Libya on the Verge of Civil War

Worshippers in Libya, mourning the dead and looking to a brighter future.

Unrest and protest seem to be swiftly turning to outright civil war and rebellion in Libya, the North African country that seems likely to be the third to topple in the wave of protests sweeping the Arab world and North Africa. Unlike the other countries in which major protests have occurred or are occurring, Libya’s uprising has been an extremely bloody one, with Colonel Moammar Qaddafi using brutal and heartless attacks on his own people in an effort to hold onto power.

Following Friday Prayers in Tripoli, thousands of protestors poured out of mosques and stormed the streets in another concerted effort against Qaddafi. After a short while of marching, they were fired on by Qaddafi’s men and supporters, and at least several were killed or injured in the shooting. Qaddafi has begun turning the capital city of Tripoli into a stronghold of his remaining power and support, even as more eastern cities like Benghazi and Tobruk have fallen completely out of his control.

This has created a tense state of affairs in Libya, to say the very least. The rebellion has been building in the eastern cities of Libya, particularly Benghazi, and Qaddafi has been building up his defenses in the capital of Tripoli. This seems to me to be the beginning of the civil war that Qaddafi’s son said would come to pass if the Libyan people didn’t comply with the government, but the people seem ready and willing to fight it.

The network of protests, staged all across the country but focused in the east primarily, have begun to coalesce into what seems to be a greater revolutionary movement committed to opposing Col. Qaddafi and any of his allies. Many signs seem to be indicating that the opposition movement toward Qaddafi is more of a full-scale rebellion than an uprising, and there’s evidence that the war against his authoritarian regime is not going to be fought with words and political pressure, as was seen in Tunisia and Egypt, but with rocket launchers and automatic weapons.

Early on Friday, a speech delivered by Qaddafi (see 4th paragraph) attempted to galvanize the nation’s youth to defend their nation. Going so far as to say “Every individual will be armed,” he reiterated his intention to hold onto power no matter what. Qaddafi has given no signs of flexibility or even a pretense of reform to his people since the struggles in Libya began on the 15th, and because of this, the people have taken their protest to another level.

Since the city of Benghazi fell to the rebellion last Sunday, it almost seems as if two separate countries are taking shape within Libya. In fact, an opposition government is already taking form in Benghazi, as lawyers, judges, police, and defected military officers patch together a new, informal government in a city of more than 600,000. There’s still a lot of suspicion in the city, as it has become the epicenter of the rebellion against Qaddafi.

To me, it looks like Libya is in great danger of splintering into two countries, at least in a de facto sense. Rebel forces have taken almost complete control of the eastern parts of the country, and Qaddafi continues to centralize his power in Tripoli and surrounding areas. A number of prominent military leaders have joined the rebellion, offering their weapons, troops, and tactics. In fact, one leader, Colonel Tarek Saad Hussein, is purportedly leading an attack on Tripoli soon with a fairly substantial strike force armed with weapons expropriated from Qaddafi.

At this point, it really seems as if both sides are gearing up for a new level of conflict resolution of a kind waged with weaponry instead of words. Rebels talk of raids and attacks on Tripoli, and Qaddafi has sent veritable death squads into neighboring towns to try and clear out rebels. Time will only tell how this will resolve itself, but I’m sure that much more blood will be spilled before Libya quiets down.

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