ISSN 2330-717X

Feudal Libya – OpEd


By Boris Pavlishchev

Libya’s new interim Prime Minister Abdurrahim al-Keib has urged the nation to defend the country against the so-called “pseudo-revolutionaries”, or armed units which are beyond the control of the authorities, who misappropriated state property and lands. The prime minister dismissed reports calling for the revival of Libya’s federal system which have been circulating in the press since the collapse of Muammar Gaddafi’s government.

Dozens of the so-called “brigades” led by field commanders, among them radical Islamists, put up resistance to Gaddafi forces along with the National Liberation Army throughout the whole of 2011. The Army comprised defectors from regular Gaddafi troops and members of civilian volunteer corps. Even though the Army currently reports to the National Transitional Council, which has been recognized by the UN, the “brigades” and the clans behind them continue to act independently holding many facilities, including government buildings and Tripoli Airport.

Now, Prime Minister Abdurrahim al-Keib is seeking the assistance of the people in dealing with the turmoil. His words are addressed to those in favor of stability, Yelena Melkunyan of the Institute of Oriental Studies, says.

“The government is not in control of all armed formations in Libya. There are plenty of unaccounted for weapons in Libya and no one wants to retrieve them. This entails chaos and anarchy, so the prime minister has called for help.”

However, not all think the same. Some see the prime minister’s statements as repercussions of inter-clan strife, says Dmitry Bondarenko of the Institute of Africa of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

“Since the new government is yet to prove their dedication to the principles of democracy, justice and freedom, inner struggle among the winners is inevitable. The country’s new rulers represent a wide political spectrum and an equally wide range of political ambitions. These so-called “brigades” are claiming their share of power, so pleas to combat them are nothing unusual. But these groups have seen their mission through and are posing a threat to other political forces.”

The recent statements by Abdurrahim al-Keib preceded the events in the eastern oil-rich Cyrenaica region. During their meeting in Benghazi on Tuesday, 3,000 elders declared independence of the region. Tripoli has described the move as a result of a “foreign conspiracy”. Yelena Melkunyan believes that confrontation between the central authorities and the regions will lead to still greater anarchy.

“Apart from independence claims, Cyrenaica is home to the Touareg movement which wants independence as well. And given that there are other tribes that are not under the control of the central government, the situation in Libya may get completely out of control.”

The Libyan prime minister made it clear that he abhors federalism. Statements to this effect suggest the intention of finding a model which would be acceptable for various regions, a model under which these regions would have greater chances of managing their own resources. Gaddafi, for one, took little care of the eastern areas. As a result, Cyrenaica lived in bitter poverty, even though it accounted for nearly all of the oil produced in Libya.

As for independence moves, they, along with the activities of the armed “brigades”, undermine the central power and make Libya less attractive for foreign investments. Faced with such havoc, the government will be powerless to develop the country’s political system, handle economic issues or address people’s needs.

Click here to have Eurasia Review's newsletter delivered via RSS, as an email newsletter, via mobile or on your personal news page.


VOR, or the Voice of Russia, was the Russian government's international radio broadcasting service from 1993 until 2014, when it was reorganised as Radio Sputnik.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.