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Read/Post Comment: 0 Posted by Thomas Omogi

 / 
05.02.2016

Libya as a Failed State. By Thomas Omogi Freelance Journalist and Walter Otieno 
 
Libya is a country in North Africa which according to the World Bank, had a population of some 6.202 million at 2013. It is bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, Egypt to the east, Sudan to the southeast, Chad and Niger to the south, and Algeria and Tunisia to the west. Libya is one of several Arab nations going through a devastating civil war. Just as one among many, it is easy for the international community to overlook, or even forget about Libya. To most people it is not interesting and “just one of the many brush fires around the world”. Perhaps, to many Americans in particular; the mention of Libya might just invoke blurred memories of the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi by Islamist militants - which has since ceased to make news headlines. Plus, the players in the Libyan conflict are many and the issues and stakes complex; which makes it confusing to most people. Thus, the fact that it is not getting much media attention makes sense - in these respects. It is therefore “ignored” by popular media, as news outlets do not want to lose viewers or readers by covering something they believe their audiences would find uninteresting or hard following. Yet, Libya is a nation everyone in the world should be paying keen attention to. This is because what happens in Libya could affect the rest of the world in a variety of negative ways. Right now, as the war rages on with no end in sight, there are very real possibilities of Libya becoming a -Failed State. In fact, many experts will tell you that, for all practical purposes, Libya IS already a perfect model of a Failed State. The free world should be weary of this prognosis, as a failed Libya would have far-reaching, social, economic, and political impacts that would portend real threats to global peace and security. A Background on the Libyan Conflict: The civil war in Libya began in 2011 after the overthrow of long-serving Strong-man and Dictator Muammar Qaddafi. Qaddafi’s overthrow was part of the ouster of a number of Arab leaders during the famed “Arab Spring Movement”. The Arab Spring was characterized by popular protests and clamour for greater socio-political freedoms and reforms. In the process, in some cases nations succeeded in getting rid of their oppressive governments or dictators, while in others protests and uprisings were brutally crushed and organisers and activists punished severely and/or jailed. Libya is a case-in-point whereby the dictatorship in place was successfully deposed. The overthrow of Qaddafi was welcomed by many western democracies in the hope that Libya would enjoy a bright, democratic future. After all, it was the wealthiest nation in North Africa, and its future prospects as a democratic nation were viewed as strong. Unfortunately, the overthrow of Qaddafi plunged the nation into abysmal chaos. That is the state in which the country remains to-date. While NATO and a few Arab states actively helped to overthrow the Qaddafi regime, they have been conspicuously absent from the scene in the post-Qaddafi era. A democratically elected parliament was put into place in the capitol of Tripoli but due to lack of a strong institutional framework necessary for effective and sustainable governance, and the fact that the Libya nation had hitherto consisted of an amalgamation of tribal chiefdoms, control of the country proved impossible. As a consequence a full-blown Civil war erupted soon after Qaddafi’s exit; leaving the country in tatters with two parallel, governments competing for control of the country. The Libyan Conflict Today: At first, an Islamist militia called ‘the Libya New Dawn’ launched an armed campaign against the democratically elected government and quickly gained control of Tripoli. The democratically elected government was driven out and now conducts its affairs out of Tobruk. The Libya New Dawn formed the New General National Congress, which conducts affairs of state out of Tripoli. The civil war has ruined the country’s economy as a result of virtual collapse of both general commerce and oil production. The result has been have serious reduction in the quality of living for most Libyans. In recent years, it’s not just the Islamist New General National Congress that the democratically elected government has to contend with in this civil war. In fact, there are strong, opposing local militias in every region of the nation. While the New General National Congress is the main foe of the democratically elected government, it is by far not the only one. Given this scenario, the pro-government forces are spread thin on the ground; combating these opposing groups that have since entrenched themselves; making the country virtually ungovernable. Enter ISIS: In recent months things just got worse with the stealthy entry of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) into the Libyan fray. As the international coalition pushes back the Islamic State militants ISIS in their Syrian and Iraqi strongholds, the group has been stealthily spreading its tentacles to other outlying regions where statehood are weak; notably Afghanistan and Libya. The Islamic State alias Daesh that has created a self-proclaimed Caliphate across swathes of Syria and Iraq is now seeking to spread into other countries and in so doing, establish outlying “Provinces” in those countries. A prime target in this policy is Libya; with the aim of seizing control of the nation’s vast oil resources. So far credible reports indicate that ISIS has established a foothold in Libya, in the city of Sirte - exploiting the power vacuum created by the rivalry of the two parallel governments. Meanwhile, the democratically elected government has found allies in some tribal factions and is fighting hard to take back the capitol Tripoli. To aid it and its allies, air strikes have been launched on the extremist Islamists including ISIS, by a joint Egyptian and UAE initiative. The struggle, by all means, is an uphill one; as the government has to fight so many local militias and radical Islamic groups. Possible Outcomes of the Libyan Conflict As things stand right now, there are three likely outcomes to the Libyan conflict; with possibilities that two or all three can happen in conjunction with one another. Possible Outcome 1: The government re-takes the whole country. In this scenario; the democratically elected government reverses its losses; regains the capitol, and defeats the militias that are controlling different areas of the country. While this appears to be a remote possibility at this time, it could happen. The government does, after all, have the backing of Egypt and the UAE - two powerful allies that have already shown willingness to assist in the conflict. However, it may take more than just these two countries to give Libya the power it needs to establish a strong government; able to fill the vacuum left by Qaddafi. Possible Outcome 2: A second possibility and worst-case-scenario is whereby the radical Islamists takeover the entire country. Two strong radical Islamist militant groups already control sizeable portions of the country. These are the “Libya Dawn” and “Ansar al-Sharia” groups. There is likelihood for these two groups to merge to take control of the entire country, or divide it into two countries - along ideological lines. If it is divided into two, Tripoli would most likely be the base of the Libya Dawn group and Benghazi of Ansar al-Sharia. This would attract other radical Islamist groups into the region to set up shop, and transform Libya into a haven for radical Islamic terrorists - to train, and from where to launch attacks on neighbouring countries as well as on the European Continent. Fortunately, the Libya Dawn and Ansar al-Sharia are rival groups with little or no common ground between them. As such, a coalition between them would be an untenable proposition; and if they did, form one, their powerful neighbours like Egypt and Algeria, would most likely use all of their military power to put them down. Egypt and Algeria are largely moderate nations that would not take kindly to a radical Islamist country as neighbour likely to negatively influence their citizens. Possible Outcome 3: The third possible outcome is the most likely at this time; unless circumstances in Libya change drastically in the near future. This possibility sees Libya fragmented into many small, independent “nations”, each ruled by its current controlling militia – most likely along tribal groups or religious ideology. This would completely destabilize the region that once was Libya; as the varying militias scramble and fight over the country's vast natural resources. This, again, would open the doors to Libya becoming a haven for radical Islamic groups, while regional violence would continue or even escalate into the foreseeable future. With Libya fragmented into different smaller nations, it would be more difficult for foreign nations to assist put it back together again – even if they could. Plus, this type of failed state scenario would see a stream of refugees leaving Libya and into neighbouring countries, as well as to southern European nations. The State of Life in Today's Libya Health Care: The Libyan civil war not only presents major problems to its citizens but also to neighboring African nations as well as nations further afield, and to the rest of the world. For example; the health care system in Libya, once one of the best and most modern in Africa, has crumbled under the civil war. Many local hospitals and clinics have been damaged or destroyed; and there are few that are left operational. Today it is common to see long lines of people waiting outside the few healthcare facilities to see the handful of medical professionals left in the country. Most of the nation's healthcare professionals and foreign health workers fled during the initial phases of the civil war. There are therefore severe shortfalls in healthcare services, including socio-psychological and other mental health services to address the needs of those affected by the accordingly those who can afford it go abroad to receive quality healthcare. The World Health Organization (WHO) has been working with a delegation from the democratically elected government to put together a plan to address the deficiencies in the health care system, with the aim of Increasing the number of trained medical personnel in the country, Improving healthcare technical support services such as radiology, and laboratory services, as well as clearing the medication supply chain and improving its management. Information Systems: The entire telecommunications industry was decimated during the initial stages of the civil war, and the sector has been slow to recover. While the country has internet access - after it was pulled down completely during Qaddafi's dictatorship, it is reportedly among the slowest in the world. This makes it virtually useless for business and/or commercial application. The country therefore needs to build up capacity in the technological sector among other things, to improve the economy. This is likely to take some time and won't really be possible until the civil war is over. Education: While the education sector is still somewhat functional, but is highly constrained. The demand for higher educational services is higher than can be met locally and those who can afford are going abroad. At primary school level, only a few students and teachers are to be found in the classroom. This is largely attributable to the destruction and trauma of war, and to the fact that they are needed at home to help rebuild family economies. Yet another factor is that, in some radical-Islamist controlled areas it is difficult for girls to go to school at all. Until the government is stabilized and the radical-Islamists and other military groups are ousted or sufficiently suppressed, this state of affairs is likely to continue to be a problem. The once exemplary Libyan educational system will continue to suffer, and its students along with it. As a consequence, we are looking at a generation that might grow up with less education than their parents. How this generation will run the country when it is up to them is a cause for concern, and anyone's guess. The Economy: The economy is in tatters. It has shrank by over 60 percent due to the civil war. Crude oil production, which made up almost half of Libya's GDP has practically ceased. The infrastructure for other industries, such as banking and retail have been destroyed by the civil war; and are struggling to recover. In some militia-controlled areas, there is practically no economy to talk about. While Direct Foreign Investment (DFI) from such countries as the UK, USA, and other EU nations would help boost Libya's economy drastically, lawlessness and insecurity due to the ongoing fighting has driven out foreign companies and kept potential investors away from the country. The Libyan democratically elected government is trying hard to woo back DFI inflow, but to little avail - at least as of yet. It will take a stable Libya to attract foreign investors and bring the economy back to what it was; pre-civil war. Is Libya Becoming a Failed State, and Should the International Community Be Concerned? The democratically elected government in Libya is hardly in a position to control of the entire country. While it is working closely with NATO in some respects, it doesn't have on its own, the military capacity to effectively fight the Libya Dawn and other opposing tribal and militia groups within the country. The international community has not offered any significant help in this. Nonetheless, areas of the country where the government is in control are enjoying unprecedented freedom, even if standards of living has been are reduced; while areas controlled by other entities are invariably experiencing oppression, in some cases worse than under Qaddafi. If Libya cannot get the situation under control, it seriously risks plunging into a Failed State; yet it has the potential to be a great country. It has vast oil resources, which are currently underutilized. Libya once had one of the highest literacy rates in Africa, but this is plummeting with the current troubles. It has millions of dollars in assets that have been frozen by the UN, to be released only once the country stabilizes. Thus So far, the money remains in UN hands, while Libya suffers as a result. The international community under the auspices of the UN needs to take timely, decisive and drastic action to arrest and reverse the slow but sure slide of the country into a fragmented, Failed State. The world must rally behind the democratically elected government and not only in propping-up the military, and putting down the rival governments, but also in building the structures and institutions of effective statehood necessary for sustenance of good governance stability. In addition, political, socio-psychological and ideological fronts should be opened and pursued strategically with a view to winning the hearts and minds of the populace; so as to stem radicalization by extremists Islamists. With a failed Libyan state, neighboring African nations and the world can expect to see continuing waves of refugees, as well as a greater insurgence by the militant Islamist groups within Libya, the rest of the African Maghreb as well as southern Europe. On the other hand, a strong Libya would stabilize the entire region, and would re-attract foreign investment not only into Libya, but also into the neighbouring countries, as well. It therefore behooves the entire free world to lend Libya a hand. The world must lend its support now, while it still can - before It's too late.
Submitted by Thomas Omogi
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