AFRICANGLOBE – Though oil and business have started to flow again, the Libyan revolution has left unfinished business in the region.
As a majority of Libyans celebrated the second anniversary of the uprising in Benghazi that overthrew Muammar Gaddafi, neighbours and allies were reflecting on how the revolution had impacted the wider region.
Much of the focus is concentrated on the politics of Libya’s heavily populated north and the centres of its vital oil and gas industry.
But analysis of Libya’s revolution and its aftermath is just as pertinent in the sparsely populated south, where terrorist gangs and discontented communities are vying for influence and scarce resources.
Nowhere is the impact of political change up north more apparent than in Mali, where the flow of weapons out of Libya made a major contribution to the victories of the Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Ansar Dine and Mouvement pour l’Unicité et le Jihad en Afrique de l’Ouest alliance.
Neither is it just illicit arms flows that have emerged out of revolutionary Libya: Gaddafi’s self-promotion as master and saviour of his so-called Jamahiriya’s southern deserts created a volatile dynamic – sometimes sowing conflict, with groups like the Toubou and Tuareg clans, while at others distributing jobs and other largesse.
Libya has enjoyed positive developments in the past two years: it has held together as a unified country and its government was appointed following surprisingly successful elections; and oil production is resuming and entrepreneurs are trying to make businesses work.
But security remains a major issue, with militias failing to integrate into an effective national security structure and, in some cases, involved in damaging conflicts, as with the stand-off that in early March cut off the strategically important supply of gas to Europe from Mellitah.
Areas of the Libyan south are also volatile, including persistent tensions in Ghadames and the wider area between local Tuareg and Ghadamsi (Arab/Berber) populations.
Since the Amenas attack in Algeria in January, Algeria’s military and security leadership has redoubled efforts to reinforce borders.
Pointing to the perceived danger, Tunisia’s most celebrated soldier, General Rachid Ammar, postponed his scheduled retirement as chief of staff.
Neither are other neighbours happy. Qatar has been embarrassed by the extent to which arms it funded have found their way to Arab terrorist in the desert – the reason why Washington was so loath to sanction it supplying arms to Syrian rebels.
Spillover from the Libyan revolution needs to be understood if stability is to be restored to Mali and the wider Sahara-Sahel region.
By: John Marks