Opponents of Muammar Gaddafi have managed to cobble together an alliance and, with plenty of NATO help, fight the Libyan leader’s forces to what increasingly looks like the verge of defeat.
Now the hard part might be about to begin: The rebels’ National Transitional Council (NTC) might soon have to step up and run the country, if Gaddafi is swept aside.
The council has been unable to shake off fears about its ability to govern, let alone remain united, in this oil-producing country awash with weapons. It may face tribal and regional divides and creeping Islamisation.
The council, recognised as Libya’s legitimate authority by more than 30 countries, says it is ready to lead Libya on a path to stability and democracy.
“Of course we’re ready to take over,” the head of the NTC’s political committee, Fatih Baja, told Reuters. “We’ve been preparing for this since the first month of the revolution.”
The NTC is a disparate group of Gaddafi opponents which emerged in February in the wake of uprisings in neighbouring Tunisia and Egypt. It includes former Gaddafi officials.
It is based in Benghazi, operating out of hotels and homes in eastern Libya’s biggest city, which feels more like a laid-back seaside town than the hub of a revolution.
The NTC’s suburban headquarters is guarded by fighters in pick-up trucks with machine guns mounted in the back. Reporters have to show rebel-issued press cards before passing through a metal-detecting gate.
Along with fly-blown piles of uncollected trash in the streets, there is a sense of disorganisation. Rebel officials have earned a reputation for poor communications, both among themselves and with their allies and the media.
Faced with the prospect of Gaddafi’s departure after 41 years of harsh rule, they have set up a task force with a plan to take over quickly in the capital, Tripoli, Baja said.
“Security is at the top of the list, to secure Tripoli militarily and socially,” he said.
But analysts fear trouble could begin as soon as the inevitable volleys of celebratory gunfire die down.