The brief abduction of Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan Thursday was the latest sign, if such a sign were needed, that two years after the revolution that toppled Moammar Gadhafi the country increasingly appears as a failed state.
Coming days after U.S. commandoes snatched a senior Al-Qaeda figure from the streets of Tripoli, a move condemned by the government, and Zeidan, but a step which, he said, would ultimately not affect Libyan- U.S. relations. It was perhaps this embarrassment that led to Zeidan’s pre-dawn kidnapping.
But the fact that Abu Anas al-Libi was able to stroll through the capital, without fearing the authorities, should also be embarrassing to Libya, and its rulers.
No one can deny that Gadhafi left his country in a complete mess, with few functioning state systems and little competent infrastructure.
However, in the two years since his toppling the situation has not only not improved, but it has gone from bad to worse.
With foreign embassies being targeted, and senior police figures killed routinely, the country looks virtually lawless. Militias – such as the one which kidnapped Zeidan – are becoming more and more powerful: They are able to influence government policy and direct top level decision making. And there does not seem to be much in the way of accountability – crimes of all degrees are carried out without fear of punishment. Small and large arms proliferate, and continue to pour in through the country’s meaningless borders, and there have been no meaningful attempts at disarmament or demilitarization.
If these myriad problems are not dealt with soon, the situation will only disintegrate further, and the “state” of Libya as we know it will cease to exist. Following Somalia – or Iraq – it might possibly become divided, split up between competing tribes and militias.
Those in central government must act quickly to create a functioning state, one which not only punishes such criminal activity, but deters it. No longer can they continue to reward, and work alongside, those very individuals and groups who are making life so difficult for so many other civilians. Disarmament needs to be real and genuine, with incentives provided, and opportunities created for those who choose to abandon life as a full-time militant.
The countries which leapt behind the Libyan revolution, and supported it militarily, must now step up, and do their part to help Libya create a strong, representative government.
It is now all too clear that the overthrow of the Gadhafi regime was not sufficiently supported at the time, and despite NATO backing, militarily, for the revolution, there was a gross lack of parallel political assistance, allowing for a safe and stable transition to a new government. That phase has been denied the Libyan people, but it is not too late.