The civil war in Libya seems to be a distant memory to most of us, particularly in the wake of the Syrian uprisings; to the unaffected Western spectator, the Middle East and Africa is just one long civil war. The location may change, however the results remain the same. However, at present, Libya is experiencing a change of such magnitude that it will influence the course of the country, irrevocably. The situation after the war is the one that matters to the Foreign Office; we depend on a country’s stability and post-war success to shape our own policies.
Libya is currently being controlled by the interim government, the NTC (National Transitional Council), who took de facto control in the aftermath of the governmental collapse. The transitional council is formed of anti-Gaddafi revolutionaries, who are currently aiming to restore democratic function to the country, including planning for elections of an official government by the middle of the year.
The presence of this government seems to be merely a formality, however to the people of Libya, it represents freedom that they had previously been without; under Gaddafi’s rule, political parties, and anti-governmental publications were banned, and monitored by the “wishwasha”, or secret police. Today, hundreds of new magazines, pressure groups and welfare organisations have sprung up across the capital. Gaddafi’s slogans and portraits have been removed; the process of “de-nazification” seems to have occurred in Libya, practically overnight.
In situations of massive coup d’états, little consideration is given to the positive elements of a dictatorship; in Gaddafi’s case, it seems only prudent to mention his contribution, to this cultural liberation that Libya seems to be experiencing. Under Gaddafi’s rule, literacy in Libya rose to 82% of the population, which remains to be the highest in Africa. The life expectancy of the average Libyan rose from 57 to 77, as a result of the free healthcare system. These investments were made possible by the exploitation of Libyan oil reserves; in the 1980s, at the height of Gaddafi’s rule, the GDP of the nation was greater than that of Italy.
At this point then, it is possible to argue that although Libya is currently in a state of political disarray, and economically has been severely limited as a result of administrative failure in recent years, Gaddafi did provide his populace with skills that inevitably contributed to their ability to rise against their dictator, and displace him, beginning a cultural revolution and subsequently, a new period in Libyan history. Mass literacy means that people are able to begin writing magazines; the manmade river ensures that they will be alive and healthy enough to be able to protest against their leader. It is impossible to condone Gaddafi’s actions whilst he was in power; the most heinous of which was perhaps mass indoctrination by propaganda. However, despite these misgivings, the people of Libya now have education, which is something that can never be sanctioned by the United Nations, or removed under new political systems.