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Libyan rebels must find peace within factions

The six-month Libyan civil war is seemingly coming to a close. The rebels have pushed Colonel Moammar Gadhafi loyalists into the city of Sirte and even Gadhafi’s family has fled Libya, according to Reuters.

However, unless Libyan rebel forces can overcome the country’s many divisions, peace may be unattainable.

Now that the rebel forces have the upper hand, the shoe is on the other foot. The anger against the old regime is palpable, and the Libyan people seek justice for the crimes committed against them. However, violence begets violence, and revenge begets revenge. The reprisals against former Gadhafi loyalists are reminiscent of the Spanish Civil War, during which tens of thousands of rebel Republicans were executed without trial by Francisco Franco’s forces after the war was over.

The battles in Libya are not just limited to the loyalists and the rebels, because the rebels are divided as well. There have been many defections from Gadhafi’s government to the opposing side, such as the former interior minister turned Gen. Abdel Fattah Younes, and even Gadhafi’s former second-in-command, Abdel-Salam Jalloud, who defected more than a week ago, according to Reuters.

Younes did not last long – his death in late July was under mysterious circumstances by one of the rebel groups called the February 17 Martyrs Brigade, according to Forbes.

It is an open question whether officials from the old regime will be allowed to serve the new Libya – even ones that defected prior to the end of the war. On one hand, it’s understandable why rebels would be cautious in allowing the dictator’s former associates to have power again.

Yet, it will also be quite difficult to form an effective government without them. After more than four decades of tight-fisted rule, there will be little government expertise from Libyans outside the former government. It takes more than the ability to fight to create a stable, republic government. If it only took that, then Libya should have become a republic when Gadhafi took power decades ago.

For this reason, the international community is divided over whether the rebels should have access to the frozen assets of the deposed despot. According to Deutsche Welle, Gadhafi has more than $80 billion of assets hidden around the world. The Libyan National Transitional Council (NTC) has so far received more than $1.5 billion of assets frozen by the U.S. from the U.N.

The handover of the old regime’s assets is expected to continue as the reconstruction begins across Libya, but there is some hesitation amongst governments, including the German government, in the absence of a transparent transfer process.

The unity of the Libyan rebels is tenuous and far from certain. Yet, the Arab Spring was ultimately a cry for freedom, fraternity and human dignity. The whole world is rooting for the rebels, and hopes they can overcome their divisions to end violence and make a lasting peace. Otherwise, in the words of George Santayana, “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”