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LIBYA

 
  
  

 

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Key Economic Data 
 
  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
GDP
Millions of US $ 19,131     71
     
GNI per capita
 US $ n/a n/a
Ranking is given out of 208 nations - (data from the World Bank)

Books on Libya



Update No: 110 - (26/03/13)

Those who have had an opportunity to study Libya closely understood that it was not one of Qadhafi’s delirious statements of the type uttered in the early days of the uprising in 2011, when he warned Libyans that his forces would go house to house and street to street: “Zenga, zenga; shara’a, shara’a’. That saying was a favorite tool used by refugees escaping Libya to lighten the mood a bit at the refugee camps on the Tunisian side of the Libyan-Tunisian border at Ras el-Jadir. Indeed, the prophecy has fully materialized. Libya is in chaos and is still struggling to find democracy while sitting on the edge of anarchy. Of course, Qadhafi spoke with cause; the chaotic situation that would develop could almost be said to have happened by design. There were no institutions apart from the National Oil Company; no real economic structure (oil took care of the basics) and these failures are making the government’s state building task much more difficult than it would have been had Qadhafi left some kind of State legacy behind.

A popular rumor would have Qadhafi warning Libyans that his demise would be met by Somali style chaos in Libyan rendition of the famous saying attributed to Louis XIV of France, ‘après moi le deluge’. Those who have had an opportunity to study Libya closely understood that this was not one of Qadhafi’s delirious statements of the type uttered in the early days of the uprising in 2011, when he warned Libyans that his forces would go house to house and street to street: “Zenga, zenga; shara’a, shara’a’. That saying was a favorite tool used by refugees escaping Libya to lighten the mood a bit at the refugee camps on the Tunisian side of the Libyan-Tunisian border at Ras el-Jadir. Indeed, the prophecy has fully materialized. Libya is in chaos and is still struggling to find democracy while sitting on the edge of anarchy. Of course, Qadhafi spoke with cause; the chaotic situation that would develop could almost be said to have happened by design. There were no institutions apart from the National Oil Company; no real economic structure (oil took care of the basics) and these failures are making the government’s state building task much more difficult than it would have been had Qadhafi left some kind of State legacy behind.

The government led by the new Prime Minister Ali Zeidan has not been able to manage the pacification process, the state of law, security, de-armament of the militias and failing to establish real control in the areas of Fezzan and Cyrenaica. The lack of security in the Fezzan, meanwhile, could prove especially vulnerable as the various insurgent groups in the southern Sahara, involved directly and indirectly in the ongoing war in Mali, are being pushed further north. The porous Libyan borders could provide a convenient refuge to these radical and criminal gangs, adding an additional element of instability to Libya. The government’s weakness and security vacuum could easily be perceived as MP’s were literally held hostage for a few hours as they were debating the issue of political isolation for former Qadhafi era officials. A militia opened fire with total impunity against a car aboard which was the Speaker of Parliament, Mohammad Mogarief.

The episode is a reminder of the danger formed by the ‘Tuwwar’, the former revolutionaries, who have divided up the country into mini-power centers in a kind of medieval anarchy. Indeed, they have taken over the right to maintain order in the cities (dividing up districts) and the peripheries, outside of any legally recognized system. These gangs – estimated to include as many as 20,000 men - do not recognize the Parliamentary authorities and are further compromising the institution building process. The gangs are the law, which they administer and enforce according to their whim. In early March, one such gang occupied a TV station in Tripoli, temporarily kidnapping its director, because the discussion was starting to touch the subject of the ‘Tuwwar’. Even oil production, which had reached pre-revolt levels very quickly, is starting to be affected. The Italian oil firm Eni suspended gas production at the Mellitah plant because of a battle between rival Tuwwar.

The Tuwwar’s power has compromised legality and is compromising Libyans’ lives. Not all the Tuwwar are religious fundamentalists, but it seems the ones who are have been dominating. They have targeted Egyptian Copts and European schools especially in Benghazi, a security soft spot. Moreover, the islamist groups represent a threat, because they serve as a platform for infiltration for the more organized ones evolving from Al-Qaida in the Maghreb. This would make Libya into a Somali-Afghan hybrid in which chaos and Islamism might eventually force a split between the regions – not to mention the evident security risks in the country with Africa’s largest oil reserves. On march 17, the government launched a formal military operation to attempt to dissolve the various militias through the deployment of a specially created task force that will begin operating in Tripoli and then expand to Benghazi. The Government has warned that intense fighting and deaths are expected; however, some of the militias may be better armed than those that will be entrusted by the government to stop them.

Libya, therefore, is experiencing a new ‘reality’ characterized by chaos and uncertainty about who holds authority; nobody has a monopoly of ‘military’ and policing force. While the government has announced initiatives and attempts to win back some power, it lacks the strength to disarm and a weak political will to do so, largely prompted by fear. Therefore, it has tried the typical approach of assimilation, involving the gradual dissolution of the militias and the recruitment of the individual tuwwar within the military has resulted in a more simple change of team of the militias. The result has been weak; the tuwwars have simply changed uniforms without honoring their allegiance to the State. Prime Minister Ali Zeidan is intent on pursuing a path of national reconciliation that tries to avoid conflict; his ruling coalition includes the Muslim Brotherhood and Mahmoud Jibril’s more secular Alliance. The population has shown to support this coalition and unlike Iraq or even Syria, Libya is not divided along sectarian or ethnic lines to the same extent as Iraq or Syria, even if it remains divided along tribal lines, a phenomenon at the root of the militia problem. Nevertheless, the current situation is distracting the government from pursuing the crucial task of institution building. The militias demand ransoms and use blackmail in order to perform some of the necessary security functions; a problem that non-oil producing countries have not experienced; the militias are most interested in securing salaries for the militias and benefits and pensions for ex-combatants – which includes opportunists, swelling the numbers of the anti-Qadhafi militias beyond reality.

Libya is also under Western and US pressure because of the presence of potential al-Qaida groups such as Anwar al-Sharia, the militia charged with the attack at the US Consulate. The risk is that these have already been included in the government’s plans to rebuild the army through militia integration. Some radical groups Cyrenaica have certainly entered as a unit to be part of the Libyan security forces that the government is trying to reorganize. Washington feels that Libya has done very little to catch those responsible for the bombing. Ali Zeidan visited Washington in mid March and met President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry to discuss the investigation into the Stevens attack, for which the US has been pressuring the Libyan government to find out. Zeidan is cautious about possible military scenarios while the government debates laws ranging from the exclusion from political office for those who had roles under Qadhafi’s leadership and the drafting of the Constitution, which could pit the more libertarian faction to be challenged. Both issues could lead to a political clash between the "liberals" and the Brotherhood.

The theme of the Constitution is even more complex. The most important substantive point is related to role of Sharia and whether it should be considered as a founding principle of the law in Libya. The discussion could focus not so much on the imposition of Islamic law, which is widely recognized as fundamental in the country, but over those who will be in charge of determining whether laws passed by Congress is in contradiction with it. Accordingly, Brotherhood’s ‘Justice and Construction’ party – backed by many independent members – has occasionally adopted moderate positions and more often than not sided with the Salafi current.    
 

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