The state of Libya: One year beyond the revolution

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Executive Summary:

  • Libya is not collapsing. The desire of Libya’s people to see their revolution succeed is extremely widespread, and this sense of collective ownership is compelling Libyans to take responsibility for the success or otherwise of their country’s transition to democratic rule.
  • Libya’s militias are much less of a problem than sometimes portrayed in the international press. Their objective is not to carve out fiefdoms in Libya, still less to topple the new government. The vast majority are now off the streets in urban centres including Tripoli and Benghazi. A programme to integrate militia into the regular security forces is underway, with militia representing a much less than perfect alternative to the regular army and police in the meantime.
  • Libyans recognise the need to reconcile with former Gaddafi loyalists, and the majority of  disputes – no matter what their cause – are settled without resort to force. The most serious unresolved dispute dating from the revolution is that between the peoples of Misurata and Tawergha. Misuratan accusations of rape, murder and looting by pro-Gaddafi Tawerghans during the conflict have led to widespread reprisals, including unlawful killing of Tawerghans and their imprisonment without trial. Resolution of this dispute is a major and ongoing challenge for Libya’s new rulers.
  • Libya’s economic potential is vast. Not only does the country possess the largest proven oil reserves in Africa, this 1,100 mile strip of southern Mediterranean coastline could become a major tourist destination. Private-sector potential beyond these areas is also significant. However, one major impediment is the unreformed nature of many economic institutions, in particular the country’s banks. Recognising the limited nature of its mandate as an unelected and temporary body, the National Transitional Council (NTC) is also reluctant to spend money on contracts that could develop Libya’s economy beyond the transitional period. This should ease with the election of a National Assembly, due to take place in June 2012.
  • Libya can succeed in its transition to democratic rule. Although a religiously devout country, the popularity of hardline Islamists is limited. However, with no effective experience of operating democratic institutions, Libya’s new authorities are in serious need of assistance both from bodies such as the United Nations (UN), but equally from established democracies such as the United Kingdom (UK).

 

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