Libya is less well known by its
full title of the Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya. Bordering the
Mediterranean sea, the area now known as Libya has a rich past. More recently in
the first decades of the twentieth century the area was known as Italian North
Africa, however between 20-50% of the local population died in a struggle
against Italy for independence.
In 1947 Italy relinquished all claims to Libya
with the lands being administered by the French and British until independence
was secured in 1951 under King Idris al-Sanusi.
Oil was discovered in 1959 and turned a poor
country into a rich one, but, as ever, that wealth did not cascade
down to the lower echelons of society remaining firmly within the
grasp of the ruling elite. In 1969 King Idris travelled to Turkey
for medical treatment and on 1st September a military coup led by
Muammar al-Gaddafi ousted him in his absence.
Idris's nephew was briefly proclaimed king before being placed
under house arrest, the monarchy abolished and the Libyan Arab
Republic being declared with one Muammar al-Gaddafi at its head,
who went on to become Africa's longest serving leader before his
instituted a one-man, harsh regime tolerating no dissent and promoted himself as
a cult figure. He was known to fund terrorist campaigns such as the IRA, and
had, as yet, undefined links to atrocities such as the Lockerbie bombing.
However in the
late 1990s, amid growing concern at his development of weapons of mass
destruction, attempts were made to bring him back within the international fold,
which were seemingly successful despite achieving little change for the people
of Libya themselves by way of creating a society more in tune with their
aspirations rather than the demands of their leader.
During the Lilac Dawn across the
Arab World in the spring of 2011, civil unrest started in Tunisia then spread
rapidly to Egypt, seeing the fall of both regimes. Realising that the reign of
dictators could be ended by mass popular revolt, this uprising also erupted in
Libya, however with initially less clear results. Whilst the rulers of Tunisia and
Egypt, after some strong resistance, accepted the inevitable strength of the
people's will and went into exile, Muammar al-Gaddafi surrounded by his family
cabal, declared that he would rather die than leave Libya, and would be prepared
to kill any of his own people who opposed him.
The country then effectively entered into a civil war; a civil war
that initially ended with Gaddafi's death and the installation of a National Transitional
Council that pledged to hold elections within eight months. Elections were then
held on 7th July 2012, and the NTC handed over power to the newly elected
General national Congress on 8th August whose role it now is to draft a new
constitution for Libya and have it ratified by a future referendum. Since
then collective responsibility appears to have broken down with the country in
the midst of tribal warfare.