Libya's official opposition movement, the Transitional National Council (TNC), was formed rapidly as it was officially established only a week after the initial uprising began in Benghazi. The group is headed by Mustafa Abdul Jalil. The council was created to provide a structural and organised base for the rebel movement on the ground. However most of its most important positions are filled with regime defectors, not by people from the opposition.
The head of the council, for example, also was the Libyan regime's justice minister until February. Even if Mr Abdul Jallil was known to criticise the regime he still managed and was willing to become a judge and the justice minister for Gaddafi's repressive government. Other former ministers include former interior minister Abdul Fatah Younes, now in charge of defence, and Mahmoud Jibril, the TNC foreign minister who used to head Gaddafi's National Economic Development Board, which was closed a few years ago because of corruption allegations.
Are the same people that worked with and for Gaddafi the best persons to take charge of the uprising and redirect the country out of dictatorship and towards democracy?
It seems that only time will clearly give either the critics of the supporters of the new regime vindication. Meanwhile, looking at the council's actions can provide us with interesting clues about the nature of the regime it hopes to set up in place of Gaddafi.
It is interesting for example that the revolt started in eastern Libya, which coincidently is also the location of most of Libya's oil, considered to be the greatest oil reserves in Africa. And while the rebels were first portrayed as disorganised, after all they were previously just normal citizens; they were quick to find allies in the regime and to set up a transitional council and were even quicker at building institutions.
So, not wasting any time, the TNC decided in March, of course under the supervision of foreign experts, to "transfer" the Libyan Central Bank to Benghazi. The bank was one of the few in the world to remain entirely state owned and the council promised it would now belong to the people. In a statement, they announced the "designation of the Central Bank of Benghazi as a monetary authority competent in monetary policies in Libya and appointment of a Governor to the Central Bank of Libya, with a temporary headquarters in Benghazi."
At the moment however it remains unclear exactly who owns the rebel's central bank or how it will be governed. Following the new establishment of the bank, the "sole representative of Libyan people" also announced the creation of a new "Libyan Oil Company" also based in the rebel stronghold city of Benghazi.
The U.S. government and the U.N. both announced that the rebels would be free to sell oil under their control as long as they did it without Gaddafi's National Oil Corporation and the first shipments started not long after. No wonder Shokri Ghanem, the Libyan oil minister who also chaired the National Oil Corporation recently ended up defecting the Gaddafi government as well.
Aware of their new found power, a rebel spokesman was even quoted as saying "Our friends... will have the best opportunity in future contracts with Libya."
A new problem that however seems to arise is the increasing formation of a gap between the rebels on the ground and their leadership, which has led to growing counter-productivity. While the main public persons were working hard at promoting the council and its western liberal values, such as the need for democracy, efficient institutions, economic liberalisation...on the ground rebel fighters are accused of violating basic human rights, for example targeting African migrant workers, imprisoning them without providing any kind of judiciary process.
This week, the leadership resorted to desperate measures and started distributing flyers explaining how prisoners should be treated according to the Geneva Convention, a treaty that many confessed they never had really heard of.
However how can they legally justify imprisoning people at all, when they have no operational judicial system in place remains a mystery to me, especially when they are supposed to be fighting a regime that is criticised for putting people in jail arbitrarily?
Anyway, with the rebels in charge of the central bank and of a new oil company, which provides to all parts of the country that have now cut ties with the Gaddafi regime, it does not come as a surprise that they are rapidly becoming the new guys on the international block.
As more and more people start to have concerns regarding the real face of the TNC regime after the ICC Chief prosecutor Luis Ocampo Moreno said he was investigating accusations that some of the rebel forces had committed acts that could constitute war crimes, the rebel charged Bernard-Henry Levy, a French writer, with delivering a message to Israel. The new council wants to create diplomatic ties with the country and assured Prime Minister Netanyahu they would formally recognise the existence of Israel as a state, as soon as they acquire power. They also added that they would work hard at trying to resolve the long enduring Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
It becomes now clear that both countries would benefit from the rapprochement. While becoming Israel's allies will clear them of any Al-Qaeda infiltration accusations it would also provide them with a strong military and international ally in the region. Gaddafi is reknowned for his posturing as a great Pan-African and many regimes from the continent still refuse to call for his dismissal. As the rebels are now accused of carrying out racist crimes towards sub-Saharan Africans, and in light of what is still happening in Darfur, many Africans will find it difficult to support the regime as they will see in their act a further indication that Arab tribes do not like black Africans.
For Israel, on the other hand, the friendship would also provide a local oil-selling ally. For years the country has had to rely on the global market for more than 99 per cent of its oil consumption and in 2004, Israel's minister of national infrastructures admitted:
"Israel's situation is complicated. We don't have diplomatic relations with most of the countries from which we import oil."