Editor’s note: Andrew Reynolds, UNC’s chairman of global studies, is in Libya advising the Transitional National Council on its plans for an interim government. The following is a first-person dispatch written Sept. 15 from Tripoli, Libya. This is Reynolds’ second update. Read the first here.
In Benghazi, the heart of the revolution, we meet with 17 parties in two days — some serious, but others not much more than a name and a logo. Most of these fledgling politicians are well-intentioned but almost all will become footnotes to history.
Even the political party names remind one of Monty Python’s “Life of Brian” satirical take on rebel movements. We meet with the Libyan National Party and the National Libya Party. At the same table, there are leaders of the Democratic Libya Gathering and the Libya National Democratic Gathering. Most comically, the February 17th Group hates the Rebel Union of the 17th February. One party leader argues that parties shouldn’t be allowed — a bold and somewhat surprising stance.
After Benghazi, I take the U.N. flight to Tripoli, arriving only 19 days after the capital city’s liberation from the forces of Gadhafi. I see more guns and weapons in the first 30 minutes than I have seen in my entire life. But it is not only men with guns that give one pause. We meet with 20 women who personify the established and educated elite — teachers, doctors, professors and lawyers. The discussions are held around a conference table in the huge office of the deposed head of Libyan state TV, Abdullah Mansour. He was one of the most hated men in Libya and now is one of the most wanted. Since the revolution, the state TV offices have been controlled by the rebel movement.
One of our hosts is older than the rest and it turns out that she had been the headmistress of Tripoli Secondary School for Girls when it was the leading institution for wealthy and secular Libyans to send their girls to learn more than just obedience.