In February 2011, English photographer Charlie Waite had just finished a month long assignment across Libya capturing some of the country’s most iconic sites in a peaceful tranquil atmosphere. Less than two days after his departure, civil war had erupted (Kingsley, 2014). Libya has been in a state of violent flux since then, long-term leader Muammar Gaddafi in power since 1969 was killed in October 2011, the National Transitional Council promptly declared Libya to be officially ‘’liberated’’ and on the road to ‘’democracy’’ (BBC, 2014).
June 25th 2014, marked a crucial date in determining the future of the “new” Libya with elections held across the nation. After the historic elections of 2012, which saw over 62% of registered voters electing a secular alliance, Libya has struggled to build upon that excitement and hope, particularly with instability and violence emanating throughout the region (Manfreda, 2012). The country has stagnated over the intervening years, with political uncertainty and rebel violence dominating the agenda.
The Specter of Al-Qaeda & IS
The divide between extreme Islamists and ordinary Libyans has steadily increased inline with the upheaval across the country. Violent clashes are a daily occurrence (Zirulnick, 2014). The situation is by no-means a simple struggle between shades of radical Islam. The specter of Al-Qaeda and IS hovers over the region with growing support for their extremist messages among the disaffected Islamists and others who feel they have been omitted from the ruling process since the fall of Gaddafi (Abiew, 2013).
The appetite for political change in Libya which was empowering in 2012 has failed completely as the 2014 electoral turnout indicated (Fetouri, 2014). In spite of the rhetoric of foreign politicians, chief among those President Obama who described the elections as a ‘’milestone’’, the situation within Libya is far from optimistic (Washington Post, 2014).
A Shift from Democratic Tendencies
The situation in present day Libya is complex on a number of different levels, the facts would appear to indicate a strong shift away from democratic tendencies, yet the reality is something different altogether. Disenchantment and regret at the current situation within Libya is shared by the majority of a population who anticipated an altogether different Libya in 2011.
Gone is the hope that encapsulated the Arab Spring and in its stead is a sense of betrayal and confusion over the dismal performance of those in power since 2012 (Stephen, 2014). To further outline the depth of disillusionment held by ordinary Libyans, Mustafa Fetouri contends that ‘’The unmistakable reality now is that the world helped us create the mess we live in, but it has long since turned its back on us and gotten busy with other crises elsewhere. In our hour of need, we find no friends to help us heal our country’’ (Fetouri, 2014).
The impact Libya’s allies have had on the situation within the country is one which divides opinion. Interestingly the removal of Gaddafi and the involvement of NATO in his ousting were universally welcomed, but crucially the failure of NATO to provide any lasting legacy or plan in their wake has altered the mind-set of ordinary Libyans.
Apportioning The Blame
To apportion the blame of the current malaise within the country to outside factors is in itself short-sighted as the major issues within Libya today are dominated by internal factors (Pack, 2013). Analyzing and identifying the problem is just the start of the process, for Libya to emerge into a fully functional democratic nation its leadership must govern in a manner that integrates all sectors of a deeply divided society.
Clashes in Benghazi have dominated the country since 2012, with thousands killed and numerous groups fighting in the name of Libya (Morajea, 2014). The threat of bankruptcy looms increasingly likely as the clashes over oil continue to halt any previous progress made within the economy (Al Jazeera, 2014).
Essentially Libya is in the midst of a fundamental struggle with its identity. The present situation cannot continue along its current trajectory without a complete failure of the Libyan state according to Mansour O El-Kikhia who opines that urgent action is required to establish a well-functioning government and a country that is both safe and secure (El-Kikhia, 2014).
In-Fighting & International Ambivalence
The future for Libya is deeply uncertain given the present climate that exists. The general public have grown increasingly disenchanted at the turbulence and chaos that has permeated across the nation since 2011. The primary issue that needs to be addressed is re-establishing law and order across the region and unifying the Libyan population behind a well-structured democratic process.
In the midst of these enormous challenges is the backdrop of internal fighting, budgetary concerns and a lack of assistance from outside partners who promised much but delivered little after the fall of the previous regime. Hope still exists for Libya, but if the situation isn’t acted upon as a matter of urgency, we will soon be referring to Libya as a failed state and a haven for radical Islamists from where to poison the region.
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Available at: http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2014/03/libya-tale-two-regions-ship-201431651453444440.html
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Available at: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/06/libya-militia-chaos-friends-tripoli-business-state.html#
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Available at: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/contents/authors/mustafa-fetouri.html
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Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2014/jul/02/libya-gaddafi-calm-before-storm-photographs
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Available at: http://middleeast.about.com/od/libya/a/Parliamentary-Elections-In-Libya-2012.htm
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Available at: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2014/05/benghazi-clashes-test-libya-new-government-201451865451626982.html
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Available at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/libya/10482490/More-than-40-killed-in-explosion-at-Libyan-arms-depot.html
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Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jun/25/libya-revolution-democracy-confusion-voters
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Available at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/obama-elections-mark-milestone-for-libya/2014/06/26/d1add3ea-fd43-11e3-beb6-9c0e896dbcd8_story.html
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Available at: http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Security-Watch/terrorism-security/2014/0605/Rogue-Libyan-general-s-coup-against-Islamists-unleashes-wave-of-violence