Libya Civil Unrest

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  • Topic: Libya, Muammar al-Gaddafi, Berber people
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Libyan Civil Unrest: Planning for a Post-Gadhafi Era
Madhu Rao
Mr. Greene
January 8, 2012

Muammar Gaddafi became the ruler of Libya after he led a military rebellion that overthrew King Idris I in 1969. He then abolished the Libyan Constitution of 1951, and adopted laws based on his own ideology outlined in his manifesto The Green Book. He officially stepped down from power in 1977, and subsequently claimed to be merely a symbolic figurehead until 2011, with the Libyan government up until then also denying that he held any power. Under Gaddafi, Libya was theoretically a dispersed, direct democracy, with Gaddafi retaining a very high position. This meant Libya was officially run by a system of people's groups which served as local governments for the country's subdivisions. However, these structures were frequently manipulated to ensure the dominance of Gaddafi, who allegedly continued to dominate all aspects of the government. Gaddafi feared a military overthrow against his government and therefore deliberately kept Libya's military relatively weak. The Libyan Army consisted of about 50,000 personnel. It’s most powerful units were four crack brigades of highly equipped and trained soldiers, composed of members of Gaddafi's tribe or members of other tribes loyal to him. Local militias and Revolutionary Committees across the country were also kept well-armed. By contrast, regular military units were poorly armed and trained, and were armed with largely outdated military equipment. Much of the Libya’s income comes from its oil production, which soared in the 1970s. In the 1980s, a large portion of it was spent on arms purchases, and on sponsoring militant groups and independence movements around the world. Petroleum revenues contributed up to 58% of Libya's GDP. For the Gaddafi Government to calm opposition, they can use the income from natural resources to offer services to the population, or to specific government supporters. Libya's oil wealth being spread over a relatively small population gave it a higher GDP per capita than in neighbouring states. Libya's GDP per capita, human development index and literacy rate were better than in Egypt and Tunisia. An estimated 13% of Libyan citizens were unemployed, with more than 16% of families had none of its members earning a stable income, while 43.3% had just one. Despite one of the highest unemployment rates in the region, there was always a consistent labor shortage with well over a million migrant workers present on the market. These migrant workers formed the biggest chunk of the refugees leaving Libya after the hostilities started. Despite this, Libya's Human Development Index in 2010 was the highest in Africa and greater than the HDI of Saudi Arabia. Libya had welfare systems allowing access to free education, free healthcare, and financial assistance for housing, while the Great Manmade River was built to allow free access to fresh water across large parts of the country. Eastern Libya had some of the worst economic conditions. Ironically, this is where Gaddafi extracted oil. Despite improvements in housing and the Great Manmade River allowing access to free fresh water, very little infrastructure beyond this was developed in the region for numerous years. The only sewage facility in Benghazi was over 40 years old, and untreated sewage has resulted in environmental problems around that region as well. The civil war of Libya, or denoted to as the Libyan revolution was the armed battle of 2011 in the North African state of Libya, fought between the forces loyal to Colonel Muammar Gaddafi and those seeking to overthrow the government. The war was led by protests in Benghazi that started on Tuesday, February 15, 2011. This in turn led to clashes with security forces that fired on the crowd. The protests rapidly intensified into a rebellion that spread across the country, where the forces opposing Gaddafi, established an interim governing body, the National...
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