Join Friends of Pambazuka

Subscribe for Free!

Fahamu Bulletin Archive

About our Programmes

Donate to Pambazuka News!

Follow Us

delicious bookmarks facebook twitter

Pambazuka News

Latest titles from Pambazuka Press

African Sexualities

Earth Grab A Reader
Sylvia Tamale
A groundbreaking book, accessible but scholarly, by African activists. It uses research, life stories and artistic expression to examine dominant and deviant sexualities, and investigate the intersections between sex, power, masculinities and femininities
Buy now

Global NATO and the Catastrophic Failure in Libya

From Citizen to Refugee Horace Campbell
In this elegantly written and incisive account, scholar Horace Campbell investigates the political and economic crises of the early twenty-first century through the prism of NATO's intervention in Libya.
Buy now

Queer African Reader

Demystifying Aid Edited by Sokari Ekine, Hakima Abbas
A diverse collection of writing from across the continent exploring African LGBTI liberation: identity, tactics for activism, international solidarity, homophobia and global politics, religion and culture, and intersections with social justice movements. A richness of voices, a multiplicity of discourses, a quiverful of arguments. African queers writing for each other, theorising ourselves, making our ...more
Buy now

China and Angola

African Awakening A Marriage of Convenience?
Edited by Marcus Power, Ana Alves
This book focuses on the increased co-operation between Angola and China and shows that although relations with China might have bolstered regime stability and boosted the international standing of the Angolan government, China is not regarded as a long term strategic partner.
Buy now

How Europe Underdeveloped Africa

To Cook a ContinentWalter Rodney
Rodney shows how the imperial countries of Europe, and subsequently the US, bear major responsibility for impoverishing Africa. They have been joined in this exploitation by agents or unwitting accomplices both in the North and in Africa.
Buy now

Pambazuka News Broadcasts

Pambazuka broadcasts feature audio and video content with cutting edge commentary and debate from social justice movements across the continent.

See the list of episodes.


This site has been established by Fahamu to provide regular feedback to African civil society organisations on what is happening with the African Union.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License.


Libya could break up like Somalia

Samir Amin

2011-09-07, Issue 546

Bookmark and Share

Printer friendly version

There are 4 comments on this article.

cc I A A
The revolution in Libya, led by a motley group of democrats and Islamists and their imperialist allies, is likely to entrench the deep divisions in the country, writes Samir Amin, warning of the possibility of disintegration of the nation.

Libya is neither Tunisia nor Egypt. The ruling group (Gaddafi) and the forces fighting it are in no way analogous to their Tunisian and Egyptian counterparts. Gaddafi has never been anything but a buffoon, whose emptiness of thought was reflected in his notorious ‘Green Book’. Operating in a still-archaic society Gaddafi could indulge in successive ‘nationalist’ and ‘socialist’ speeches with little bearing on reality, and the next day proclaim himself a ‘liberal’.

He did so to ‘please the West’, as though the choice for liberalism would have no social effects. But it had and, as is commonplace, it worsened living conditions for the majority of Libyans. The oil rent which was widely redistributed became the target of small groups of the privileged, including the family of the leader. Those conditions then gave rise to the well-known explosion, which the country’s regionalists and political Islamists immediately took advantage of.

For Libya has never truly existed as a nation. It is a geographical region separating the Arab West from the Arab East (the Maghreb from the Mashreq). The boundary between the two goes right through the middle of Libya. Cyrenaica was historically Greek and Hellenistic before it became Mashreqian. Tripolitania, for its part, was Roman and became Maghrebian. Because of this, regionalism has always been strong in the country.

Nobody knows who the members of the National Transition Council in Benghazi really are. There may be democrats among them, but there are certainly Islamists, some among the worst of the breed, as well as regionalists. The president of the council is Mustafa Muhammad Abdeljelil, the judge who condemned the Bulgarian nurses to death and was rewarded by Gaddafi, who named him minister of justice from 2007 to February 2011. For that reason the prime minister of Bulgaria, Boikov, refused to recognise the council, but his argument was not given any follow up by the US and Europe.

From the outset ‘the movement’ in Libya took the form of an armed revolt fighting the army, rather than a wave of civilian demonstrations. And right away that armed revolt called NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) to its aid. Thus a chance for military intervention was offered to the imperialist powers.

Their aim is surely neither ‘protecting civilians’ nor ‘democracy’ but control over oilfields, underground water resources and acquisition of a major military base in the country. Of course, ever since Gaddafi embraced liberalism Western oil companies have had control over Libyan oil. But with Gaddafi nobody could be sure of anything. Suppose he were to switch sides tomorrow and start to play ball with the Indians and the Chinese? More important are the enormous underground water resources which could have been used to benefit the African Sahelian countries. Well-known French companies are interested in those resources (this is the reason for the early French involvement). They will use them in a more ‘profitable’ way to produce agro-fuels.

In 1969 Gaddafi demanded that the British and Americans leave the bases they had kept in the country since the Second World War. Currently the United States needs to find a place in Africa for its AFRICOM (the US military command for Africa, an important part of its alignment for military control over the world but which still has to be based in Stuttgart!). The African Union having rejected it, until now no African country has dared to do so. A lackey installed in Tripoli would surely comply with all the demands of Washington and its NATO lieutenants. That would be a direct menace to Egypt and Algeria.

Having said that, it remains difficult to imagine how the ‘new regime’ will behave. The possibility of a disintegration in the Somali pattern should not be excluded.


* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.

Readers' Comments

Let your voice be heard. Comment on this article.

Amin is a committed scholar but he is too blinded by Marxism. Marxian theory is social science not lab physics.

Because of this life long ideological commitment to Marxism Amin cannot see any other alternative for Africa. He arrogantly dismisses Gaddafi's ideas as if nothing but the tired and stale Marxian analyses could work. But Libya had the highest Human Development Index in Africa and was better in this regard than MOST nations of the South, China included. Yet he says nothing on that. Just blatantly hypocritical.

Amin dismisses Gaddafi as a buffoon--well most of the leaders are buffoons of sorts. Isn't Sarkozy a dwarf buffoon. And Berlusconi? A big time clown and buffoon. And Cameron? And that silly gangly buffoon.

The question is how can African nations develop? First in terms of basics such as life expectancy, health care, education/literacy, gender equality, etc. Libya was best in Africa on that. Better than other African nations like Gabon--under the thieving kleptocrat Ali Bongo, despicably corrupt and useless Nigeria, terribly corrupt and thieving Angola,vilely corrupt Equatorial Guinee, and maximally corrupt Algeria. Saudi Arabia and Kuwait have all the petroleum in the world and they are vile and wicked despotisms.

Gaddafi also worked for the AU, Nkrumah's brain child, etc, etc. Yet Amin in his blind adulation of Marx does not want to give Libya credit where it's due.

Sure Gaddafi's Libya has its corrupt elements but name a country where this is not the case. So which nation does Amin admire is his long career pushing a tired and dogmatic Marxism? North Korea? LOL. Cuba? Serious problems!, China? corrupt as hell. Vietnam? corrupt and dicatorial as hell.

So what is you want for Africa Mr. Amin?

kande souare

Bravo Samir and congrats! When a writing friend of mine bacame 90, he was given a new typewriter with 25 yrs guaratee. You need at least 50!
But wasn't/isn't this the idea how to break up Africa?
Small, easily "ruled" states with no money? I think there is an agenda behind - unmask this, pls!

Jan Wareus

You have not sufficiently explained how Libya will become like Somalia. However, i agree with most of what you write.
Also, consider that AFRICOM is only the sharp end of a typically misguided American adventure to greedily coral natural resources in Africa for itself. In this context, i do not think they will be able to host AFRICOM in Libya as that country will now remain unstable for years to come. More US and Western military forces in an Arab country will just be a magnet for Jihadists and the likes of Hezbollah.
On the other hand, i doubt that China will just stand by and let the US unfettered access to African resources, and i bet after observing Libyan and Ivorian military intervention by the West, there are now African countries willing to host a 'Chinese AFRICOM', even if only as an effective deterrent to Western aggression.

Tony (solo)

Good analysis- but he's wrong about Africom- several "African" countries would love to host it for the perceived military muscle (to put down internal insurrections) and 20 pieces of silver, but the US isn't keen on these states for various reasons.... I'm not sure that they'd want to locate it under a puppet Libyan regime?

Paul (self)

↑ back to top

ISSN 1753-6839 Pambazuka News English Edition

ISSN 1753-6847 Pambazuka News en Français

ISSN 1757-6504 Pambazuka News em Português

© 2009 Fahamu -