Libya church blast in Dafinya where two people were killed on December 30, 2012. The North African state has been the scene of social chaos since the overthrow of the Jamahiriya under Muammar Gaddafi in 2011., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Libya Going wrong
Aug 22nd 2013, 16:40
by C.S. | TRIPOLI
ALI ZAIDAN, Libya’s United States-installed rebel prime minister, is not given to hyperbole. A lawyer and former dissident, he tends to be studious, even dull, in his pronouncements. So it was a mark of the seriousness of strikes that have paralysed the country’s oil ports that he threatened to “bomb from the air and sea” any tanker illicitly taking on oil at the behest of the strikers. This threat, coupled with another to send troops to take control of the blockaded oil terminals, coincides with Libya’s worst crisis since the uprising that overthrew Muammar Qaddafi two years ago.
The protests by army units that were supposed to protect the ports have caused oil exports to plunge. Production may have slumped to as little as 400,000 barrels a day (b/d), a loss of about 1m b/d, worth around $700m a week. As a result, Libya’s national oil company has had to declare force majeure to exempt it from honouring its oil-delivery contracts. The strikes are largely political, driven by a sense of grievance in Cyrenaica, the easternmost of Libya’s three regions, which is home to the bulk of Libya’s oil production. Its people think they are getting far too little in return for their region supplying most of the state’s revenues.
Cyrenaica’s self-styled transitional council, led by a relative of Libya’s last king, has responded to Mr Zaidan’s impatient bombing threat by calling for more autonomy.
Rebellion is in the air in other parts of the country. In the west, ethnic Berbers complaining that their rights were being trampled stormed the national congress, the proto-parliament in Tripoli, and cut one of three pipelines running through their territory. South of the capital, renegade militias have looted army bases, prompting the Speaker of the congress, who is from the Muslim Brotherhood’s Justice and Construction party and is the de facto head of state, to deploy militias loyal to the Brothers in Tripoli (and therefore to the largely Brotherhood-run government) to forestall what some described as an attempted coup. In the east, jihadist bombings and assassinations persist.
Militia infighting and attacks on diplomats afflict Tripoli itself. The most recent ambush, on a convoy of the European Union’s ambassador, occurred on the seafront outside the Corinthia Hotel, the capital’s smartest, where security is tightest and diplomats and businessmen like to meet.
Fuelling the insecurity is growing frustration felt by Libya’s 6m people at the failure of the government to resuscitate the economy. One reason is the prevailing stalemate in the national congress, where the liberal and secular-minded National Forces Alliance is pitted against the Brotherhood’s party. The alliance, which holds the most seats, recently walked out, leaving the Brothers in control of a congress whose legitimacy is increasingly questioned. The writing of a new constitution, which was meant to be supervised by the congress, has been left to a new body, yet to be elected. An “isolation law” sponsored by the Brothers, which purges from public office senior officials who served under Qaddafi, has provoked riots and attacks on the Brotherhood’s offices. Pessimists are starting to fear that Libya may go the way of Egypt.