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Can a Libyan Tripartite Division Work?
Last uploaded : Sunday 25th Mar 2012 at 14:54
Contributed by : Carol Gould


Carol Gould on Libya
24 March 2012

I believe that the issue of Libya’s future is not so much about what is to be done post-Gaddafy but by whom it is done. As I have said over and over again when I have been on television or radio and when I deliver a lecture to a public forum it is leadership that determines the success of a new nation or of a nation coming out of a crisis. Had Britain not been led by Winston Churchill and the USA by Franklin Roosevelt during World War II the Nazis would not have been defeated. Roosevelt also pulled the USA out of the Great Depression when under another leader it would have descended as a nation into Fascism or Communism.

Right now amid considerable violence and conflict the people of the east in Cyrenaica ( Barqa in Arabic) are being encouraged by Ahmed Senussi to break away and form a separate national entity. We have to look back in history to remember that from 1951 to 1963 Libya, under the monarchy of Idris Senussi, was in fact divided into three administrative regions -- Cyrenaica in the east, Tripolitania in the west and Fezzan in the south/southwest. However the present situation is dangerous because I can see only ferment and possible civil war. Although Libya is Sunni there remain regional animosities that built up over the long reign of Gaddafy. The Barqa leadership is right to try to follow a peaceful road to making Tripoli and the National Transitional Council ( hereafter referred to as the NTC) recognise its autonomy by possibly going to the UN, but then again Col Hamid al-Hassi, the leader of the Barqa army and the Supreme Military Council, made up of revolutionaries who fought against Gaddafy, says they will take over the oil fields and endure a new military conflict if it means preserving the autonomy of the east. They were marginalised by Gaddafy and one can understand their many years of pent-up fury.

Likewise the anger expressed by Fathi Baja, the head of the political committee of the NTC is palpable; he sees it as a threat to the unity of the Libyan people whilst Mustafa Abdel Jalil, overall head of the NTC, sees separation as a conspiracy by western powers and individuals to destabilise the country and seize the riches of the east for their own gain. He has commented that machinations by powerful forces outside Libya will result in ‘dragging the country back down into a deep pit.’

Also, with elections coming up in June for the 200-member national assembly there must be fairness established by the ruling bodies: at present only 60 seats are being offered to the east but 102 to the western region.

The nation must stabilise because Egypt and even countries as far away as Qatar and Saudi Arabia are looking to establish an ‘oil monarchy’ in Barqa. There is no doubt western countries will also want a share of the £65 billion sovereign wealth fund and 1.6 billion barrel-a-day oil production along with hydrocarbon potential. However, as Abayomi Azikiwe has said on the Pan African News Wire, there will never be unity in war-torn Libya. There is resentment of the west arming the rebels and destabilising the country.

I disagree with the view promulgated by Libyan spokespeople on British television analysis programmes that western intervention destabilised Libya and North Africa. Right now Syria is in turmoil but the west is staying out of the situation; at the same time every day we hear pleas from Syrians for help from the west. The USA overthrew Saddam Hussein but despite Iraqis trying to establish democracy it is suffering violence and insurgency. Both Syria and Iraq will, I fear, see Sunni-Shia conflict for many years to come.

If Libya divides into three independent states or autonomous regions it will be crucial for its survival as a nation that it has leaders who heal the wounds of the past half-century. It is believed right now that the people of the east do not want to share their oil wealth with the people of Fezzan and Tripolitania but this situation must not be allowed to manifest itself in the long run as it will create constant conflict and the possibility of even a low-level, protracted civil war. The west should stay out of the formation of a government but fine leaders must emerge to rebuild a potentially rich country; perhaps an individual of the stature of Jimmy Carter could be brought in to monitor elections and monitor the formation of a stable government.

In the past partition and division by western powers resulted in unbridled bloodshed. Partition of India and Pakistan resulted in the loss of a million lives after Britain departed whilst the establishment of the State of Israel resulted in an immediate war in 1948 and many subsequent wars, terror and massacres. Notwithstandign this Israel, through thre sheer hard work of its people -- many survivors of the Nazi death camps -- turned a barren desert into a technological, scientific, artistic, literary, cultural and agricultural giant. Israel in its formative years had great leaders and this is a vital necessity in the development of a new or post-crisis recovering nation. In the instance of Libya it is up to the people to unite and create a garden from a desert. I look forward to attending a concert by a Tripoli Symphony Orchestra some day in what I hope will be an enlightened and prosperous future for the nation and for North Africa.


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