Libya: One Step Forward, Two Steps Backwards

The Diplomatist - September 2014

In February 2011, for the first time in their history, Libyans mobilised collectively for a common objective: toppling a brutal dictatorial regime. Like their fellow Arabs who took to the streets in the spring of 2011, they called for a greater participation in governance and respect for dignity and human rights.

Nevertheless, unity in dissent against a common enemy hardly ever translates into unity of consent to new governance arrangements. The risk of division and violence is all the more serious; as there are fewer institutions to structure interaction and sanction violators. Unfortunately, of all the protagonists of that Arab uprising, Libya is the least well-equipped with such institutions. These are not just the formal institutions of the state, such as its bureaucracy and laws, but also the informal social and political norms of pluralism, tolerance, dialogue and compromise that govern interactions in liberal and democratic societies.

This may explain why the newborn Libyan political arena failed to deliver governance and build institutions. The ensuing descent into instability and violence is all the more natural. Libya is now quickly moving towards a long and bloody civil war, with the eager help of foreign patrons.... Read the Full Text