It’s not every day a helicopter lands in Msellata. A quiet country town deep in Libya’s agricultural heartland, the revolution largely passed it by.
But 93 years ago today, Libyans proclaimed the first republic in the Arab world right here, in the middle of nowhere. In a country starting afresh after 42 years of dictatorial rule, the symbolism of this long-forgotten event has assumed a powerful new meaning.
This is a day of huge symbolic importance, to the new Libya, and a host of military and political figures, and European diplomats, have come to this town to celebrate the new-found democratic spirit.
The great and the good of the new Libya have flocked here today. For everyone from European ambassadors to tribal leaders and NTC politicians, the day’s festivities are an opportunity to pledge support to the new order- and network furiously. But the star attractions are the military heroes of the revolution- men who are now powerful commanders in smartly-pressed uniforms.
Until Libya holds its first elections, scheduled for eight months time, these commanders will hold the real power in Libya.
In a country ravaged by civil war, security is an attractive word. Even with Gadhafi dead, Libya is still a nation under arms. Many Msellatans volunteered for Gadhafi’s forces. But these days, everyone supports the revolution.
Like many people in this corner of Libya, many- perhaps most- Msellatans waited to see who would win before committing themselves. But there’s no recrimination, in this sleepy close-knit town at least. As in other towns across Libya, the revolutionary government has become the established order- and almost everyone wants to be a part of it.