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Written by Tawab Malekzad

Nearly three years after the outbreak of the Arab Spring, Libya remains the only country where anti-government groups have succeeded in toppling the government with force and with the support of the international community.

As NATO air forces engaged in a heavy bombardment of Col. Moammar Gaddafi’s forces, the rebels gained ground across the country. When the six-month-old civil war came to an end and the Gaddafi forces shrunk in size and capabilities, the gates to Gaddafi’s armories remained unguarded, and anti-government forces were able to loot them.

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Libyan militias amass weapons [Photo Credit: Washington Post]

While the anti-government forces were busy robbing the unguarded depots, western countries were celebrating Gaddafi’s removal and hoped for a democratic Libya.

Nearly three years later, the new Libyan government finds itself defenseless against numerous armed militia groups operating freely within Libyan borders. Libya is unlikely to recover from the civil war for two reasons: its weak central government and its non-secured borders.

Weak Governing Body

After the fall of Gaddafi, the National Transitional Council (NTC), a de facto government, was created to fill the power vacuum. Mustafa Abdul Jalil, chairman of the NTC, and Abdurrahim El-Keib, the interim prime minister, were big proponents of a decentralized government. The rhetoric for a decentralized government was the first mistake of the interim government.

After the bloody civil war, there were many domestic and foreign militia groups that were unleashed. The new government should have had a stronger grip of power in order to bring about a strong centralized government that could provide security and order in Libya.

Due to the lack of a strong centralized government, we are currently witnessing Libya going through one of its worst times since the civil war began.

But the country still has the opportunity to have a strong centralized government. The first step would be to introduce a strong head of state. Prime Minister Ali Zidan should resign because he has failed in his duties and, thus, has illustrated that he is not a strong head of state.

Zidan’s governing ability was first challenged when he was abducted for a few hours last month and again when the deputy intelligence chief was kidnapped.

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Prime Minister Ali Zidan [Photo Credit: Al Arabia]

A charismatic individual who is popular among the Libyan people and possesses power and the ability to exercise it would prove to be a stronger head of state. Such a leader could possibly help Libya have a faster recovery from the civil war.

Blurred Lines

The Libyan borders are some of the most unsafe borders in the region. The government’s inability to secure its borders has not only affected the security of Libya, but also that of the whole region.

Following the formation of the NTC, the weapons that were looted by the militias began to surface in neighboring countries. During the early post-civil-war days, these weapons made it as far as the Egyptian-Israeli border. Earlier this year, a UN report noted that the Libyan weapons were “fueling conflicts in Mali, Syria and elsewhere and boosting the arsenals of extremists and criminals in the region.”

Such non-secured borders also allow foreign militia groups to find safe havens in Libya, making the future of Libya more uncertain and the post-civil-war recovery more difficult.

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[Photo Credit: moroccoworldnews.com]

The current Libyan government has tried to overcome the border challenges through bilateral security agreements with its neighboring countries. However, signing these agreements may not actually represent a major step toward securing and stabilizing the country.

The government should probably take two actions to secure its borders. First, it should ask foreign countries to invest in Libya’s police force and military (the United States has already started this process).

Second, the Libyan government should request manpower assistance from the members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and those countries that are major importers of OPEC oil because a secure Libya is not only in the best interest of its neighbors, but also in the interest of OPEC members and OPEC importers.

These two steps, if taken by the Libyan government, could potentially ease the post-civil-war recovery.

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One thought on “Libya: Chaos turning into fiasco

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