(Photo: REUTERS / Ismail Zitouny)
Tens of thousands of people were expected to gather in the eastern city of Benghazi Sunday as Libya’s interim leaders were scheduled to announce the nation’s liberation two days after Muammar Gaddafi’s killing.
The National Transitional Council Saturday said its leaders would make the announcement at the central square in Benghazi, where the uprising to end Gaddafi’s 42-year dictatorial rule began in February.
Even as the preparations for the country’s much-awaited liberation were underway, Gaddafi’s body, which was brought by fighters from Sirte to Misrata, lay in a cold room and calls were being made for an investigation.
But that did not take the focus away from the process of democracy that would now begin in Libya.
Chairman of NTC’s executive board Mahmoud Jibril, who was at the World Economic Forum in Jordan Saturday, said the nation’s priority was to remove weapons from streets, restore stability and order and start a process of national reconciliation, according to Reuters.
Numerous groups that joined the uprising with the NTC, which became a “big tent” of secular liberals, Islamists and tribal elders against the Gaddafi’s rule, remain armed.
“The first election should take place within a period of eight months, maximum, to constitute a national congress of Libya, some sort of parliament,” Jibril, Libya’s acting prime minister, was quoted as saying.
“This national congress would have two tasks – draft a constitution, on which we would have a referendum, and the second to form an interim government to last until the first presidential elections are held,” said Jibril, who is expected to step down after the liberation announcement.
But the NTC “should keep running until a new government is formed,” he added.
Jibril stressed that Libya needed to seize the “very limited opportunity” it had by building an alternate economy “as fast as possible.” Libya’s oil production was currently at around 300,000 barrels a day and could be resumed to 1.6 million barrels of oil a day, as it was before the uprising, in a little over a year, he said. But, he warned, Libya could not rely on its oil reserves for very long as over 60 percent of its oil had been consumed.
He added that the nation’s future depended on the resolve the NTC shows in the coming days and the people.
With the end of the civil war, NATO, which was mandated to protect Libyan citizens against the Gaddafi regime during the uprising, is likely to pull out by October-end.
U.S. President Barack Obama Saturday said Gaddafi’s end “showed that our role in protecting the Libyan people, and helping them break free from a tyrant, was the right thing to do.”
But UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay has called for a probe into the killing of Gaddafi. An NTC member has also charged that Gaddafi was captured alive, contradicting interim officials’ claim that he was killed in crossfire. Images have emerged showing Gaddafi being taunted and beaten by fighters.
President Obama praised American pilots and crews that “helped prevent a massacre, save countless lives, and give the Libyan people the chance to prevail.” “Without putting a single U.S. service member on the ground, we achieved our objectives. Soon, our NATO mission will come to a successful end even as we continue to support the Libyan people, and people across the Arab world, who seek a democratic future.”