The death of fallen Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi leaves a dangerous period of power vacuum in Libya, which might trigger clashes among different ethnic groups trying to seize power, Italian experts told Xinhua on Friday.
According to Gabriele Iacovino, a North African and Mediterranean analyst at Rome's International Studies Centre (CESI), the killing of Gaddafi on Thursday might lead to a power struggle among the various factions that currently compose the National Transitional Council (NTC).
The risk of "a civil war" is in fact highly possible, he said. "The unique common goal for all the NTC factions was to defeat Gaddafi and clear the ground for building a new Libyan authority. So in a way Gaddafi continued to keep the country united even during the conflict."
"Now Gaddafi is dead and who knows what will happen next," Iacovino said.
Arturo Varvelli, a researcher at the Milan-based ISPI institute of international politics, stressed the sharp contrast between the NTC's two leading factions: the military rebels supported by the Islamic groups on one side and the higher political authority on the other, which was more liberal and composed of former exiles and regime administrators.
"Both are seeking political hegemony and it is important that they find some kind of compromise with each another. The success of an efficient transition phase will solely depend on the cooperation between the various NTC and territorial entities toward a peaceful co-existence," said Varvelli.
However, the troubles are that "the country is full of weapons kept in numerous deposits and these weapons ... are at everyone's hands, easily accessible," Varvelli added.
Iacovino said the uncertain scenario which might open up in Libya after Gaddafi's death was natural and yet at the same time very dangerous.
In his view, the real issue at stake in the short term would be the capacity of the NTC to represent and unite all tribal and ethnic groups in the country, even those who so far have had no role nor voice in the conflict.
"I fear I am quite pessimistic regarding Libya's national unification process. It might in fact take years of instability before the various territorial factions succeed in overcoming disputes for the benefit of a unified country," said Iacovino.
Varvelli instead used the term "low-intensity conflict" rather than "civil war" to describe what he saw lying ahead for the country, citing the country's high tribal and ethnic fragmentation.
"All of Libya's territorial factions had hunted down Gaddafi in these months but then it was Misurata's clan who had the privilege of showing his dead body as a war trophy. All groups are in competition with one another, acting like loose dogs, while now the country needs to identify and acknowledge a unique, centralized authority."
"Gaddafi's fall has triggered a political, cultural and civil void which must be filled. The question is: who will do this?" Varvelli said.
Both experts agreed on the fact, however, that it was up to the Libyan people to deal with the reconstruction of the country's institutions through a process of national reconciliation and most of all, self-determination.
Regarding the possibility of hosting UN observers and troops for peacekeeping and nation-building, Iacovino said this would lead to "an excellent result" in tackling the instability and authority void, adding however "the solution to the crisis must be Libya-led."
Gaddafi's final fall would inevitably lead to a disengagement of the NATO-led air forces and all other foreign nations which had so far contributed to enforcing the no-fly zone, Iacovino said, adding the financial crisis was also compelling the countries to withdraw.
"Everyone wants to go back home, the conflict in Libya has elevated costs and countries cannot afford additional military expenditures, especially the U.S.," he said.
France and Britain are perceived too distant by the Libyan people to take on a real role of leadership in the transitional phase, Vavelli said. He expected the Gulf countries and Turkey, which have always appeared to be active during the Libyan crisis, to do more to guide the new Libya toward its future.
Iacovino, instead, said that Europe and particularly Italy, due to its strategic geographic vicinity to Libya, should support the war-torn country's difficult democratic transition.