By Sami Zaptia.
London, 18 February 2016:
The LSE Students Union MENA Society hosted a panel discussion yesterday entitled ‘‘Libya’s revolution: Five years . . .[restrict]on’’ to mark the fifth anniversary of the Libyan 17th February 2011 revolution to discuss the political crises in the country.
The event followed on from a similar event at SOAS on Monday.
The talk covered a range of topics, including the current political crisis, human rights, prospects for peace and democracy, and the role of regional and international actors. It was then followed by a Q&A session with the audience made up of Libyan diaspora and those interested in Libyan affairs.
The speakers were Anas El-Gomati, Libyan journalist, analyst and author; Mohamed Al-Hamali, Libyan economics/politics and law graduate; Alaa Murabit, Libyan women’s rights activist and Mary Fitzgerald, journalist, analyst and author.
Anas El-Gomati noted in introducing the Libyan scenario that the conflict in Libya was a resource war. There are transitions within democracies and that in Libya there has been a marriage between ballots and bullets.
But Libya was also caught in the crossfire of external actors too. The Libyan situation is much more complex than it is made out to be he explained. He warned that while we may get a so called unity government (the UN-brokered Government of National Accord – GNA) currently being hammered out between the various power centres, however, there is no all-inclusive peace deal.
Mohamed Al-Hamali attributed the failure of Libya’s transition to three main factors. First the lack of political culture in Libya since 1969 noting that anyone born since 1969 would not have had an opportunity to take part in a Libyan election.
The last elections to be held in Libya during the reign of King Idris I were held in May 1965. Qaddafi carried out a coup against the Idris in September 1969.
Hamali felt that the second factor was the international intervention by NATO and the subsequent security vacuum it created and left behind due to the widespread availability of weapons and plethora of militias. The geopolitics of the international power struggle: external interfeence in Libyan internal affairs was the third main factor he argued.
The rise of Sisi in Egypt also made the so called ‘’Islamist’’ coalition fear for their existence, he added.
Alaa Murabit said that looking forward, history was the best teacher. She noted that the 17th February revolution did not start as a revolt against Qaddafi but started simply as a protest against injustice by the mothers of the massacred Abu Sleem prisoners.
Their protest was a scheduled protest that took place every Saturday. They had asked for justice and not regime change. It was their lawyer who raised the stakes which had invoked a military response from the Qaddafi regime, she explained.
Looking back over the last five years since February 2011, there has not been justice in Libya she added. Moreover, Murabit was of the view that there will be no justice even if a peace treaty is signed and a (UN-brokered) Government of National Accord (GNA) is formed in the coming days.
She felt that both women and the youth have been excluded from the process and are not central to the GNA. The GNA will therefore, not succeed, she proposed.
Murabit felt that Libya’s problems and hence solutions are much deeper. They are not political she contended. The Libyan problem goes much deeper into the country’s social fabric, she proposed. ‘‘Extremism is the least of my worries. Social disintegration is the real problem’’, proposed the women right’s activist.
‘’All should be included at the dialogue and negotiations table. Nothing will change in Libya unless we as Libyans change it ourselves’’, she concluded.
Mary Fitzgerald who was in Benghazi within days of the 2011 revolution and has spent much time in Libya since has noted a mood change in the country as the transition period has dragged on. She noted the role being played by the so-called ‘’revolutionary legitimacy’’ in the country’s politics and how some were considering themselves more legitimate than others.
She was worried by the polarization, lack of consensus dividing the country and the loss of optimism enjoyed in the early years of the revolution.
She noted the economic realities of Libya’s drastic fall in oil production, the crash in international crude oil prices, depleting foreign exchange reserves and the high demands on the state budget in the way of state-sector salaries and subsidies.
She noted that Libyan politicians had not fully taken heed of the IS/Daesh threat which after the Sousse and Paris attacks had changed Europe’s thinking and the political dynamics.
Alaa Murabit is a Libyan women’s rights activist, founder and director of ‘The Voice of Libyan Women’ and adviser to UN Women and UN Security Council Resolution 1325: @almmura.
Mary Fitzgerald is a journalist and analyst focusing on Libya whose work has appeared in The Economist, Washington Post, Guardian, New Yorker, FT and Foreign Policy: @MaryFitzger.
Anas El-Gomati is a Libyan analyst, founder and director of the country’s first think tank, the Sadeq Institute, and former Visiting Fellow at the Carnegie Middle East Centre: @Agomati,
Mohamed Al-Hamali, is a Libyan economics/politics and law graduate: @MohamedAlHamali. [/restrict]