Monday, 04 December 2023
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Elayne Jude's analysis for Great North News Service

Libyan analyst Mohamed Eljarh : "Islamists are determined to remain major players on the political scene after their defeat in the elections and the growing threat of the operation against Islamists in eastern Libya." The government has said it will examine "the possibility of resorting to international forces on the ground to restore security and help it impose its authority."

On July 13, Libya made the headlines as Tripoli international airport was rocket-attacked by Islamist militias. Since 2011 the airport has been controlled by anti-Islamic brigades from the city of Zintan, effectively the military force of the liberals. Islamists militias have tried many times to oust them. The present attacks are an escalation in weaponry and intent. A truce brokered on 18 July was almost immediately breached by fresh fighting at the airport. At the time of writing, the violence at and around the airport continues. All hospitals and clinics are on emergency alert, and casualties, many of them civilian, mount.

Many civilians in the vicinity were killed or wounded, and the airport was put out of operation. Roads were later blocked by protesters, who responded to calls on social networks for civil disobedience to denounce the attack. Misrata airport, where flights might have diverted to, also suspended operations, as it is linked to the control tower in Tripoli.

Four days later, Libyan Foreign Minister Mohamed Abdelaziz asked the UN Security Council to dispatch experts to train the country's security services to protect oil fields, airports and other essential infrastructure.
"We are not asking for military intervention," Abdelaziz emphasised. "We are asking for a team from the UN specialised in the field of security."

In a statement, the Security Council said it condemned the recent violence in Libya. The Council would ask U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to examine the Libyan request for aid and present "options."

With recent catastrophic violence in Gaza, Iraq and Syria, it's easy to forget about Libya, and the 2011 intervention, hailed as a 'success'. But Libya after Gadhafi has lurched deep into crisis, and now threatens to become yet another MENA country of lawlessness, civil war and all out insurgency.

As parliamentary elections approached in Libya, an indicator of the escalating lawlessness in Libya: the United Nations Support Mission in Libya announced June 14 the temporary withdrawal of its staff and its relocation to Tunisia, for security reasons.

On June 25 630, 000 Libyans, less than half of total voters registered, voted for the Council House of Representatives. In 2012, in an atmosphere of relief and optimism, 3 million voted. This time round, many polling stations, particularly in Derna in the east and in Kufra in the southeast, did not open at all, as security could not be guaranteed. 15 out of 200 Council seats will remain unfilled. Human rights lawyer and critic of the militias Salwa Bughaighis was assassinated in Benghazi after voting; the sole witness later died while under police protection. Pessimism and disillusion extend to the one million Libyans now living abroad. Among the diaspora, out of 10,000 registered, fewer than 4,000 voted.

Disenchantment with a lack of economic progress accompanies the anguish of witnessing a weak central government fail to heal splits along tribal and ideological fault lines, as Libya spins ever closer to civil war. The Ali Zaidan-led government, appointed by the elected National Congress in October 2012, promised security and social unity, the disarmament of militants, to rebuilding infrastructure and reforming the economy. It has delivered on few if any of those promises. Armed militias effectively control swathes of the country, including the capital. More than a million Libyans are now living abroad, in voluntary exile from everyday living conditions in their former home: kidnapping for ransom, extortion, torture and above all the gangs armed by West and other interested parties to bring down Gadhafi. Thousands of Libyans are internally displaced; 40 000 souls, the entire population of Tawergha, east of Tripoli, cannot return to their homes, many of which no longer exist, devastated by the militias.

Many of Libya's economic woes can be traced back to the extraordinary economic policies pursued by Gadhafi during his forty year reign. His ideology was neither capitalist nor socialist, but personal, whimsical to the point of perversity, and entirely devoted to the promotion of the interests of the Gadhafi clan. Consequently, the country never developed an entrepreneurial and managing middle class. There were few savers, and less investment.

It's not a legacy that can be turned around overnight. But there are few signs of any coherent international effort to address the vacuum. Today, Libya's oil riches account for 95% of the country's income. The oil sector is habitually disrupted by sabotage, strikes, or the sale of oil by and for the profit of powerful factions. Awardwinning Libyan academic and journalist Mustafa Fetouri notes grimly that he encounters endless foreign trade delegations and individuals who come to Libya to sell, and almost none who come to help:

"The NGOs come to Libya to teach Libyans how to vote, manage elections, count votes, protect women's rights, abide by the law and, of course, tolerate gays. Unfortunately, not a single NGO has come to try to help us be one nation again or to be what we used to be: tolerant, accommodating, helpful and forgiving. No help on how to become patriotic in our own country, or what remains of it, or how to be reconciliatory" - Al-Monitor, 17 June 2014.

Elayne Jude is a freelance writer & photographer

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