Racing to fill a power vacuum and prevent a descent into lawlessness, Libya proclaimed its war over on Sunday and start building the ballot box democracy Muammar Gaddafi once saw as fit for “donkeys”.
Tens of thousands who before this year’s revolt had known nothing but Gaddafi’s all-powerful police state are due to pack a square in the second city Benghazi to hear interim government leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil announce the “liberation” of Libya. The announcement was expected at about 1400 GMT.
But some fear Jalil will struggle to impose his will on his heavily-armed but fragmenting revolutionary alliance, pointing to the insistence of fighters in the provincial town of Misrata on continuing to display the body of the former strongman three days after his death, in apparent breach of Islamic practice.
And there is international disquiet about increasingly graphic and disturbing images on the internet of abuse of a body that appears to be Gaddafi’s following his capture and the fall of his hometown of Sirte last Thursday.
“There is a yawning security and political vacuum in which brewing political disputes, factionalism and security problems pose a serious risk of derailing or prolonging transition,” said Henry Wilkinson of Janusian security consultants in London.
In Misrata, people queueing up for a chance to see Gaddafi’s body saw no reason for a rapid burial. “This guy is not a Muslim. If he was a Muslim we would have treated him in an Islamic way,” a man who gave his name as Suleiman said.
There is some unease abroad over what many believe was a summary execution of Gaddafi. UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay has called for an investigation into the killing, but very few Libyans share those concerns.
Arguments have arisen among Libya's factions about what to do with the corpse, which has not been accorded the swift burial required by Islamic law and is beginning to decompose.
Gaddafi’s surviving family, in exile, wants his body and that of his son Mo’tassim to be handed over to tribal kinsmen from Sirte. NTC officials said they were trying to arrange a secret resting place to avoid loyalist supporters making it a shrine. Misrata does not want his body under its soil.