A new dawn awaits the Libyan people now that Colonel Muammar Gaddafi can no longer undermine their efforts to build a democratic state.
So long as Gaddafi and his diehard loyalists remained at large there was always the possibility that the deposed dictator might serve as a rallying point for those Libyans who were wary of embracing Western-style democracy.
Libya, after all, is a deeply conservative Arab country where loyalty to tribe and family will always take precedence over the demands of the state.
Advertisement: Story continues below It is thus a fitting end to a conflict that was in danger of deteriorating into a bitter civil war that Gaddafi's demise coincided with the rebels' capture of Sirte, the last major stronghold of pro-Gaddafi loyalist.
The fall of Sirte means that the National Transitional Council (NTC), the body that represents the main opposition groups, can now officially declare the liberation of Libya from Gaddafi's 42-year dictatorship and begin the hard work of building the country anew.
Mahmoud Jibril, the head of the NTC's interim government, has said that he wants to hold parliamentary and presidential elections next year, which will be the first time in the country's short history that Libyans have been able to participate in the democratic process.
And with Gaddafi out of the way, the prospects for Libya's renewal could not be brighter. In the past the riches generated by the country's vast oil and gas reserves were only distributed among Gaddafi's ruling elite, allowing them to indulge their passion for conspicuous consumption of high-end consumer goods.
But a democratic Libya would undertake a more equitable distribution of its oil wealth generated by the largest known oil reserves in Africa. Those Western countries, such as Britain and France, that have backed the opposition's attempt to overthrow Gaddafi's regime will also be hoping for improved relations with Tripoli, as well as lucrative oil and gas contracts.
That said, the scale of the task facing the interim government should not be underestimated.
The pressures of running a country that is three times the size of France and is racked with tribal divisions are so great that Mr Jibril has already indicated he wants to step down once the liberation operation has been completed.
Until Mussolini created modern Libya in 1934, the region was divided on the basis of strict tribal loyalties between Cyrenaica in the east, with Benghazi as its capital, and Tripolitania, the region around the modern capital, Tripoli.
While these tribal divisions have become blurred during the Gaddafi era, the strong passions they inspire can still be detected within the NTC, where some opposition groups have objected to the dominant influence of Benghazi-based tribes over those from other parts of the country.
The other challenge that the NTC must contend with is the growing influence of Islamist groups throughout Libya.
Last July's murder of Abdel Fattah Younis, a former Gaddafi loyalist who commanded rebel forces in Benghazi, has been blamed on Islamist militants. Meanwhile Abdel Hakim Belhaj, the head of the Tripoli Military Council, is a former head of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, an Islamist movement with close ties to al-Qaeda.
Libyan Islamists have already made public their objections to the NTC's proposal to replace Gaddafi's regime with a secular, pro-Western government, and friction between the two groups could yet result in further bloodshed.
In Iraq, the worst sectarian violence took place after Saddam Hussein's capture, not before.
It is vital, therefore, that the Libyan people rise above their tribal and religious differences if they are to avoid a similar fate.
The Daily Telegraph, UK
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