Libya conflict: Gaddafi ousted, now it is rebels' turn

Rebels in Abu Salim, Tripoli (25 August 2011)
Image caption The rebels are still shooting but attention must soon shift to getting the country running again

There's an expression in television news: writing against pictures, which applies rather well to the situation in Tripoli at the moment. It means that the reporter is telling you one thing but the pictures give a very different impression.

Here, there is constant shooting as the victorious rebels fire off their weapons in the air for the sheer fun of it. Sometimes, too, the rebels blaze away when they find some of the surprisingly defiant snipers who are holed up in a building somewhere.

It all looks as though the war is still going on as bad as ever. There's even an area close to Col Muammar Gaddafi's compound where the green flag of the old regime still flies.

But we've got to be clear about this: the revolution has succeeded and the colonel has been overthrown, even if he hasn't actually been caught yet. Don't let the pictures give you the impression that the outcome is still in the balance, because it isn't.

Much to be done

In 2003, after the invasion of Iraq, Saddam Hussein was on the run for eight months. There were lots of imagined sightings at first, but slowly things moved on. And by the time he was actually caught, he had ceased to be a factor in the continuing play of events. The same will probably happen here, though Iraq was a tragedy and Libya isn't and doesn't have to be.

Even so, on day three of the new Libya, there is a huge amount to be done. The entire administration of Tripoli and the country has melted away. The transitional council which ran the revolution rather effectively has had plenty of time to work out what to do, and plenty of help from countries like Britain and France. So maybe this worrying lack of any obvious control is just a factor of the suddenness with which the revolution has succeeded.

It has to be said that the rebels in the streets, though they are a thorough-going nuisance with their firing into the air, are properly disciplined and well-behaved, apart from that. I haven't heard a single report of any of them stealing, nor looting or attacking anyone, except the snipers.

But it would be really good to see a few policemen on the streets and a few civil servants back at their desks - and more particularly some newly-appointed government ministers to run things.