The uprisings that began with people demanding freedom, democracy and human rights in the face of the repressive regimes that had dominated the Arab world for many years brought to an end the 23-year regime of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia, the 32-year rule of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt and the 42-year reign of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya. Behind these protests, which spread with a domino effect, lay problems such as corruption and illegalities, restrictions on freedom of expression, unemployment, food inflation, insufficient nutrition and poor standards of living. The bloodiest outcome from the wave of democratization that swept the region occurred in Libya.
Gaddafi, who governed Libya with a socialist-based administration of his own invention throughout his time in power, and who imposed a ‘one-man philosophy,’ was overthrown in a military operation initiated by the U.S. with British and French support, on the grounds that the people were being repressed and exposed to violence. Although Gaddafi escaped unscathed from the NATO-supported attack, he was discovered by the opposition hiding in a drain and lynched. But what happened in Libya after Gaddafi’s savage slaying?
The Gaddafi regime came to an end with the U.S.-led coalition operation, but Libya has still not achieved freedom. Attempted coups were staged at the beginning of last year against the temporary government installed after the overthrow of Gaddafi, and the country headed toward civil war. Libya is currently racing towards a break-up.
Major changes took place on the political stage following the elections on June 25th, 2014. There are now two separate administrations, governments and parliaments in the country, one in Tobruk and one in Tripoli. ISIL controls Derna in the northeast of the country. Abdullah al-Thani is president of the House of Representatives, founded by some deputies who broke away from the National General Congress, the previous temporary assembly. The Tobruk government, backed by Egypt, the UAE and Saudi Arabia, supports former General Khalifa Haftar. Once close to Gaddafi, Haftar lost favor in Gaddafi’s eyes following the defeat of the Libyan Army in Chad in 1986. Haftar then settled in the U.S., where he spent the next 20 years. Following the overthrow of Gaddafi in 2011, the former general returned to Libya and attracted the backing of the international community with talk of opposing radical organizations.
The National General Congress, which is close to the Muslim Brotherhood, is active in Tripoli. Retired General Haftar initiated a counter-offensive against Islamist groups with an operation called ‘Karama,’ meaning ‘War of Honor.’ Islamist groups, including supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, combined together and initiated the operation ‘Fajr Libya,’ meaning ‘Libyan Dawn,’ and seized the capital, Tripoli.
The supporters of Operation War of Honor hold all of eastern Libya, including Benghazi, Ajdabiya, Tobruk, Bayda, Brega and Ra’s Lanuf; these forces also govern Zawiya and Zintan in the West. Their main advantages against the government in Tripoli is that they control the country’s oil beds and refineries.
Additionally, it must not be forgotten that 85% of the population of Libya consists of tribes and the like. Gaddafi managed to suppress disputes and rivalries between tribes and regions in the country by force for the 42 years of his iron-fisted rule. Today, however, the lack of authority in the south caused by civil strife has led to tribes establishing their own autonomous administrations. The Amazigh tribe, representing the Berbers, controls the region of the Nafusa Mountains in the northwest and the town of Wazzan. The Tuareg control the region of Fezzan in the southwest and the towns of Ghadames, Ubari and Gat. The Toubou tribe control the northeast of the country, with the towns of Murzuq and Kufra. The coastal town of Ubari is the scene of fierce clashes between the Tuareg and the Toubou.
Setting all this uncertainty aside, what awaits Libya in the future?
Libya is today regarded as a "failed state," incapable of governing itself and with no concrete governmental authority. ‘Failed state’ is one of the more recent concepts in the doctrine of international law. This term of Western origin, which particularly began being used to describe African and Middle Eastern countries, is criticized for being invented to justify military intervention. It is also said that the use of this term conveniently coincides with the efforts of some Western countries to redesign a region in line with their own interests.
The current situation in Libya is being described as a stalemate. The predicament facing Libya, the world’s ninth largest oil producer and previously the African country with the richest oil reserves, is indeed thought-provoking. An independent, free and prosperous Libya freed from war, conflict, injustices and poverty may seem a long way off but Libya’s problems can be solved with love and brotherhood.
All those factions that regard one another as opposite poles must set their differences aside and embrace one another as brothers. If they can overcome the gulfs between them with love, then Libya can achieve the well-being, peace and stability for which it longs. The duty of the Libyan people is to set aside their differences and make peace among themselves in the knowledge that they are brothers. In that event, the country will come to enjoy peace of mind, which in turn will bring political stability with it. We hope that the people of Libya will regenerate their country in a spirit of union and unity in the shortest time possible, that they can overcome all their problems with love, peace and brotherhood and that this will be instrumental in laying the foundations for a modern Libya.
Adnan Oktar's piece on Urdu Times