By Jamal Jawhar
As Libya marked on Sunday its 66th Independence Day, its officials lamented that their country is still the focus of the old colonialists, represented by France, Italy and Britain.
They expressed to Asharq Al-Awsat their fear over the current chaos in Libya and the absence of an official state, which has left it vulnerable to more unrest.
Benghazi MP Issam Jihani stated that Libya is now being divided between French, Italian and British interests.
“The absence and fragmentation of the state has allowed foreign powers to implement their agendas,” he told Asharq Al-Awsat, while singling out the influence of France, Italy and Britain.
“Our country is now an open ground to them and others. It is clear to all that each side wants to empower one Libyan side against the other. As soon as Libyan forces come close to national reconciliation, they meddle to make sure that it fails,” he stressed.
Libya declared its independence on December 24, 1951 under the rule of Mohammed Idris al-Senussi, one of the leaders of the resistance against Italian occupation.
The independence was a crowning victory of the Libyan people’s struggle against colonial Italy that started in October 1911.
Observers meanwhile said that France seeks to achieve interests in southern Libya, which used to be under its rule when it colonized northern Africa.
Paris also views armed groups in the area as a threat to its economic security given that it operates oil companies in the region.
Italy has similar oil interests to defend.
A recent seminar at Tobruk University highlighted Libya’s complicated history with colonial powers when the Tripoli province was under Italian hegemony, Fezzan under French control and Barqah under British rule before the country earned its independence in 1951.
“The problems in Libya can be traced back to international competition, mainly between France, Italy and Britain,” said Sheikh Ibrahim Wardko, head of the al-Toubou tribal leaders.
“Libya is not a colony in the traditional sense, but it has lost its political decision-making power,” he explained.
Only the rise of a real state throughout Libyan territory will put an end to foreign interests in the country, he stressed.
France recently announced the establishment of a base in northern Niger as part of an operation to counter al-Qaida-affiliated extremists from crossing the Sahel region and the desert between southern Libya and Mauritania.
A French diplomat explained that the base was formed in part due to the unstable situation in Libya, reported Reuters.
In August, the Italian parliament approved a military intervention plan in Libyan waters to curb the flow of migrants in the Mediterranean.
An Italian official explained that Rome was not seeking to establish a “marine siege” because it would constitute an act of aggression.
The intervention force will instead act upon calls for assistance from the Libyan coastguard, he added.
The force will not exceed its limits unless there was a need to send reinforcements to Libyan waters, he added.