A Road to Perdition

Since the civil war began, insecurity in Libya has been rising. Since early this year in the southern town of Al Kufra, over a hundred people have been killed in the midst of a conflict between rival militias fighting for territories that control smuggling route. At least 16 people died on Saturday, including women and children, according to a recent report by the BBC.

This is but one example of the insecurity plaguing the country. Last Monday, members of the al-Awfea brigade, a volunteer militia from the town of Tarhouna, attacked the Triopli airport. They believed their leader had been detained by security forces and their aim was to take the airport as way of pressuring his captors into releasing him. Although the brigade pulled out of the airport on Monday evening following negotiations, they effectively grounded most flights out of Tripoli. A number of airlines have since canceled flights to Tripoli including British Airways, Emirates EMIRA UL and Tunisair.

Just two days later, attackers set off a bomb next to the wall of the US Consulate in Benghazi, largely considered one of the most stable areas in the country. Although there were no casualties, this instance again demonstrates the air of vigilantism that has taken over the country. In this context it is unsurprising that the government announced the postponement of the elections to July 7 from June 18th. However, given that the government has been unable to restore security in the last 8 months it is unlikely that the additional weeks will make a significant difference.

What do these instances of violence, and the postponement of elections mean for Libya’s democratic future? While it is still possible that elections will take place and a legitimate government will be instituted, the violence in Libya is certainly impacting the well-being of Libyan citizens constantly under harms way. It is the responsibility of the government, and of those partaking in the violence to understand that the political vacuum that is currently in place compounded by the legacy of the civil war creates a serious risk of turning violence into a long-term characteristic of Libyan society, a characteristic which will stand in the way of most of the goals the revolution set forth.

More broadly however, Libya’s instability will also have important effects on the way it is perceived internationally. Last week’s incident involving the investigation and detention of members of the International Criminal Court who came to Libya in order to secure the release of Saif al Islam is but one example of the ways in which Libya is augmenting the nefarious effects of its instability. Under such conditions, foreigners, particularly those without diplomatic immunity will shy away from Libya until guarantees to their security can be made. This is a major set back to the country which has foreseen developing its tourism sector as a means of diversifying its economy away from oil.

Though Libya managed, under the Qadhafi regime, to exclude itself for years from the international community, it has been largely accepted that those years severely hampered the country’s economic development. On-going instability will only discourage foreign investment in Libya at a time when it needs outside help.

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