By Ismail Rashad
I pointed out in the two previous articles to the roots of the conflict in Libya.The first article focused on the role played by the religion and social groups in the struggle for power in Libya, while the second article addressed the impacts of geography and demography on the current conflict.
Both articles raise difficulties of historical depth which were never the outcome of the conflict that broke out after February 2011.
The culture of the conflict dates back to several centuries ago in regard to the role of religion and through the definitions and concepts that have contributed since ancient eras to fueling the struggles over power.
Often, scholars did not practically succeed in providing a perspective to the social peace, but they tend to refer to sultans, princes and rulers who were struggling over power. Each of these rulers had his jurisprudential entourage and social group which support him and take part in his war against other opposing group or groups.
I also pointed out that the conflict in Libya has another aspect related to the absence of a political understanding that is based on epistemological dimension between the Libyan demographic components, which were neither formed in a modern society as a result of a natural process of social evolution nor as a one political and historical context on the current geography of Libya.
Even though its features began to appear since the first Ottoman era, its definition did not reach the details which would form the social contract, the political structure of the power and administration and all what is related to resources distributions and the relationship between the local and the central authorities.
In the second article, I noted how Libyans were emotionally brought together without any organization to confront the Italian colonialism, and refuse the British mandate. Libyans did not succeed in negotiating and agreeing on a pattern of coexistence among each other.
In the light of the absence of an understanding and agreement, Libya’s independence was declared to be marked from its outset by disagreements over the federal system, ownership and the capital of the country. Therefore, Libya’s Independence was declared without resolving these issues.
The events of February 2011 could have been an opportunity to rebuild the socio-political understanding among Libyan components, though none of this happened. On the contrary what has happened is the rush to create a political state that is not founded on understandings, negotiations, compromises and political bargains, which opened the door widely to conflicts under multiple banners.
In fact, the fall of the tyranny and autocracy has dispersed the power over areas, regions and social groups.
Furthermore, the longer the war is the more fragmented the power will be for the benefit of local leaderships, that are seeking support through local and external alliances. These leaderships might fail, while other which gained local and external support takes their place.
The shifts in the social, regional, economic, and political conflict in Libya through its political and military interfaces point out to four possibilities towards which Libyan issue is moving.
These possibilities are not necessarily consecutive, but they might exist at the same time and in the same place and they are based on the struggle for power and resources between the historic regionalisms, which have intentions related to political positioning that date back to the era of Kingdom.
Other regionalism trends consider the Gaddafi regime as its interface, and others insist on owning the February revolution, amid religious and liberal alliances granting these regionalisms the ideological teleological legitimacy.
In the current conflict, it seems that regionalisms and interfaces are emphasizing the monopoly of the centralized resources along with the legislative and executive decisions in politics and economy.
These regionalisms have obvious geographical contradictions which are characterized by a historic depth that was manifested after the event of February, 2011.
Despite that, the largest power that remains in the district of Tripoli refuses to make any compromises for the benefit of regionalisms especially for “Barga” (Cyrenaica). The latter, proposes a non-centralized vision for the legislative, executive and financial decisions in politics and economy, which contradicts the district of Tripoli’s gains of centralization and also opposes the Utopian definition of nationalism upon which many generations were brought up since the abolition of the federal system in 1963.
Every talk about the rights of regionalisms is interpreted as a divisive tendency that contradicts with the unity of Libya.
There is also an attempt to rely on the military institution in order to reach the centralized monopoly, such as the contradictory case of “Barga” (Cyrenaica) which supported this trend at the beginning, may be against the centralized leadership in the district of Tripoli.
Both centralized trends might engender a state of individual tyranny. One relies on the military institution and simulates current and past Arab models. The second is a regional tyranny that relies on preserving the centralization gains of the post-1963 regime.
In order for this to happen, a centralized war might erupt between both trends of monopoly and tyranny, in which the regional alliances will be reformed along with the religious and liberal elites, who would justify that war and incite for it.
If one of these trends of monopoly and tyranny fails to put an end to the possible war between each other in its favor, more smaller and local wars are likely to break out between social, ethnic and cultural groups after the disappearance of the uniting national identity. Since the break out of war in February 2011, the sense of a uniting national identity is receding amid the advancement of local regional calls.
This might be due to the Utopian nature of the national identity that is based on national and religious mythologies that refuse to recognize the differences and disavows the diversity, while it relies on the centralization of power in its legislative and executive aspect.
Probably the regional confrontations of religious nature will be widened, every time the religious groups succeed in forging alliances that serve the social and religious purposes. There are several historical evidences in different geographical areas that support this probability. In fact, the religious aspect lacks the social power which empowers it to impose its religious vision through using the soft and hard power of the social ally.
Many would not expect the possible eruption of wars that are caused by the failure of the centralized power and its shadows in the localities in delivering services, providing commodities and liquidity so that people can buy those basic goods. These wars will be similar to robberies, looting and piracy. Some social groups might be obliged to rely on it to ensure the basic necessities of life. Besides that, some warlords will expand to ensure their continued control and influence over their armed groups and social communities.
It in this scattered scene, where the failure of the central authority will deepen not only in the operational control over the geography of Libya, but even over the geography of its closest regions. Not to mention the many differences and conflicts in the supposedly areas of influence.
In this sense, it is possible for regional leaders to emerge in several areas to gain monopoly over the area they are located in and form a perspective independent from the central authority.
The independence form and its political structure and framework may vary.
Some areas would call for secession, especially in “Barga” (Cyrenaica) and some other areas in the south of Libya, mainly the areas bordering Chad.
Some others would call for expanding the authority of the local administration to grant the regions and areas independence from the central authority. These demands are in rise in the historic Tripoli district, where some municipalities expressed their rejection of sharing the hours of load shedding of the current electricity crisis, which is planned at the central authority level, describing it as favoring some cities and areas within the district over others. Even some of the Tripoli’s municipalities refused sharing the load shedding for the same reason.
It is certain that the three probabilities above; the monopoly, war and division are not geographically and demographically steady. They are expected to undergo changes that would create new alliances and dissolve others, which we have witnessed clearly since February 2011.
We have also seen the allies of yesterday have become today’s enemies, and vice versa.
In my opinion, the scene in this period is reformulated based on two fundamentals:
On one side the monopoly of power and the central authority and on the other side the continuing attempts of several regionalisms to break free from the monopoly and centralization. In this context, “Barga” (Cyrenaica) is redrawing its alliances due to the monopolizing tendencies shown by the Dignity Operation leader, which has been obvious especially in “Benghazi”.
In the same context, it is possible that the district of “Tripoli” would undergo the same thing after the battle of “Sirte”, which will affect the balances of powers especially between “Misrata” and “Tripoli” whether the war would end quickly in favor of “Misrata” or get prolonged while ISIS continues the bombing.
In general the war in “Sirte” will provide “Misrata” with a justification to return to “Tripoli” and present its high-priority demands either to the Presidential Council and its government or to another authority. On another side, we find the historic regionalism in the capital which also own relatively strong armed groups.
The conflict over resources and the central sovereign decision (legislative and executive) was not immune from the interests of several regional and international powers, which found in these local disputes a way to forge their alliances in Libya in order to preserve their interest in the Libyan resources and decision making process.
It is not hard to realize the contradictions between the external regional and international powers towards their interests in Libya. For some of them, Libya represent a vital economic field especially in oil and gas, as some own companies in Libya and others aspire to expand their geopolitical influence either in Sub-Saharan Africa or North Africa.
The regional and international powers in Libya have regionally and culturally dispersed alliances, which have military, political, intellectual, religious and liberal interfaces. These powers’ intervention and overlapping might have been the cause for the emergence of a proxy war that engendered an environment for war profiteering in which some are making living through cross borders arms trafficking.
These possibilities are prone to expansion with the probability of altering its actors and regions, and reforming its local and external alliances. However, there is a fourth possibility to conclude the article with. Logically speaking, this probability is not impossible, even though the ongoing wars and division makes it hard to be achieved, especially in light of the absence of an external backer.
In other words, this backer has to be established and moved locally. This possibility resides in the negotiation among all the Libyans without exclusion of any region or group. The Negotiation has to address the core issues that are the subject of disagreement and conflict in Libya and which justified the fall of kingdom and the Gaddafi regime respectively.
The centralization of power and administration represent the most important issue in the dispute among Libyans. Negotiation could pave the way for the rising of a uniting national identity which recognizes the differences and diversity and refuses the centralization in power (sovereign, legislative and executive decision) and the centralization of administration and planning. The centralization is not the model that fits Libya under the breadth of its geography, and its past experience for nearly six decades.
The concept of one nation lacks a deep and broad negotiation that defines the concept of unity of Libyans without limiting it to a centralized Utopian definition that preserves the gains of one region over another. Within this possibility, it is important to tackle the concept of resources so it is not limited to oil and gas.
In fact, there must be a constitutional, legislative, operational and administrative focus on local resources of each area, region, city and village to re-invest the national resources (oil and gas) in developing the infrastructure, and the local resources.
It is also important to invest in modernizing the local administration so that it is able to manage its resources in a way that makes the economy of the regions, areas, cities and villages independent and thus, a tributary of the national economy.
I think that developing the local economies away from the center’s political, legislative, administrative, executive and financial dominance as well as away from its influence on planning would not only protect the unity of Libya.
It would give the concept of unity an operational (pragmatic) dimension but it would also protect those areas, localities and regionalisms from the possibility of the break out of war over the resources obtained from the center, after the center’s resources in oil and gas decrease.
In this phase, the central authority should rearrange its priorities through:
– Launching spatial development plans in localities and regions;
– Directing all the central resources to build the local experience and skills to manage the projects and resources;
– Ensuring the conduction of fair contracts between the localities and the domestic and foreign investors;
– Playing the central authority’s role of the advisory and organizer, as well as the defender of the spatial development.
From then, the opposing legislations can me amended. It is clear that the monopoly of centralized decision making of resources management will result in numerous wars and expands the possibilities of division and empower the external powers which are seeking their own interest even at the expense of rival Libyans.
On the other side, the spatial development that is not linked to the center could be the solution to core issues related to the political system and the administration model.
It also can create a national operational identity based on the common interests and the foreseeable opportunities for the rehabilitation of local communities and regionalisms.
Ismail Rashad – Founder and former GM of Arraed Social Media Network, Cofounder and Chairman of Ajwaa Media.