Libya: The Rebels Are Crying for Money – An Analysis by Dr Michael J.K. Bokor

…the West will not provide financial assistance commensurate with the quantum of arsenal and venom that they’ve assembled within the shortest possible time to invade Libya.

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Two major problems currently facing the rebels and their leadership suggest that the bubbles of optimism that have driven their insurgency against Muammar al-Gaddafi may burst soon if conditions don’t improve. Within the short period that they have celebrated gains from their exchanges with Gaddafi, thanks to NATO’s leading role in clearing the path for them, the rebels seem to be confronted with problems that threaten their future aspirations.

Problem Number One: The rebel leadership and its Transitional National Council are cash-strapped and can’t effectively administer affairs or provide much-needed social and economic services in their strongholds if no help comes in handy.

Problem Number Two: An internal squabble is brewing over the issue of amnesty for pro-Gaddafi forces now defecting to join them.

These two problems have the potential to lower morale among the rebel forces, generally, and derail their leaders’ efforts to take the fight to Gaddafi unless a miracle happens to save the situation for them to reassure those under their control that they are not leading them on a wild goose chase.

Regardless of what NATO is stepping up in its effort to destroy the Gaddafi government, the going is not being easy for the rebels. Gaddafi may be losing grounds in the military exchanges or defection of some of his loyalists; but this NATO-led campaign isn’t favouring the rebels as much as they need to take control of the country. It takes more than military gains to administer affairs.

Non-availability of Money for the Rebels

Reports indicate that the rebel leadership is cash-strapped, meaning that it can’t run affairs to assure the people in areas it controls that it will secure a brighter future for them than they had before the insurgency broke out in mid-February.

The gloomy picture has been painted by Ali Tarhouni, the de facto Finance Minister of the rebel Transitional National Council, as reported by the New York Times (June 5, 2011).

Mr. Tarhouni said that without a quick infusion of funds, they may soon be left in the dark. He said if the Qatari government, the rebels’ largest financial backer, did not “come to our rescue” by paying for diesel fuel now sitting out of reach in a tanker off the coast, the electricity in Benghazi would be cut by midweek.

“I’m sick and tired of this,” he said, explaining legal hurdles that have kept the rebels from receiving pledged funds. “We literally have days before the lights are off.”

An effort to secure loans from the United States backed by frozen Libyan assets has foundered. “I had two meetings with the Treasury. At the end of the day, they were not productive from my way of looking at things,” he said.

So, we can tell from the plight of the rebels that their hopes of garnering financial support to enhance their activities are merely high. Neither the United States nor its European allies have given any concrete financial support to the rebels despite loud-mouthed pledges. That’s the game that the West plays with unwitting internal collaborators like these Benghazi-based rebels who bite the bait to betray their own countries.

The only substantial contribution from the West to the rebels’ efforts is the provision of military succour for pounding Libya to fulfill their quest of destabilizing the Gaddafi administration. They will not provide financial assistance commensurate with the quantum of arsenal and venom that they’ve assembled within the shortest possible time to invade Libya. And the rebels should have known better not to play themselves into the hands of these war-mongers who have permanent interests to defend, not friends to maintain.

Using them as the pawns in the game to devastate Libya’s military capabilities is a certainty; but giving them the wherewithal they need to assert their influence is a long way away from materializing.

Controversy over Amnesty for Defecting Gaddafi Supporters

Another problem facing the rebel leadership is the controversy over what to do to the pro-Gaddafi elements now defecting to join them. Two camps—either supporting or opposing a blanket unconditional amnesty for the defectors—have emerged within the camp of the rebel leadership.

This division follows an apparent offer of amnesty for Gaddafi officials made over the weekend by Mustapha Abdul Jalil, the chairman of the rebel Transitional National Council.

As reported by the New York Times, this offer of amnesty is another attempt to quickly end the conflict.

The controversy surrounds the language of the offer, which some regard as confusing, as well as the implications of that offer itself. This offer seems to suggest that officials who defected now—regardless of what they had done—would be forgiven by the rebels.
While some among the rebel leadership welcomed this offer as a means to win support from pro-Gaddafi forces and, thereby promote more defections to swell the ranks of the rebel forces, others like Mr. Abdul Jalil oppose it. They are of the opinion that the issue is more complicated.

While agreeing that some of these pro-Gaddafi defectors deserve amnesty, they also strongly hold the view that others, especially with “blood on their hands,” should be held accountable. How the rebel leadership handles this issue will go a long way to determine their own working relations.

These two problems reflect the enormity of the responsibilities that the rebel leadership have to tackle to prove to the population in their strongholds that they can manage affairs to give them the relief that they had sought by rising up against Gaddafi. If they fail to do so, it will not take long before the people rise up against them.

Security Problems in Rebel Strongholds

The rebel leadership’s grips on the East cannot be said to be strong. It’s tenuous and likely to be threatened by happenings that they may not be ready to handle effectively. Already, security problems have begun surfacing to create fear among the people.

The bomb blast in Benghazi last week may as well be just the beginning of the panic-situation that some opponents of the rebels (likely to be pro-Gaddafi forces located in the areas now under rebel control) may resort to with the view to inciting the population against the rebel leadership.

Containing this security threat may lead to the adoption of measures such as hiring mercenaries to protect the citizens and installations. But this measure itself has its own implications, and the rebel leadership will have to weigh the options carefully so as not to shoot themselves in the foot.

In the final analysis, as the rebel leadership scramble around for international support—of all kinds—to establish their grips on the situation, some will be wondering whether to trust the West to be sincere in helping them beyond providing the military strength with which to confront Gaddafi.

Some doubts will linger and some people will view NATO (the military arm) and the political leaders of countries banded together into the International Coalition and Contact Group on Libya with much concern, especially if no financial aid is given the rebel leadership to avert the disaster that looms in the socio-economic lives of the people.

Who will be naïve to think that the West will go all out to expend its resources on these Libyans, anyway? The history surrounding actions of the West in countries that they’ve considered as either a pariah or a threat to their own well-being doesn’t favour the Benghazi rebels; and they will have themselves to blame if they are left in the lurch, after all.