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Saif Gaddafi's Capture - A Chance to Prove the New Libya Can Govern Fairly

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SAIF GADDAFI
PA

In Tripoli the first sign of the news that Saif Gaddafi had been captured was the sound of several bursts of gunfire.

This was followed by phone calls, car horns and cries of Allah Akbar. I was sat in a crowded café as people around me passed around internet pictures of the now captured Saif. The universal feeling was one of joy, with espresso's replacing champagne.

The main point of interest was not what means for Libya, but whether the rebels had cut off Saif's fingers. Saif famously used to point at Libyans whilst threatening. When I asked people "will they try him in Libya", the response was "who cares, it's over."

And this seemed to be the most significant piece of information to be taken from Saif's capture, people weren't that interested.

Sure, there was celebratory gunfire, but finding five dinar (Libya's currency) on the street is worthy of a solid burst from an AK.

Celebrations in Green Square did take place, but were over by midnight. As the day moved on, euphoria quickly became a shrug of the shoulders. In fact, the only group who seemed really interested in his capture were from the international community, desperate to see him receive a fair trial and not the grisly fate of his father.

The Libyan government are equally desperate for this outcome, as they seek to complete the transfer from rag-tag rebel army to fully fledged sovereignty.

For the past week, as well as receiving opaque tips that the capture of Saif was a matter of time, senior members of the government have been adamant that he will not be harmed and will be tried in Libya. There is a realisation that a repeat of the summary execution of Moammar Gaddafi will do irreparable damage to the new government in the eyes of the world.

The capture of Saif is both an opportunity and a hazard at once, with the new government due to be announced on Tuesday bar any last minute wrangling. The formation of this government is the most important moment since the capture of Moammar Gaddafi. To the ordinary Libyan this is what really matters, not that a former despot is no longer roaming around a deserted desert.

The question that capturing Saif Gaddafi raises is not, where will they try him, but will his capture be used to hide faultlines in the new politics of the country?

The makeup of the government on Tuesday will be the first sign of what the new Libya will be like. It will answer the question - will the different factions and regions be represented fairly? Will the youth that fought so hard and lost so much be given the voice they deserve? For the Libyans I know, these are the real issues.

Saif's capture may be used by the government to prove itself to the world, but more importantly it must prove to its people that it can govern fairly too.

For all Saif's importance as a symbol, the hot issues in Tripoli are when the garbage problem will be solved and the internet sped up. The old Libya was about one man, the new Libya must be about the needs of the many.

Libya has already proved that it can destroy a regime, the question is now can it build a new one.

The Long Road Home broadcasts on Al Jazeera English on the 8 and 15 December. State of Denial broadcasts on 22 December. The films form a series callled Libya's Endgame, providing unique insight on the fall of the Gaddafi regime.

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