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Libyan Civil Unrest Reaches New Heights

Following the rule of Muammar Gaddafi the country of Libya has faced great turmoil, which it seems is reaching its apex following the heightened concerns over resource scarcity and political rivalry. Libya’s hopes of “recovering” from the rule of Gaddafi has shown to be a much slower process than hoped, as it has already been more than a decade since the violent overthrow of then-leader Gaddafi and the de-establishment of his ideas and theories. Historically, Libya has undergone a developmental process similar to many developing countries. 

This developmental process looks similar to: a region being held under colonial rule, the region’s independence, a transition into a republic or kingdom, climaxing at a dictatorship and finally settling into modern liberal democracy. This process is familiar across continents, for instance Chile followed this exact process. Independence from Spanish colonization resulted in great development of the country’s national pride, swelling into the rule of Pinochet in 1973, and settling today into a more “comfortable” national congress. 

This process may seem to have a happy ending, resulting in the latter example, however this ending is not without its flaws. In fact, parties and factions remain which aim to revert to a previous state in this developmental process. “Gaddafi Loyalism” is on the rise in Libya, and this increase in support is not necessarily unjustified. The history behind Gaddafi’s reign and the subsequent political strife following his rule is as complex as one would expect, however what we can see is an obvious disruption in national development following the dismantlement of Gaddafi. 

In the years after his death, any authority within the country is divided among many parties and factions. So much so in fact that a cohesive economy is barely manageable as different governmental factions control different sectors and regions. This specific issue has led to volatile foodstuff prices and unreliable electricity, making life unbearable for those who are at the core of the major cities which make up a large portion of the country’s GDP. In fact, middle eastern media company Aljazeera writes that despite being a major export, oil facilities have been closed since April of this year. The article then describes the political ramifications of this issue; “Supporters of the eastern-based administration have shut off the oil taps as leverage in their efforts to secure a transfer of power…”. 

Elections are postponed, power shifts between two governing bodies, and despite all the best efforts of peace the working people are still subjected to suffering. In May this year a scheduled election was canceled, breaking the hope for a unified political future for many. Mahmoud Barakat of Anadolu Agency, another Middle Eastern journalist, writes: “Given the fact that Gaddafi’s (Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, Muammar’s son) supporters constitute a weighty electoral bloc that can favor any party, competition to win the support of the group is rising between Haftar and Bashagha.”

Saif al-Islam Gaddafi registering as a presidential candidate in last years elections (Khaled Al-Zaidy/Reuters)

It is then no surprise to see that a political ideology which promises nothing short of a utopia is making its way back into the public consciousness. Gaddafi’s personal theories and beliefs became the standard under his rule, summarized in “The Little Green Book”. Unlike most other revolutionaries, Gaddafi designed the basis of this system himself and aimed to put it into practice under his rule. His writings pertaining to this utopian system paint a picture of power-to-the-people, productive communes, and egalitarian principles all set in an Islamic backdrop. 

This system was wildly popular; Gaddafi was a young charismatic leader with a profile comparable to Guevara who fought on the frontlines of battle for the future of his country. He installed his beliefs into practice, helped to bring wealth and economic stability to the now-free country, and more infamously committed crimes against humanities against his opponents. Needless to say he’s a controversial character, you either love him or you hate him. Regardless, his stances on foreign policy scared the West. Gaddafi’s ultimate goal was to unite all of Africa under the teachings of his Little Green Book, uniting under a common goal of out-competing the West economically and technologically. 

Thus the political powers of the West have grown weary of his name, and do not wish to see another Gaddafi in office. The United Nations have condemned the recent riots which have grown increasingly violent, especially the most recent burning of the Libyan parliament building. These violent rioters use the face and namesake of Gaddafi on flags and in chants, which continues to worry the West, especially those who have staked their claim in the country. 

Aljazeera writes in depth of the comments made by U.N. Special Advisor of Libya Stephanie Williams, quoting her tweets which reads; “The people’s right to peacefully protest should be respected and protected but riots and acts of vandalism such as storming the House of Representatives headquarters late yesterday in Tobruk are totally unacceptable.” The United Nations is no stranger to fostering a dependent relationship with developing countries, and nowhere else is this more obvious than the parental narrative at play here. To reiterate, it’s no wonder Gaddafi’s narrative of independence from the West is making a comeback when the West speaks down to the working people of Libya as a parent would to a fussy kid. 

All in all, the events occurring in Libya this week are a stark reminder that not all in Liberal Democracy is sunshine and rainbows, especially in regions which have a history of resisting such political structures. Try as the U.N. may, the working people might just find solace and hope in the past. In the end, whether or not they may be permitted to do so, the will of the people will find itself at the doorstep of a representative (as has been seen this week). These events have a habit of spreading quickly, and it’s very likely this will help inspire other similar movements across nearby countries. Now is the time to keep a close eye on the United Nations and their response.

-Written by GoodHistory Contributor Lambda

Joshua Paulo
Joshua Paulo
Combining a Criminal Justice and International Relations background, Josh boasts years of experience in various forms of analysis and freelance journalism. He currently spearheads a team of professionals committed to delivering unbiased reporting to provide the public and private sector with accurate and insightful information. Josh serves as Atlas's Director of News.

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