Tarek Megerisi, London-based independent analyst specializing in Libyan and Arab politics and governance.
Developing a strategy to temper, let alone solve, Libya’s myriad security issues can appear overwhelming. However, highlighting the conditions that allowed these conflicts to start can help the international community identify ways to address structural issues behind Libya’s endemic insecurity.
Two of Libya’s infamous issues—the insecurity of the South, with its porous borders, and the blockade of Eastern oil terminals—serve to highlight the common base of the country’s current instability. Southern groups mainly demand tangible commitments to their region’s development and greater representation in the creation and implementation of local policy. The Eastern movement is driven by two groups: those demanding federal status for the East, believing this would guarantee future financial security, and those claiming the transitional authorities are criminally misreporting oil sales.
Due to the harsh experiences of Libya’s recent past, the transitional period has been viewed locally as a zero-sum political re-positioning where each region and group must assert itself to secure developmental rights. This was reinforced by the actions of Tripoli’s policy makers, who consistently failed to be inclusive, transparent, or effective. The driver of the Eastern and Southern conflicts has been the authorities’ lack of real diplomacy and their reliance on destructive stratagems.
The absence of centrally driven diplomacy initiatives, trusted conflict mediation forums, or mechanisms to allow the public to influence policy has created an environment of paranoia. This, in turn, has encouraged a vigilante approach to criminality, dispute resolution, and fuelled each group’s quest to secure their own rights. International assistance to help Libya replace existing political structures is paramount to solving national insecurity.
Such assistance could focus on collective problem resolution, create an inclusive political environment, and begin to train Libyan politicians in representative and transparent governing methods. The most effective way to inspire such changes is through the creation of (and support for) initiatives aimed at strengthening the rule of law, promoting transparent and inclusive governing practices, and putting in place transitional conflict mediation systems. This approach represents not only the most comprehensive but also the most sustainable solution to Libya’s security problems.