there are bright individuals learning and preparing for an intellectual revolution. While the physical revolutions that removed the dictator were necessary, the shift toward education to alter political temperament in Libya will create long-lasting effects, and will possibly achieve democracy in Libya.

Sources: Foreign Policy, Rappler, United Nations Development Programme, Rappler
Photo: National Post

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Danielle Warren

Danielle is a BORGEN Magazine writer based in Honolulu, Hawaii.

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