Militias that were fighting pro-Gaddafi forces celebrated the passing of a no fly zone by the UN Security Council on Libya in 2011. The resolution is known as resolution 1973 which authorizes all necessary measures to be implemented to protect civilians from pro-Gaddafi forces. What some countries did not notice was that the resolution was too broad hence it resulted in the bombardment of Libya and civilians were caught in the crossfire. With the aid of NATO Gaddafi was defeated and killed on the 20th of October 2011. There was jubilation throughout Libya and the international community was happy. Libyans were celebrating the fall of a longtime so-called dictator and the likelihood of transition to democracy. What they did not know was that they were moving towards a failed state.
Reports from pro-Gaddafi media indicate that when Libya was attacked, in terms of economy it was one of the best. Opportunities were there for Libyans to prosper, education was free, electricity was free and so many benefits. And for those who were not involved in politics security was there and the centre was still in control. The problem was that there was no democracy, people were not given room to contest in elections or just to challenge Gaddafi. Gaddafi acted like an absolute monarchy. Regardless of those setbacks in terms of democracy the country was moving forward economically. It is reported that education was considered a human right under Gaddafi government and it was free for all Libyans, and if a Libyan was unable to find employment after graduation the state would pay that person the average salary of their profession. Libya also had the highest GDP per capita and the highest life expectancy in Africa. Libyans also enjoyed free health care, free electricity and interest free loans, 40 loaves of bread just cost $0.15. The fall of Gaddafi instead of bringing everlasting joy to the people of Libya it brought misery and insecurity.
A year after the fall of Gaddafi, Libya was still battling to contain militias and failing to unite people in the oil rich nation. And in the same year that is 2012, months after the transitional government handed over power to the General National congress the US ambassador to Libya was killed in Benghazi. The death indicates that no one was secure in Libya and the country was fast descending into anarchy.
There are two centers of power in Libya and many militias are all over the country. One of the governments is in the eastern city of Bayda and is internationally recognised and the other one is in Tripoli. The two governments are fighting over the control of the country and this is hindering development. With war raging on Libyans in the eastern city of Bayda protested against deteriorating living conditions. The protesters chanted there was no gas, no electricity, and this has brought them nothing . With rising real estate prices the government is failing to provide housing and people are displaced and the demonstrations indicate the frustration that the Libyans have. The Libyans although the former Gaddafi government cannot pass the democratic test, in terms of catering for the welfare of the Libyan people it was the best. It will be difficult for a Libyan ruler to appease the mass because it’s difficult for the rulers to achieve Gaddafi’s record economically. Under Gaddafi oil companies were nationalized which means the oil revenue was directly to the government and it was used to uplift the standards of living Libyans.
Battles are raging on in Benghazi and Tripoli with former allies fighting against each other for the control of the country’s resources. And with people running away from Tripoli and Benghazi to the eastern city of Bayda the city is overwhelmed by the flood of people. Hospitals are also overwhelmed with patients; those who are critically ill will find it difficult to be attended to. With all the problems caused by war in Libya this points out to the fact that war is not a solution in any situation. War only without a clear plan to end the political vacuum that is brought by the fall of a longtime ruler is not an option at all. NATO just waged the war against Gaddafi without a plan on how they will handle the post-Gaddafi era, just the same as the situation in Afghanistan, Iraq and the vacuum that is likely to be created with the fall of Assad in Syria. The war loads that are all over Libya are enough evidence of a failed transitional plan by NATO. During the war in 2011 people were just united only on one objective of dismantling the Gaddafi system not knowing how they will handle the affairs of the state after his fall.
As Young African Leaders Forum (YALF), we seek to find African solutions to African problems, we believe in our ability as Africans to find solutions to our problems. From the word go Africans should have tried to find solutions in 2011 before the situation descended into total war. There was still room for dialogue among the Libyans but that avenue was not followed. The situation is still tense in Libya and the only solution to end the situation is to facilitate unconditional dialogue among the parties that are fighting and come up with a win-win political solution. Trying to support anyone of the factions within Libya is nowhere nearer to what is needed; there is need for an impartial mediator to end the deadlock in Libya. With the threats of a failed state the African Union should move swiftly to end the war. The powerful Islamic state is taking advantage of the political vacuum that has been created in Libya to establish its authority in territories where the two governments are not controlling. And one of ISIL’s casualties were Egyptian Coptic Christians which the group claimed responsibility for killing them.
As YALF we call upon the African union to condemn a nation that violates human rights rather than maintaining an old boys club where they shield each other from criticism. Reports of human rights abuse under Gaddafi are always in the media and some of the evidence are showing that Gaddafi collaborated with his fiery critics the British’s MI6 to torture opponents. The evidence was found in abandoned government buildings during the 2011 uprising. But it was known even before the uprising that opponents were tortured by the country’s security forces which means the African Union should have reigned in before the situation reached boiling points. Instead of remaining a spectator, AU should ensure both the two governments in Libya are prevented from gaining access to weapons by ensuring that the Mediterranean Sea is guarded. Africa cannot have another Somali situation of a failed state as that has repercussions in terms of security of African nations.