Libyan Limbo – Analysis


Very much like what happened with Somalia many decades ago, after the overthrow of its dictator Siad Barre in 1991, Libya is free from Qaddafi and his family but gripped with chaos, lawlessness and instability to the extent that one wonders if the country still exists as such or is it just a figment of imagination.

Libya, The Somalia Of North Africa

Sometime ago, the United Nations by the means of its special mission for Libya, UNSMILi (United Nations Support Mission in Libya,) tried sincerely to mend the country and resolve the internal conflicts and feuds, and, thus, got everyone to sign the Skhirate Agreement in SKhirate, Morocco in 2015, with the hope to form a government of national unity, but this failed miserably because it seems, unfortunately, that Libya has gone tribal anew, for some reason.

Field Marshal Haftar has even declared this agreement dead.

Indeed, addressing the Libyans on television, Khalifa Haftar said on December 2017:ii

“Local and international institutions which claim they’re concerned about resolving the situation have not made any serious and practical preemptive measures that reassure people over their future,”

noting that Libyan parties’ dialogues, including the Skhirate Agreement, are mere “ink on paper.”

Libya's Khalifa Haftar
Libya’s Khalifa Haftar

As such, the west is ruled by the Islamists from Tripoli, the frail UNSMIL government is located in this city, too, the east is the exclusive realm of the retired Field Marshal Haftar, apparently supported by the Americans, and the south is governed by a myriad of tribes, patriarchal in essence and pan-arabist in ideology.

At first glance all these players seem to put personal interest above national unity and, therefore, the country is sliding fast into oblivion and slowly but surely becoming the Somalia of North Africa.

One thing is sure, if the Libyan politicians do not care about their country and its future and do all they can to get it back on its feet, the Arabs will not bother and the West will not care as long as Libya is not a security threat to the Europeans or the Americans.

And this is , undoubtedly, the ideal condition for prolonged uncertainty or neglect commonly known as limbo.

Location of Libya. Source: CIA World Factbook.
Location of Libya. Source: CIA World Factbook.

At first glance, it seems that oblivion suits the aims of the politicians in this country to the extent that the common people are regretting the days of Qaddafi that, at least, united the country, stabilized it, provided bread free of charge and gave it an international standing. And if there are elections held today they will probably bring to power his heir Seif al-Islam Qaddafi, and throw in the trash can of history all the actual war lords, with no exception, whatsoever.

In a report entitled: “The Libyan Political Agreement, ” Crisis Group called for a pause and review of possible options: “Time for a Reset”: iii

“The UN-brokered peace process in Libya has stalled, leaving unresolved pressing issues, worsening living conditions, control of oil facilities, people-smuggling and the struggle against the Jihadist groups. New negotiations are needed to engage key actors who have been excluded so far.”

Is Libya One Country Or Many Tribes?

As of now, there does not seem to exist one Libya but many tiny Libyas in which people subsist from oil revenues and a host of other dubious trades such as some sort of modern slavery. Indeed, a recent report by CNNiv states that poor African migrants were sold for as little as US$ 400. This report supplemented by a video entitled; “Migrants being sold as slaves” triggered immediately demonstrations in Paris, France and worldwide uproar smearing further the already bad reputation of this country.

Moussa Faki Mahamat, the chairman of the African Union Commissionv and the foreign minister of Chad, issued a statement  calling the auctions “despicable.”

“The Chairperson of the Commission calls for an immediate end to these practices and other criminal acts of human trafficking. He urges swift action to identify all perpetrators and accomplices, with a view to bringing them to justice. In this regard, he welcomes the announcement by the Libyan authorities of an investigation into these criminal acts and looks forward to a credible outcome. He further urges the Libyan authorities to do everything in their power to improve the conditions of African migrants on their territory.”

And further stating:

“The Chairperson of the Commission expresses the determination of the African Union to spare no effort to help bring these acts to an end and ensure the respect of the most basic human rights. In this regard, he requests the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights to urgently launch an investigation in support of the measures announced by the Libyan authorities and to submit its conclusions as soon as possible to ensure timely follow-up and action.”

He urged the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rightsvi to assist the Libyan authorities with the investigation that they opened in response to CNN’s report.

African migrants in Libyan detention centers
African migrants in Libyan detention centers

In this regard, according to the CNN report, handed on to the Libyan authorities to undertake the necessary investigations, a young Nigerian migrant by the name of Victory from Edo’s state spent all his savings and 16 months to arrive to Libya with the hope to make it afterwards to the European Eldorado, but he was detained and sold as a slave.

In the last years of the life of the dictator Qaddafi, disappointed by the Arabs cold shoulder for his repetitive calls for unity, he turned to Africa where he poured millions of dollars in economic aid and declared himself in return “King of Kings of Africa” and often left Tripoli in massive motorcades to go lead the prayer in a given African country and fell important. Today, he must be turning in his grave to see his countrymen selling migrants to earn money and he sure is unhappy and depressed that his country has, alas, stooped to such low behavior and debased, in the process, its dignity and identity for money.

This political faux pas, after all, might be good news to his son Seif al-Islam and his southern supportive tribes to win the upcoming presidential elections due to take place this year and bring the Qaddafi clan back to power, to restore stability in the country and dignity among nations of the world. Surely the Islamists of Tripoli and the secular Field Marshal of Benghazi would not like this but if people want Seif al-Islam the opponents won’t stand in the way to ensure their political survival. So would the Libyans, like the Tunisians did, sometime ago, boot the Islamists out of political prominence or remain in international disgrace?

Libya, After Oil

Libya's Seif al-Islam Qaddaf
Libya’s Seif al-Islam Qaddaf

Libya needs democracy and stability, it cannot allow itself to become the Somalia of North Africa. It needs badly the political and economic support of both the Arab world and Europe and its only way out is law and order as a prelude to democracy, if ever.

However, all the present players have been unable to unite the country, six years after the fall of the dictatorship, because either they are too weak (internationally-recognized government), too violent (the Field Marshal) or too fundamentalist (the Islamists) and do not show any signs of inclination to share power, in order to bring the country back from the brink of the cliff, so they are politically speaking unfit to rule and represent the Libyans.

So what are the options available for the people to get out of disgrace and limbo?

  1. Bring back the monarchy:vii The Senusi dynasty prior to the Qaddafi military coup of 1969 was politically weak enough but religiously strong to unite all Libyans and secure their wellbeing, integrity and dignity. The monarchy can be restored to reign but not govern taking the British monarchy as a model; or
  2. Bring back the Qaddafi clan: in the person Seif al-Islam as a president, along the French model, to share power with a Prime Minister appointed by him but accountable to a strong parliament that would be a balance to presidential power.

Final word

Today, all Libyans must unite and put the interest of their country before their personal interest in order to restore peace and stability to their country. To achieve that Libyans must talk to Libyans in Libyaviii without any preconditions and put aside all bad blood, if not, their beloved country will become a thing of the past.

Will they listen to the voice of wisdom? Only time will show.

You can follow Professor Mohamed Chtatou on Twitter: Ayurinu


Dr. Mohamed Chtatou

Dr. Mohamed Chtatou is a Professor of education science at the university in Rabat. He is currently a political analyst with Moroccan, Gulf, French, Italian and British media on politics and culture in the Middle East, Islam and Islamism as well as terrorism. He is, also, a specialist on political Islam in the MENA region with interest in the roots of terrorism and religious extremism.

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