Libya: From King Idris Until Now

أبريل 29, 2017 أ. فرج محمد صوان
Libya: From
King Idris Until Now
After the independence of Libya in 1951, without ineffective
institutions left by the Ottmani and Italian colonies, the shaky Sanusi kingdom
found itself governing a small poor population. With the discovery of oil, Libyans,
out of a sudden, became rich.
In 1969 Qaddafi and his fellow revolutionaries overthrew king Idris
Sanusi and seized power (Muammar
al-Qaddafi. 2016). At that time, they had little to build on but
the wealth of oil was at their disposal. Instead of investing the wherewithal
to develop his country, Qaddafi published his Green Book and turned Libya into
a Jamahiriya: a failed state with no government where he appointed himself as a
leader and claimed people to be free and govern themselves (Bazzi, 2011).

The entire Libyan government was disintegrated and substituted by
popular committees and congresses censored by revolutionary committees to
remove any ideological deviation; the private sector industry was nationalized
and  replaced by inefficient state-owned
companies and supermarkets; revolutionary courts were set up throughout the
country that eviscerated the rule of law. The result was an autocracy that
failed at both economic planning and institution building.
At the same time, Qaddafi determined to spread his revolution
universally, and Libya ended up in conflicts with its neighbours, the United
States and Europe. As a result, Libya became disconnected and the international
community punished it with severe sanctions. But in recent years, Libya has
seemed to have comprehended the lesson and abandoned its effort to produce
weapons of mass destruction, taken responsibility and provided payment for
horrific terrorist acts (such as the bombing of Pan Am flight 103), and worked
its way out of sanctions and back into the international community (Calhoun,
After the NATO intervention in 2011 and the death of Qaddafi, Libya
became a failed state with unstable economy and corruption everywhere. A year after the so-called liberation of
Libya, the National Transitional Council was dissolved, and the first free
election in the history of Libya was held. The result was the General National
Congress (GNC) which became the first transitional body of legitimate government
in the country. But the GNC’s failure to inaugurate a new constitution
necessitated the need for a new elections that resulted in the House of
representative (HoR) recognized now by the international community as the legal
elected legislative body governing Libya. However, the GNC rejected the outcome
and remained in power as a rival government controlling parts of western Libya,
and as a consequence, political violence continued to destabilize the country.
While the Libyan factions were preoccupied by the
conflict of controlling the country, a few were concerned with the growing
threat of the infiltration of extremists, and Libya has become a breeding
ground for jihadists and a haven for extremists from the whole region and
beyond (Chivvis, Christopher S. and Jeffrey Martini, 2014).
The situation worsened as there was no effective national government, and the
army was waging their own wars. Oil production, upon which the country’s
economy depends heavily, has declined and exported at the lowest price levels.
Thousands have fled their homes or tried to leave the country. All this
represents a tragedy of terrible human suffering and lost opportunities. But
the real danger began to emerge clearly now – and for this reason the West
began suddenly, particularly in Europe, paying some attention to Libya again.
State institutions have become nothing more
than a ball in the political battle between the rival camps. The central bank,
the National Oil Company, the judiciary system, the army and the official
religious establishment were all in the center of the existing competition for
power between the two dominant currents. They were pulled in both directions
and forced to choose between the two, and as a result they failed to accomplish
their national functions.
Power became scattered in Libya between the two main
camps (GNC & HoR) responsible for the current crisis. Libya is torn now.  Various
local militias whether tribal, regional, extremist or criminal are divided into
two fighting camps. Consequently, Libya now has 
two rival parliaments (Lacher, Wolfram and Peter Cole, 2014: 11) each
with its government: one in the capital Tripoli and the other is in its exile
in the eastern city Tobruq.
In fact, those who think that things cannot get worse,
Libya now could be the new headquarters of the Islamic state (IS). IS in Libya has invested in the failure of the two competitive
governments and in the disappointment from the more moderate Islamic groups in
the country
(Afrigatenews, 2014), and followed
the same formula that led to the success of the extremist organization in Syria
and Iraq.
During this turmoil and
through the Tunisian border and the eastern provinces came fighters from
outside the country, including the old members of the Libyan Islamic Fighters
group, Al-Qaida, Al-Qaeda in the
Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Islamic State (IS) and others such as Ansar
Alsharea which was accused of killing the American ambassador in Benghazi (Torelli, Stefano and Arturo Varvelli, 2015: 7). Those fighters
has entered Libya long before the arrival of IS. They established their existence
in the middle of the chaos through recruitment from various countries in the
middle east and the rest of the world. They swiftly  joined IS as their groups seemed too small for
them compared to the design of IS.
General lawlessness has granted the extremists
in Libya freedom of movement and soon they seized Darna, Nofilia and finally
Sirte. These three
cities in Libya are, at least now, under the control of the IS and
Al-Qaida  jihadist groups and neither of
the Libyan governments dare claim their reign over them. The GNC and HoR are both equally powerless, and
equally illegitimate. They have sat at either end of Libya, watching helplessly
as the illegal militias and forces loyal to Al Qaeda and IS waged war all over
the state.
The disintegration of the Libyan state and the absence
of a functioning national government have, indeed. created buckets for IS on
the Mediterranean Sea. Oil Smuggling, human trafficking, heavy arms hideouts,
and stolen bank accounts gave IS a new chance for life after it had lost
territory in Iraq. IS “badly
needs Libya for its operations in North Africa: to spread its paramilitary
brigades, to organize its terrorist networks and, most importantly, to prepare
its political pawns, after the chaos, to take over power” (Chtatou, Mohamed, 2016). This will result in control of North African coast opposite to
Europe so as to destabilize it, as it has already done by the Paris terrorist
attacks. There are now at least three cities in Libya where the IS jihadist
group controls. In addition, IS is exerting a great effort to expand its
control by moving its forces in Sirte to the east in order to seize the oil
export ports. In fact, there are also some fighting forces of IS in Ajdabiya
but they lack supplies and military reinforcements.
Despite the fact that IS is fighting to gain territory and sites in
Libya, it continues to attract recruits there. In an interview conducted by Foreign
Policy recently with Patrick Skinner, a former US intelligence official, said
that the number of IS fighters have increased from 550 fighter in the summer of
2014 to a force ranging in size from 1,000 to 3,000 fighters including those
returning from Syria and Iraq.
The lack of foresight and miscalculations of Europe and the United
States have turned Libya into a land that cannot be controlled, despite its
proximity to Europe’s southern shores. Now, Western powers have
understood the problem and they are really concerned about the fragmentation of
the North African country and fear that it will become a fertile ground for the
extremists of the Islamic state.
As a
result, the West and NATO have become increasingly eager to bomb Libya in the
hope of destroying IS in Libya, and preventing it from using the North African
coast as a base to attack Europe, or anywhere else indeed. To accomplish this, Western
countries and the US have pushed for the creation a new government which
substitutes both the GNC and HoR, and completely dependent on the international
community for its legitimacy and existence. They believe that the proposed
government will probably request ‘assistance’ from the international community
and thus opening the door for the bombing campaign for which the US, UK, France
and Italy are advocating.
So, they (Western
states including the US, France, Italy and the UK) pushed for negotiations between the two competing
governments in Libya under the umbrella of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL). In December
17, 2015, after several
months (15 months) of continuous dialogue (in Geneva, Algeria, Ghadamis, and Skhirat) directed
towards reaching a deal for a Government of National Accord (GNA), the two rival governments in Tripoli and
Tobruk finally signed a peace agreement integrating both of them as a single
national government.
In principle, the deal is to create an interim government to
replace the GNC and HoR and pave the way for full Libyan elections early in
2017. Hope has emerged
once again through the United Nations’ attempt to negotiate a national
agreement through the United Nations Support Mission in Libya. That does not
mean, at the very least, the end of the unrest in Libya because there are
several splinter groups which were not part of this agreement, and which have
the means and the desire to obstruct the road to peace. Moreover, this deal could collapse at any time because of the opposing Tripoli
rival factions or the large-scale resistance by many factions loyal to both
governments. Moreover, most of the Islamic terrorist groups in Libya does not
accept this peace agreement.
week, after missing a scheduled deadline by two days, the GNA’s
Prime-Minister-delegate Faiez Serraj –who was appointed by UNSMIL, without
consultation with the leaders of either the GNC or HoR – announced the 32 ministers
he hopes will form his new government.
Apparently, the United
Nations, European Union and other powers have been pushing for the deal to stop
Libya’s civil war which has allowed IS extremist group to establish a growing
presence in the oil-rich North African state. But,
according to local media sources, HoR has,  on the 25th of January 2016, the
HoR has requested from Prime Minister Al-Sarraj
to form a new, smaller government to serve as a crisis government, and to
reduce the number of ministers as well as the proposed ministerial portfolios
within 10 days.
to local media sources, the House of Representatives in Tobruk has requested
Prime Minister Al-Sarraj form a new, smaller government to serve as a crisis
government, and to reduce the number of ministers as well as the proposed
ministerial portfolios within 10 days.
UN-backed peace deal to end the conflict between Libya’s two rival
governments has run into trouble with one of the country’s two parliaments
blocking a key clause. The internationally
recognized parliament (HoR) has voted by an overwhelming majority to
accept the peace agreement but without surrendering control of the armed forces
to the UN-backed GNA presidential council (Libyan 218 TV Channel, 2016). The objective
of this  parliament’s decision is to
protect the position of hardline Tobruk army chief Khalifa Haftar, who is
unacceptable to the rival government which controls the capital, Tripoli.
Analysts say that the vote on the cabinet had short-term implications, and the
parliament might approve a revised line-up, but blocking the handover of
military powers pointed to a more serious issue. It means that the issue of
Haftar is a red line for the house of Representatives. But as Analyst Mattia Toaldo of the European Council on
Foreign Relations warned “If you reopen the agreement [as requested
by the House of Representatives] … then Tripoli will ask for other changes
and you’re back to square one,”.
It is obvious
that both the GNC and HoR are expired and entirely illegitimate governments and
have little right to claim any particular precedence over any other illegal or
illegitimate bodies claiming power in Libya. The political reality in Libya at present is that the new Presidency Council is based in Tunisia, and its
own legitimacy came from nothing other than the fact that it is being imposed
on Libyans by the international community. In fact, some even say that it may never
be able to enter Libya.
short, the GNA is not the result of any national consensus, but rather, it is a
third illegitimate government in a country where peace and good governance are
urgently needed. At the moment, many Libyans believe that the international
community is actively fostering a continuation of the political and military
chaos in which IS thrives.
To sum up, in 1969 Colonel Gaddafi
inherited one of the poorest countries in Africa; however, by the time he was
killed, Libya has become the richest country in Africa, in which the GDP per
capita and life expectancy were the highest in the African continent.
After NATO’s intervention in 2011, Libya
has become a failed state and its economy flops in a state of chaos. The
successive governments have surrendered control of the country to the hands of
militia fighters. Oil production has completely stopped. Since NATO’s
intervention, Libya has been plagued by local militias of various types:
tribal, regional, Islamic and criminal ones, which recently all divided and
lined up in three fronts of warring factions. In fact, Libya now has three
non-functioning governments, one of them is struggling in its exile to prove
its legitimacy, not to mention the establishment an Islamic state under the
rule of Abu Baker Albaghdady.
Nevertheless, if the GNA succeeded in forming the required mini ministerial
cabinet in the appointed time and won the approval of the Parliament, Libya,
with sincere help from the international community, plus its oil wealth and
other natural resources  can be a very
rich country and a successful story of global collaboration.
Afrigatenews (2014). Colonies of the Caliphate and the gradual
expansion of the Islamic state in North Africa
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Bazzi, Mohamad. (2011). What Did Qaddafi’s Green Book Really Say? Retrieved 25 , January, 2016 from

Calhoun, Craig. (2012). Libyan Money,
Academic Missions, and Public Social Science
. Public Culture, Volume 24, Number 1, Issue 66, Winter 2012.
Chivvis, Christopher S. and Jeffrey Martini.
(2014). Libya After Qaddafi: Lessons and
Implications for the Future
. RAND Corporation. Retrieved 25 , January, 2016 from
Lacher, Wolfram and Peter Cole (2014). Politics by Other Means:
Conflicting Interests in Libya’s Security Sector
. Small Arms Survey,
Switzerland. Retrieved 25 , January, 2016 from
Libyan 218 TV Channel, (2016). House of Representatives rejects
Sarraj’s Cabinet.
Muammar al-Qaddafi. 2016. Encyclopædia Britannica Online.
Retrieved 25 , January, 2016 from
Torelli, Stefano and Arturo Varvelli (2015). Competing Jihadist
Organisations and Networks:  Islamic
State, Al-Qaeda, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and Ansar al-Sharia in Libya
in  Libya’s Fight For Survival : Defeating
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Retrieved 25 , January, 2016 from

استاذ علم اللغة التطبيقي واللغة الانجليزية في الجامعات الليبية. حصل على الشهادة الجامعية والماجستير من ليبيا، وشهادة في تعليم اللغة الإنجليزية من جامعة سري والدكتوراه من جامعة اسيكس ببريطانيا. قام بنشر ثلاثة كتب والعديد من المقالات والدراسات والأبحاث.


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