The uprising against Muammar Gaddafi took place on February 15, 2011, with demonstrations in the city of Bayda in the east. It spread rapidly both west and east in the country, but mostly in Benghazi, the most important city east in Libya. The regime responded by putting in soldiers. There are unclear numbers of choirs who lost their lives, but around 300 may have been killed during the first three days, while the demonstrations were essentially unarmed, as in neighboring Tunisia and Egypt.
From around February 20 this changes. Deserted soldiers and protesters burst into weapons stockpiles in and around Benghazi and attacked and burned down military barracks in the city. Thus, the conflict quickly took on the character of armed rebellion. In many of the larger cities, the regime put more force on the protesters, unconfirmed reports claiming that a helicopter shot was fired at the crowds. Despite this, the wave of protest spread. In large parts of the country, the state apparatus collapsed, soldiers and police deserted or disappeared. In a short time, the rebels, often without their own efforts, had gained control of many towns.
After a couple of weeks, the regime forces had managed to consolidate themselves and began to regain control. In mid-March, the situation was that two areas west of Libya, the coastal city of Misrata and the mountainous area of Jabal Nafusa, were on the hands of the rebels. But the entire eastern part of Libya, Cyrenaica, was under their control.
However, as regime soldiers began to approach Benghazi without the insurgents being able to stop them, the UN Security Council intervened and authorized military action to protect civilians. A comprehensive NATO air war and allies took on the Gaddafi regime’s strengths and installations. The regime forces were pushed back, but the insurgents on the ground failed to avail this support to get out of Cyrenaica. In the summer, therefore, the war was largely a war of positions along the border between the two regions.
Only in late summer did two uprising areas in the west, Misrata and Nafusa mountains, make contact with the outside world. It gave the Allies the opportunity to bring supplies, weapons and training forces. This resolved the postwar war, a rapid offensive from the Nafusa Mountains conquering Tripoli only a few days in August. After that, the old regime quickly lost its footing. When the last loyal area around the city of Sirte fell in October, Gaddafi was captured and killed, and the rebels took control of the country.
The transitional council It was still unclear who would now govern. The rebellion had from an early stage of our formal lease of a National Transitional Council (NTC) established by leading people in Benghazi. They claimed to have representatives from all rebel groups, and were recognized in a number of Western capitals as representatives of the Libyan people. But in reality, the various rebel towns were governed by fairly independent local councils and groups. Although they formally recognized the NTC as a unifying body, it was more symbolic than real in most cases.
Danger of fragmentation
Fear of fragmentation lies in Libya’s short history. Before the colonial powers invaded Italy in 1911, the area was two separate provinces, Tripolitania in the west and the sparsely populated Cyrenaica in the east. They also fought against the Italians, with the greatest success in the Aust. When Libya was free in 1951, it was therefore the Bedouins in Aust who were the dominant aristocracy in the country. For that reason, Gaddafi discriminated against this region when he deposed the king in 1969. Thus, there has never been any strong unifying focus for the two regions, which differ both in terms of people’s tradition and in that a flick of the Sahara divides them geographically.
But even in the west, historically, there has been a great divide and contradiction between the towns and areas that now have their self-standing militia. Tripoli is by far the largest city, but is politically weakened by the band of the Gaddafi regime, and we found the same contradictions between the various other cities in Tripolitania a hundred years ago as today. This has given cause for concern over whether Libya will be able to come together for a national community.
Concerns have also been expressed over the lack of control over the militia and other Libyans’ self-reliance on those who were blamed for supporting Gaddafi. The basis for such abuses can in many cases be a tribal background, the city that comes from, or the skin color. In addition to the large numbers of African foreign workers, many of whom were blamed for being mercenaries, racist attacks on black skin color Libyans were reported, the result of Libya’s centuries-long contact across the Sahara.
The problem is that the new central government exiting the NTC is so weak. Instead of giving a common structure to gather around, they try to find intermediate solutions between the strongest of the militia groups, but without the power to gain authority over them. The militants therefore follow the government only to the extent that they find it reasonable. In July 2012, the first parliamentary elections were held. Both secular, nationalist and moderate Islamist parties lined up, but most seats were won by individuals with regional and personal support, without any clear ideological affiliation. After several failed attempts, an intermediate government was elected, following negotiations between various groups.
Throughout the summer and fall of 2012, new, more radical Salafist Islamist groups also emerged, not least with attacks on memorials of Islamic saints Salafistans regarded as “popular superstition” and Islamist. Most dramatic was an attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi in September 2012, where the ambassador was killed. The group that was blamed for the incident was chased from the city by upset citizens who expressed support for the United States for the contribution in the war, and the group was later dissolved in Libya.
One positive factor is that Libya’s great wealth, the oil industry, has come relatively unscathed throughout the war. Production quickly picked up, and Libya has relatively large resources to draw on, although economic downturn was one of the triggering areas for the conflict. What is unclear due to the unclear political situation is what policy the new board will conduct. The Gaddafi regime wasted much of its profits on personal luxury and foreign policy adventures, but also used large funds for public purposes and measures that benefited large sections of the population based on a study by countryaah. It stands to see if the new board will bring forth such a “socialist” or social oil policy or not.
Libya therefore faces major challenges in 2013, but also has financial resources to solve them. The problem is, first and foremost, political, the work of creating a political community and a state of citizens throughout the country may still have confidence. During 2013, a new constitution will be prepared before new elections are held.