x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Qaddafi's legacy remains harmful after his death

Qaddafi is dead. His taint cannot be allowed to poison everyone ever associated with his regime.

Since he declared that his people were rats at the beginning of the Libyan uprising, it had been hard to imagine how it could end well for Col Muammar Qaddafi. His death yesterday still came as a shock, but it is one of a series in this year of Arab uprisings, a year that is not yet finished.

The bloody pictures of Qaddafi's corpse will be filed alongside images of Hosni Mubarak behind bars in the Cairo dock. Zine El Abidine Ben Ali's quiet escape from Tunis belongs in the same category, as does Saddam Hussein's execution in 2006.

A generation of "revolutionary" Arab leaders have fallen, although their revolutions had stagnated in authoritarian kleptocracy decades ago. Deposing them might once have seemed inconceivable, but now their successors face the greater task of healing the wounds that they caused.

Amid the scenes of jubilation across Sirte and other Libyan cities yesterday, it has to be remembered that there were those who remained loyal to Qaddafi to the end. The backbone of the regime's resistance may be broken, although it is still too soon to say with certainty, but on top of the country's old tribal rivalries, the fighting of the past months has created new enmities and fears.

The numerous Libyans who are rejoicing today will not need to be told that this is not the end of their troubles, but rather the beginning of a new challenge. If the fighting is really over, as we hope, former enemies must move towards reconciliation. This includes the tribes and cities that remained loyal to Qaddafi, as well as members of his regime. Indeed, many former loyalists are now leaders in the opposition.

The purges after the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime swelled the ranks of insurgents on the battlefield and crippled the civilian government. That would be a similar disaster in Libya, where major tribes remained loyal to the regime. The National Transition Council has made the right statements about reconciliation and now it needs to follow through.

Libya has considerable advantages moving forward. Oil installations are reportedly in good condition; Opec says production could reach the pre-war 1.6 million barrels per day next year. But that is a best-case scenario: some oil-industry workers are insisting that Qaddafi-era managers are sacked.

Qaddafi is dead. His taint should not be allowed to poison every person who was ever associated with his regime. That would lead to revenge campaigns that would harm every Libyan. A state is not a zero-sum game.