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Libya’s Stolen Revolution: Mapping The Post-Gaddafi Era

By Adfer Rashid Shah

15 October, 2013

Now a country where even a Prime Minister in office is kidnapped that too in the capital of the country. Imagine the security apparatus of the post-Gaddafi Libya.


The head of the transitional government, Ali Zeidan was kidnapped by ex-rebels on October 10, from a hotel amid the tight security and then freed. Imagine the security scenario of post-Gaddafi Libya today. Has Libya gained anything from the bloody uprising?

The fallouts of Arab Spring have hardly been constructive and mass friendly in almost all the regime toppled States. The Arab Spring like a massive flash flood collapsed everything that came its way, even the basic institutions of law and order, centralized State regulation, security apparatus, people’s feel secure psyche, basic human rights, etc, were not spared. As for Libya, the unceasing chaos and violence grabbed the whole oil rich state and lead to serious ramifications/fallouts be that the unaccounted and unregulated mass proliferation of weapons, continuing unrests, unceasing bloodshed, emergence of a plethora of self styled and tribal militias and their fiefdoms shaping up the prolonged chaos and uncertainty throughout. Libya today undoubtedly has proved the worst victim of Arab Spring that has lost almost everything to the 2011 uprising that proved nothing but a shapeless/mindless revolution


This goes without saying that the post-Moammar Gaddafi Libya is purely a failed state (state governed by militia) despite the fairy tales of optimism and growth by a few Middle East and Libyan political analysts. Actually the security vacuum is such that even the former US Ambassador, Christopher Stevens was murdered in office (on September 11, 2012 in Benghazi) solely due to security crisis and issues. More than his murder, even more disturbing was that the Ambassador himself was aware about his being unsafe and of the acute security situations and uncontrolled chaos in the country. If the Ambassador of the world’s powerful country cannot feel safe and ultimately loses his life in the post-Gaddafi Libya, one can well imagine the terror/fear among the common Libyans and it also reflects the nasty fallouts of the so called Libyan revolution. The so called civilized big powers, who took pride in attacking Libya (NATO assaults) and helped/encouraged the rebels/thugs to sabotage the entire country to topple the Gaddafi regime, could not even save the credible Ambassador. If the allies could not control the post-regime situation then what was the fun of attacking Libya and execute Gaddafi- the man who changed the picture of Libya from poorest in Africa to the richest zone. Is it now merely the craze for manufacturing hegemony or maintaining/creating supremacy or the love for adventurism of the west to demolish the less powerful states one after another and then instead of rebuilding leaving these in ruins, purely to witness and enjoy the chaos, public suffering, civil wars, economic decline, emergence of uncontrolled militias, proliferation of weapons and spread of terrorism, radicalism, sectarianism and widespread bloodshed and above all the terror and the consistent feeling of insecurity among the common innocent masses.

Gaddafi’s Murder: The Beginning of an Endless Chaos

While the Gaddafi era of history ended by his inhuman murder in Sirte in October 2011, leaving the entire oil rich state in tatters for many decades to come, the pressing question remains, whether Libya in true sense has headed towards the democracy or better governance and if at all it has, at what cost? If not, then why do the world powers encourage/fund/stir up rebellions/uprisings or topple the régimes? Was destabilizing Libya or other states merely for fun or simply the west’s hunger for neo-colonialism? Why was the Gaddafi regime toppled with so much of the violence that still continues without an apparent end? Was it merely to create another Iraq or Afghanistan or impoverish the country of its rich oil resources simply to transform it to the horn of Africa? Also it is now clear to see whether Gaddafi’s execution really proved heavenly to Libyans or merely fulfilled the western interests and hijacked the entire State into the everlasting chaos, instability and uncertainty. The question remains who will reconstruct Libya now when everything has been deconstructed with the foreign might/aid by rebels? Who is safe when a plethora of uncontrolled militias are wreaking havoc day in and day out with their religion of assassinating even government officials off and on, amidst the collapsed institutions, poor security apparatus and lack of a powerful national army? Who will care of the common man who was happily leading his life in the pre-uprising era? Is the present regime virtually capable of constructing a new Libya or is simply paving the way for yet another devastated state like Iraq or Afghanistan or Mali or Somalia.

The Misuse of Power and the Costly Fallout

Noteworthy to mention that after murdering Gaddafi without caring for any trial or justice system, Libya’s self proclaimed NTC (the so called “sole representative of all Libya”) had claimed high of rebuilding and working for a united and democratic Libya but all that proved a farce because the very first blunder that they committed was killing Col. Gaddafi even after capturing him alive and when the dictator had already surrendered. Though they received a good patting by the western powers/their sponsors by then but killing a captive/a world renowned leader reflected the NTC’s political maturity, their concept of governance ahead, justice and futuristic vision. Even after Gaddafi’s murder, the tyranny or oppression has hardly gone because the new self claimed leaders/war lords and the democratic tyrants have simply replaced the slain dictator to crush the common masses a step further and put Libya to the acute political chaos. It will be apt to argue that today’s Libya can be anything but safe and growing.

The biggest challenge today is the deteriorated law and order situation along with the appalling activities by the emergence of uncontrolled militia/erstwhile fighters of the (incomplete & mishandled) revolution. The continuing bloodshed accompanied by the loss of country’s huge wealth and more importantly the collective feel secure psyche has resulted in the public dismay and panic instead of jubilation after the collapse of the Gaddafi’s tyrant regime. This entire chaotic state of affairs raises certain questions to ponder over for Libya’s future that seems too dark in the absence of the credible leaders and powerful institutions.

On one hand , Seeing the current political uncertainty and unbridled militia might now spreading in other countries to create more fuss like their role in Syria and alarming proliferation of arms, resulting in the terrified and bemused state of the common Libyans, While on the other hand, the criminal exclusion of the slain dictator’s loyalists (like Tuaregs, Sirte public & loyal belts, Gadafi’s army, etc,.) in all respects and the emergence of a new power class or rise of a new power structure is leading to nothing but mass alienation, social exclusion of particular sections of the society, unequal treatment and political rights, considerable social rupture, pathology and broken social fiber. Now even the former Gaddafi regime officials are likely to be barred from contesting elections despite of the fact that they contributed in Gaddafi’s overthrow. This is happening as even General National Congress (GNC) led by Mohmed Magarief has almost bowed down before arrogant armed militiamen that analysts describe virtually as a legal coup. Further tribal/group feuds, ethnic clashes, bloody and continuous power struggle, increasing discrimination, institutional breakdown, etc, has actually impoverished the growth and peace of the country and thus alienated the common man rather than emancipation, empowerment or democracy as being anticipated earlier and the continuing bloodshed as witnessed in post-Saddam Iraq or post Mubarak Egypt.

Libya’s Shapeless Revolution

It was rightly apprehended earlier that Libyan pro-democracy revolution may too end up in a shapeless revolution and that has proved right. Also it is a matter of concern for analysts that will NATO’s bombing, breaking role end in any of the rehabilitative measures in the post-Gaddafi era or will the devastated state sustain like Afghanistan and Iraq and turmoil will be kept deliberately alive for military adventurism and west’s neo-colonialist colony extension craze. Seeing the current growing western military adventurism under the NATO garb and their replay of Iraq drama of 2003 in Libya, Egypt, Syria, etc, Libya cannot avoid a similar fate and cannot rebuild the broken institutional mechanism back in the present crisis ridden atmosphere. In order to bring the country on a new democratic basis and to create and maintain the integrity among the institutions of power and social justice, the key issue and the major challenge before the new establishment (a bigger curiosity in fact for political analysts and social scientists round the globe right now) is to devise a workable strategy to maintain a stringent control simultaneously deliver for public welfare by the government in the centre. Seeing the situation, the fact remains that on the ground the current Libyan situation appears hardly in a settling mode.

At such a critical juncture, it is also worth pondering to assess the state of affairs in the economy of the post- Gaddafi era of the oil rich nation (worth $32 billion, 2010 estimates) though frozen assets have been released but practical appearance of normalcy is still not visible. Has it shaped Libya like the post-Taliban era way, or post war Iraq way or post sanctions Iran way and how long the clashes and massacres shall keep cuddling it. Also can the new Libyan administration fairly recover oil payments lying pending with many states and if not what will be its impact on the country’s economy and the subsequent repercussions on the 6.5 million Libyan people and safeguard their multiple ethnicity and tribal identity. Also the new challenges by Islamists at the political front remains to be seen though they (Brotherhood tributaries) are not too strong in Libya as compared to Egypt, though now their influence has started from Misrata now. Despite Islamists were defeated and National forces Alliance (NFA) secured majority party sets in last July elections. However Gaddafi’s inference about the proliferating of Jihadist agencies and their strengthening and mushrooming in north Africa is proving right after his death be it Libya itself or Mali, Algeria, Somalia, Yemen, etc,.

The public opinion which had turned decisively against the regime though had been demanding freedom from the past and expected a giant leap forward be it public security, human rights upholding, quality education, gender justice and egalitarian treatment and tribal welfare besides economic well being and proper social security. But currently the establishment is even not coming out of its own crisis, not to talk of delivery for the public welfare. Moreover, the prime focus on more efficient and enhancement in the oil production along with the gainful marketing and above all efficient accountability system which can only be realized and expected once Libyan government stabilizes politically and comes out of the contemporary fuss.

Is Post ‘Revolution Libya A Failed State?

The present Libyan social structure is in utter disorder and its populace stands a soul crushed chunk; the apprehension is whether the post uprising or post-Gaddafi times may be beleaguered with radicalism or pan-Islamism and NATO, US-Britain intervention may continue in the region. The fact is that this devastated North African oil-producing state has been shabbily exploited by all. The gimmicks like, West’s claims of working closely with the new Libya (where is that new Libya?) or Libyans have defied violence to cast ballots for a 200-member assembly (violence never ceased actually), ex-interim Prime Minister, Jibril’s political “road map”, NATO’s mission, NTC’s plan of a transitional process for constitutional declaration, Libya’s constitutional reforms, presidential elections, general elections (July 2012) and turnout of 62%,series of prime ministers coming and going seem all cruel jokes at the moment. Libya currently is worse than anything where militias, Salafi-Sufi tussle and continuing political uncertainty like terror on the streets, unceasing PM Ali Zindan Vs Magarief tussle, persistent security paralysis, collapsed institutional apparatus, the tussle between the centre and periphery, and the wide gulf between tribes and the rest, ethnic fissures, dichotomy between Gaddafians and anti-Gaddafians, etc, have endangered the lives of common the common Libyans. The west though defeating Gaddafi, has ideologically also lost its game in the country for its weapons (arms shipments given to rebels to topple Gaddafi) are now smuggled and proliferated to other vulnerable States like Syria and other terrorist safe heavens.

The Way forward: Understanding the Policy Issues being to be tacked

Undeniably, the Arab Spring has more sabotaged peace and common man’s life than proved constructive. Just regime changes for never ending instability and chaos cannot be a revolution. The most crucial and important was to stabilize the uprising states in the post uprising era, which proved a brutal failure. Arab spring’s hallow success is quite manifested in Egypt’s continuing bloodshed , saga of strifes and civil wars, the formation of new incapable and west’s puppet establishments, exclusion of women and minority voices, emergence of vulgar militias with territory politics and proliferation of terror through widespread weapons with arms smuggling, etc,. Thus everything is being witnessed as worst than the pre-spring scenario. Libya today is far weaker and insecure even than the Gaddafi era, where actualizing a centralized control mechanism and curbing arrogant tribal militias seems a project of decades and formation of a powerful national army a very difficult challenge.

The Libyan citizens are fed up with the proliferation of vulgar militias and have been demanding the departure of militias that they call the "illegitimate brigades". Fox News (Published July 07, 2013 AFP), quotes Libyan PM, who maintains,

"We want a regular army and police force!" and "No to arms!" and "Yes to legitimacy!" cried the demonstrators amid a heavy presence of militiamen who currently enforce the law. Prime Minister Ali Zeidan, meanwhile, spoke to reporters of the necessity "to dissolve the brigades and other formations (of ex-rebels who battled the late Moamer Kadhafi) and integrate them individually into the army and police"[i].

Therefore, it can be assumed that the Libyan Government as a policy stunt seems powerless before the militias and is ready to integrate them into a national force. Can the national force comprise of such militias really safeguard the vulnerable nation is a curious question.

Strategy to be Followed

Though the efforts are on but the effective, practical and action oriented policy and planning needs to focus upon Libya’s oil and natural gas industry that makes up more than 70 percent of Libya’s economy and generates almost all the state’s revenue[ii]. Moreover it was the Libya’s oil industry that became the target of violent attacks and civil protests. The latest challenge is a lack of electricity[iii] that is an example of a worsening energy crisis in the energy rich State. Also Libya has to improve and redevelop its friendly international relations that too are not praiseworthy at the moment. Though measures are being taken to revive the oil exports, maintaining of healthy trade and international relations however roadblocks to development and reconstruction can only be tackled by improving the security situation round the country. Another issue that needs to be tackled efficiently is the issue of refugees and the provisions of their safe and secure return that government must ensure at the earliest. This goes without saying that the Post-Gaddafi Libya is in desperate need of foreign investment to reconstruct its ruined infrastructure[iv], so the policy to be tacked immediately is to seek foreign assistance and funding the rebuild the nation in tatters. Therefore efforts must be to make Libya economically stable and more importantly secure from the violence and ethnic clashes. Also the the foreign military interventions/adventures need not to be encouraged in order to build peace. Lastly, a comprehensive political, economic and technical assistance for achieving the internal stability is important and must be taken as a preferred policy initiative.

Last Word

Military in Africa has no good record as far as human rights are concerned. Libya’s transition to true democracy can prove developmental and positive however it needs patience and time. Rebuilding a new democratic Libya, improving its international relations and diplomatic skills cannot be done over night. The horrors of the so called revolution will keep haunting the state for decades even. Assessing the current situation seems too disappointing. Today’s Libya despite having Dr Ali Zendan at the PM’s Position lies nowhere in peace building and security, that he must address on priority. The functional administration has virtually gone to dogs, because of the power with everybody (that needs to be curbed immediately) and with no immediate progress or control on the holistic state as a whole.

This goes without saying that in the post-Spring and regime changed states almost everything needs reconstruction especially in Libya where even the force/army for the protection is non-existent because the army in command during the unrest has been abandoned under the pretext of being pro-Gaddafi, hence unreliable. Though we must acknowledge that devastation created by the massive uprising cannot be done away with over night, however the quest remains that will Libya really recover from such a massive and total demolition ever. The unrest initially supported by NATO’s assaults has resulted in the lifelong rupture of Libya’s social and political structure. Moammar Gaddafi’s execution has proved a historic blunder and the craze of regime toppling in the drama of Arab Spring has hardly proved functional to Libya that is still grappling with violence and unceasing bloodshed. Peace has vanished for decades and feel secure psyche among common masses has gone forever. The ripple effect of the turmoil hit Libya is visible in Mali violence or other neighboring states as well. The country has lost all its credible institutions and is currently in acute political instability.

Seeing the stolen Libyan revolution and arbitrary power with militias in the State, One can safely conclude that Libya though has moved from Colonialism to monarchy to dictatorship but not to democracy even after Gaddafi but to the democratic tyranny, uncertainty and perhaps chaos forever.

The fact remains that whosoever will try to curb unbridled militias will not be safe in Libya and the country that is currently the hub of arms smuggling is in no ways different from the tyrant Gaddafi regime. The Arab spring helped in one way-Sabotaged it completely.

Someone has rightly said,

Sooraj Hamein Har Shaam Ye Dars Deta Hai,
Maghrib Ki Taraf Jao Gay, to Doob Jao Gay…!


[i] http://www.foxnews.com/world/2013/07/07/libya-militias-out-demand-tripoli-residents-afp/

[ii] http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-07-08/libya-oil-output-slumps-as-power-cuts-mix-with-protests-energy.html

[iii] Ibid

[iv] http://rt.com/op-edge/libya-conflict-foreign-funds-826/

Adfer Rashid Shah (Adfar Shah) is a New Delhi based Kashmiri Sociologist and belongs to SNCWS AT Jamia Millia Islamia, Central University, New Delhi. Author is a guest columnist & Contributor at Eurasia Review, Analyst World, Kashmir Monitor,South Asian idea and also contributes in other reputed international Publications. Mail at adfer.syed@gmail.com


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