Plight of a nation - Libya's lost years

The first Libyan civil war, provoked by the uprisings during the Arab Spring just under a decade ago, ended what many called a controversial forty-year rule by Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. Gaddafi had been criticised for leading an authoritarian administration that manipulated substantial amounts of oil revenues for the purposes of financing global terrorism. However, following the toppling of Gaddafi, Libya has now failed multiple times to transition to a permanent democracy, despite siding with powerful organisations such as the United Nations. Libya’s political arena remains a battleground scarred by what seems to be a never-ending bloodshed in the country’s second civil war. The evident divide between the west and the east of the country has turned democracy into a distant utopia amid an ongoing military rivalry.

After a series of failures to establish an egalitarian mode of governance in the post-Gaddafi era, Libya’s newly elected House of Representatives (HoR), coupled with the old General National Congress, signed a political agreement. This landmark and historic agreement appointed a new Government of National Accord to preside over the country during the transition as its sole legitimate government. Nevertheless, after relocating from the capital Tripoli to the eastern city of Tobruk, the HoR gained the support of the Libyan National Army’s (LNA) General Khalifa Haftar, pitting the east and west of the country against each other. General Haftar’s ruthless and bloody military efforts have been a successful catalyst for escalating the strife and hindering the efforts towards organising new, democratic elections.

A revolution doesn’t seem to be on the cards for Libya anytime soon as conflicts between the two administrations have got out of hand and are now preoccupying the political agenda. This leaves no room for grassroot civilian unity and therefore an uprising against a single threat. It goes without saying that Libya’s long history of getting involved in other countries’ foreign affairs, such as taking responsibility for terrorist attacks including the Lockerbie aircraft bombing, has not exactly been beneficial for the African nation when it comes to maintaining friendly international relations. Therefore it is unlikely that many nations will be jumping to the rescue any time soon. On the other hand, it is somewhat ironic how the UN admonished Gaddafi due to violation of human rights, yet are now doing the absolute minimum to protect human rights under the violent actions of Haftar.

Moreover, the military proliferation has given way to a large-scale migration crisis, using the country’s vast desert as a backchannel for smuggling and human trafficking. The LNA’s operations have also been responsible for the former Jamahiriya’s economic decline, as Haftar has now obtained control over major oil fields, exports have been put on hold and there are threats of imminent attacks on Tripoli too.

During the first civil war grassroot civilian unity was not all that uncommon, though it was mostly galvanised by a hatred towards Gaddafi rather than any shared ideological beliefs. Indeed, there is notably a lack of shared ideological beliefs in present day Libya. Was Libya really prepared for the aftermath of the war and the instability that came with the lack of authority? The country needs to learn from its past mistakes, namely that war is not the answer. Furthermore, the UN needs to step up not only as a representative body, but also as an executive one and act as a true peacemaker. Libya can make up for its lost years, given that all it needs is a clean slate.

Image - Flickr (sanjitbakshi)

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