News / Africa

Post-Gadhafi Libya Could Be Chaotic

Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi talks during a ceremony to mark the 40th anniversary of the evacuation of the American military bases in the country, in Tripoli, June 12, 2010
Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi talks during a ceremony to mark the 40th anniversary of the evacuation of the American military bases in the country, in Tripoli, June 12, 2010

Multimedia

Audio
Gary Thomas

Unrest continues to spread across the Middle East and North Africa, toppling governments in Egypt and Tunisia.  Still, those countries have maintained stability and security after the fall of their respective leaders.  But, Libya’s post-revolutionary landscape might be very different if Moammar Gadhafi follows the same forced exit of his counterparts in Tunis and Cairo.

Mr. Gadhafi has ruled Libya since 1969, which, by any standard, is pretty impressive staying power.  But such longevity raises the inevitable question: what happens when such a ruler is toppled?

In countries like Egypt and Tunisia, where popular street power led to the ouster of rulers there, the military stepped in afterward to keep things stable and secure.  However, Kamran Bokhari, director of Middle East and South Asia for the private intelligence firm Stratfor, says Mr. Gadhafi kept the military weak out of fear that it might challenge him.

Bokhari says, "The regime never allowed for the development of, for lack of a better term, an autonomous military institution of any worth.  Everything revolved around Gadhafi, family and friends - more so Gadhafi than family and friends.  It wasn’t even a single-party state.  It was a single figurehead state."

Author and Libya specialist Ronald Bruce St. John believes there will be some upheaval after Mr. Gadhafi’s departure but discounts the chances for a full-blown civil war.

St. Johns says, "I predict a period of uncertainty, hopefully not civil war. I don’t see any reason why there should be a civil war per se.  I’m hopeful that the tribal leadership in Libya - Libya is a very tribal society - I’m hopeful that the tribal leadership in Libya will step forward and find a way to work together to develop a new and more effective governmental system for the country."

But tribal cohesion is an unanswered question. Analysts say Mr. Gadhafi tried to either co-opt or weaken Libya’s many tribes, subtribes and clans because of the potential threat they posed to his power.  Charles Gurdon, managing director of the London-based political risk consultancy firm Menas, says Mr. Gadhafi also stirred up resentment in the eastern part of the country through his economic policies, which, he says, accounts for the current division.

Gurdon says, "There is resentment that the majority of the money for development went to the west and the center of the country and the east was largely left to rot.  And so there’s been a lot of antagonism between the two areas for some time.  However, I think the point now is, the vast majority of Libyans now want Gadhafi gone.  Also, there is a Libyan identity that people have, and so, hopefully, that will be stronger than regionalism or tribalism."

One scenario, as Kamran Bokhari puts it, is that Libya simply disintegrates into a state of warlordism, where different strongmen fight for control along the Mediterranean coast, which is where the bulk of the population is.  But another, more worrisome one, he says, is if the small jihadist Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, or LIFG, tries to step into the vacuum.

Bokhari says, "That makes this a really scary scenario.  Can LIFG (Libyan Islamic Fighting Group) team up with al-Qaida next door in Algeria to make use of this anarchy in this country to create small pockets of jihadist enclaves - not states per se, but operating room, if you will, places where they can recuperate, base themselves."

Charles Gurdon, whose group Menas publishes highly detailed analyses for its customers, discounts the threat of the LIFG and Islamic extremism in post-Gadhafi Libya.

Gurdon says, "Libyan Islam is Sufi, is moderate, is socially conservative, it’s not militant Sunni Muslim, it’s not Shia Muslim, and therefore I don’t see (it) as a being a threat. And so the idea that you’ll end up with one or two Islamic caliphates or emirates is nonsense.  It’s not going to happen.  Libya is a conservative country, socially conservative, and Islam probably will play a greater role.  But I don’t see it as becoming an Islamic state in the Mediterranean whatsoever."

In some of his rambling speeches, Mr Gadhafi has blamed a number of parties for the unrest in his country, including al-Qaida.


You May Like

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs