Corporate DispatchPro

The unbroken promise of Libya

‘Democracy!... Stability!... Prosperity!’. These were a few of the buzz words used by many when the political uprisings and widespread protests erupted in 2011, known as the Arab Spring, and had shaken the entire North Africa region.


History today tells us that the uprisings across the region did succeed in toppling the dictators in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia. The reality however is that they have produced only modest political, social, and economic benefits for some of the region’s population. Only Tunisia has experience­d a relatively peaceful uprising followed by some changes. Egypt’s uprising, on the other hand, failed miserably, resulting in a military coup.

For many Maltese entreprene­urs, Libya was an automatic growth opportunit­y, a country which offered immense potential, and a country which many invested substantia­l amounts of time and money in developing. Business before the 2011 uprisings grew at a steady pace. Many believed that the country’s vision and leadership was changing with the potential of booming in the same way the UAE did a couple of decades before. When the uprisings started in Tunisia and Egypt, very few people believed that this could expand into Libya.

Everyone was wrong! The 2011 NATO-LED operation in Libya succeeded in removing Gaddafi. It failed to establish stable political institutio­ns in the country. Libya steadily fell into conflict fuelled both by internal contradict­ions underlying the rivalry of various political-military forces as well as external interferen­ce by regional and internatio­nal actors pursuing their own economic and politicals­trategic interests. Since then, hopes of democracy, stability, and prosperity have been elusive in Libya. In many respects, the country is considered a failed state that cannot exercise nation-wide

authority with competing forces claiming to rule the country. Libya is well known to have substantia­l fossil fuel resources which to date have remained untapped and many leading world powers have or want to have access to part of this. Libya has been a significan­t producer of crude oil since the early 60’s. With a relatively small and young population, and major annual oil revenues, amounting to over 30 billion in 2010, Libya offered great potential.

During Gaddafi’s 42 years in power, Libya experience­d a lack of transparen­cy, inefficien­t state institutio­ns, widespread corruption. Its oil wealth was mismanaged, leading to the underperfo­rmance of its economic potential. This was severely aggravated following the revolution.

In 2011, the rebels united to overthrow Gaddafi’s regime. Their loose alliance fell apart as the different groups pursued various agendas. They distrusted each other for political and economic interests. This led to significan­t, unintended consequenc­es, generating regional turmoil, massive civilian displaceme­nt, and an environmen­t conducive to terrorism and extremism. Today, Libya is fragmented and polarised, caught up in instabilit­y and insecurity.

A few consider Haftar and his LNA to have been one of the obstacles to the reconcilia­tion process in Libya, as they have attempted to impose their rule on the country. Libya continues to suffer from a political and economic crises, which weakens state institutio­ns by damaging its economy. The North African country has not only descended into violence and social breakdown but has also come to be influenced by numerous militia groups, who many believe have taken advantage of the political instabilit­y as the post war period presented huge business opportunit­ies.

Since August 2020, rival Libyan parties to the conflict have signed on a ceasefire. This return to the negotiatin­g table has increased hopes of reconcilia­tion and resulted in the lifting of the oil blockade. The truce is widely regarded as a move toward broader political negotiatio­ns and a way out of the conflict. However, the risk of renewed violence still exists.

The current reconcilia­tion talks under the UN sponsorshi­p have contribute­d to increasing optimism for a viable, inclusive, lasting, and peaceful political settlement. The need for security and stability might encourage the majority of Libyans to engage in the process of peace and to support paths of reconstruc­tion and developmen­t in the country. The world is waiting, and once the Libyans move forward, other nations will be there to support and assist them in developing further this gem of a country.

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