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The failure of Libya

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  1. Greece, Carthago and the bases of two Libya entities
  2. The Roman era
  3. Islamization and Arabization of Libya
  4. From the Ottoman era to the Italian colonization
  5. The path to independence
  6. The rule of Gadhafi
  7. From the Arab Spring to the dismantling of Libya

While studying the situation in Libya, we are facing a case that is really different from the other failed states. Contrary to Irak or Syria, there is no ethnic differences. Libyans are, like most people from North Africa, a mixed people made of Amazigh and Arabs. Contrary to Irak, Syria or Yemen, Libya is a religiously homogeneous country, with Sunni Islam as the dominant religion. Actually, the failure of the Libyan nation-state is due to historical and cultural differences between the West and the East of the country.

[...] For the first time in history, Tripoli faced an American intervention because of piracy. In the XIXth century, the Ottomans took back Libya in order to use it as a strategic place to face European colonialism in Africa. The Ottomans separated the country into two provinces, Tripolitania and Cyrenaica again. The Ottoman power in Cyrenaica was appointed to the San?siyya, an Islamic brotherhood. To fight the Europeans and the Southern tribes, the Ottomans totally delegated their power to the San?siyya in Cyrenaica, to focus on Tripolitania. [...]


[...] This new dynasty appeared in Kabylia. They adopted the Ismailian Shiite religion, in order to face the arabisation of North Africa. Under the banner of a self-proclaimed mahd?, Ubayd Allah, they conquered Tripolitania in 913 and Cyrenaica in 914. Cyrenaica would become the basis for the future invasions of Egypt by the Fatimids. Libya was at the time the center of the Fatimid Empire, even after the conquest of Egypt. However, under the rule of al-Hakim (996 - 1021), the Fatimids began to lose their Western part, with the Umayyad Abu Rakwa who led an army of Amazigh and Arabs from Tripolitania. [...]


[...] The conquest of North Africa by the Arabs was a very long process. The local tribes resisted for a long time, even though they converted to Islam. In Tripolitania, a small kingdom, led by Abu al-Khattab then by al-Malzuzi, adopted the khariji ibadi sect of Islam (the one who is still dominant in Oman nowadays) and managed to face the Caliphate from 757 to 772. They are finally submitted by Yazid Ibn Hatim who is named governor of Ifriqiyya, that is to say modern Tunisia and Tripolitania. [...]


[...] At this time, two majors political visions of the future of Libya emerged. On the one hand, people calling for a unitary republic. On the other hand, Cyrenaican tribes who pledged allegiance to Idris al- Sanusi as their king. The Emirate of Cyrenaica was recognized by the British in 1949. The British, due to their colonial experience, called for the creation of two states in Libya, taking this cultural dichotomy in consideration. The San?siyya was also opposed to the institution of a one nation-state. [...]


[...] Actually, Idris did not want to be king of Libya. As the emir of Cyrenaica, he only wanted to rule Cyrenaica. He settled the capital city of Libya in al-Baida, historical center of the San?siyya. To ensure a good representation of all the country, he appoints a Tripolitanian, Mahmud am-Muntasir, as Prime minister. This is the first experience of a unique state, and it failed. This kingdom hesitated between federalism and unitarism, the administration did not manage to function correctly, the tax system failed, and the state suffered from a very strong lack of legitimacy. [...]

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