Libya or how to invent a country

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By: Guadi Calvo / Resumen Medio Oriente / The Dawn / December 21, 2015.- Since the murder of Colonel Gaddafi, in October 2011, Libya has turned into an ungovernable country, a failed State. This has led to having two governments and two Parliaments for almost two years, which only contributed to deepen the institutional, political and social chaos in the country.


Finally, last Thursday the forces leadered by President of the Tripoli Parliament, Nouri Abu Sahmein, and President of the Tobruk legislators, Aqila Salah, have managed to sign a political agreement that will create a unified national government.


Under the supervision of a UN Special Envoy, Martin Kobler —from Germany—, the agreement was signed in the Moroccan city of Sjirat, 30 km south of Rabat.


The new government —which will have a President, two Vice Presidents and a Minister Council composed of six members— has committed to write a new Constitution which will be voted in a referendum, and call to elections after a year.


The new Libyan authorities have a very complex task: they will have to practically invent a country, not from scratch but far worse, from a territory mined by many problems.


They will have to urgently apply measures to pacify the country, facing not only ISIS and other seven salafist organizations —including al-Qaeda for the Islamic Maghreb (AQMI)— but, also, plenty of armed organizations that go from terrorism to human trafficking, weapons, drugs and oil traffick. At the same time, the government will have to put the economy on its feet using only the leverage of oil, an industry that is going through a historic low in the world.


But of all the conflicts that this new government has ahead, the biggest one is to gain power and credibility, two things that are scarce in the country since 2011.


The real power is distributed between those small armed groups, some of which control only a peripheral neighborhood of a city like Tripoli or Benghazi, or an entire province, such as Fezzan, in the South of the country, where several tribes have been trying to establish a government for years.


These groups have great armed capacity and in most cases only are only guided by their predatory instinct: they either sell their services to different trafficking organizations or merge into organizations such as Ansar al-sharia, al-Qaeda for the Islamic Maghreb (AQMI) or ISIS. Their fights for power lead them to go into battles that can go on for weeks, such as the one in the Tripoli airport between July and August 2014, with a great deployment of men and means, that reveal that these organizations are being supported by powerful “sponsors”.


As if the scenario was not confusing enough, in October 2014, militiamen of ISIS took Derna city, in the north west of the country, with 50 thousand inhabitants, with the presence not only of Libyans who are veterans of the Syrian war, but also of Tunisians, Sudanese or Yemeni. Since then, they have not ceased to expand. It is estimated that it is composed of 3 thousand militiamen, who are settled, since February 2015, in the emblematic city of Sirte, place of birth and death of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.


From Sirte, they try to move on to the interior of the country, threatening with occupying routes, oil and gas fields and refineries.


They are also trying to reconquer Derna, from where they were expelled last June after a popular revolt that left several hundred dead. The EU witnesses these disasters, which they have caused, without batting an eyelid, and does not care for the fact that the Libyan coasts are only 100 km from Lampedusa and 300 km from Sicilia. For ISIS militiamen, who are also besieging the city of Misurata, departure point for most of the migrants that go to Europe, it would not be difficult to send some lone wolves to Europe.


Economic situation is clearly critical, because it is fundamentally supported by the oil production, which has suffered a drop in exports and is currently at a quarter of the quantity that it used to export in the times of Gaddafi. The current National Oil Company divides its earnings between Tripoli and Tobruk, which causes constant disputes.


Ghosts in the desert


From the very moment that a mob lynched Colonel Gaddafi in October 2011, Libya was thrown into a power vacuum from which it has not been able to recover to this day.


Despite the pressure from the UN and all the seemingly legitimate governments that try to impose on Libya, there is no doubt that the great battle for power is about to unravel.


This new constitutional scheme with which they try to reinvent a completely annihilated country has little connection with reality, and the government that has just emerged from the alliance of the UN with different political groups of the country can only aspire to give a Constitutional cover to a future foreign intervention to impose an order.


Somehow, they try to organize the war —a war that has not been declared but has caused thousands of dead, several millions of internally displaced and a million refugees outside the country. Plus a society decimated by five years of complete anarchy, where laws are as scarce as electricity or water.


The authorities that were just designated last Thursday will only be another agent in the war, agents that will count with West’s support, that will be assisted with funds and weapons, and that surely will have no more luck than the similarly armed governments in Iraq or Afghanistan, to lead a war against small armed bands and great fundamentalist organizations that fight for the primacy in a territory too close to Europe.


The very nature of these salafist movements, as in Syria, blocks any type of political arrangement. With the attacks of last November in Paris or the more recent ones in San Bernardino in the U.S., it is clear that salafist fundamentalism is more willing than ever to carry its “holy war” to the most remote places and ready to use all possible means to attack its enemies,meaning, everyone that does not interpret Islam as they do, no matter if they are muslim or not.


If the West does not genuinely try to exterminate the armed bands that fight in Libya, ISIS will eventually co-opt them and quickly win over the territory by infiltrating as it is already happening in neighbor countries such as Tunisia, Algeria, Niger or Chad.


Even though the presence of ISIS in Libya has been known for over a year, Europe does not seem to want to react and still tries to resolve the Libyan problem in political ways.
If the Russian and North American offensive continues in Syria, ISIS won’t be able to resist much longer and its troops will begin to move to other active fronts, and without a doubt, Libya would be the most suited one. To avoid this from happening, the West will have to assume its guilts and try to resolve, at least partly, the Libyan question, almost as a matter of self-defence.

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