The death of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi in Sirte highlights the remarkable impact a single individual can have on a whole country. Until he was captured or killed Libyans could not get on with the job of rebuilding.
His mere existence represented an inspiration to his followers and a continuing threat to the new order. Gaddafi’s death will, therefore, clear the way for the provisional government to get on with its job.
But big problems remain. Gaddafi’s son, Saif Al Islam, has reportedly escaped from Sirte.
Saif lacks his father’s hold over Libyans but he is a formidable character who might be able to rally remnants of his father’s regime and continue the fight.
And, as we have seen over past weeks, Gaddafi still has many committed supporters.
How they respond to his death and the nature of his killing may determine whether the country can settle down to the reconstruction process or has to suffer further violence.
Gaddafi’s death raises the question of how to restore domestic harmony between supporters of his regime and its opponents.
While many people inside and outside Libya have expressed satisfaction that he is dead, others could have done with the reassurance that might have been provided by Gaddafi’s trial, either in Libya or in the International Criminal Court as mandated by the UN Security Council.