Libya French embassy attack 370.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Ismail Zitouny)
The eastern region of Libya, Cyrenaica, is exhibiting a growing desire for
Since the Western-led military operation in Libya in
2011 and the fall of the country’s ruler Muammar Gaddafi, the country has fallen
into chaos and violence.
Leaders of an autonomous movement in the
country’s oil-rich east unilaterally declared the formation of a regional
government on Sunday, challenging the weak central government.
announcement is a symbolic blow to efforts by the Tripoli government desiring to
reopen eastern oil ports and fields. Militias and tribes have been blocking
these since the summer, demanding a greater share of power and of the oil
Without a strong leader or military force to control the militias
and internal fighting, the country has become increasingly dangerous, even for
the nominally elected leadership.
The latter does not control much
outside of the capital, Tripoli. Last month, Prime Minister Ali Zeidan was
kidnapped from the well-guarded Corinthia Hotel in the capital where he lived,
but was later released.
Foreign embassies have been attacked and weapons
belonging to the army have been looted. The borders in the southern region are
porous and the central government does not effectively control its own
territory. In addition, al-Qaida and other radical Islamic groups are taking
advantage of the vacuum to make advances.
Libya, a failed state, is
surrounded by other failed states such as Chad, Niger, and Sudan, not to mention
Egypt, which is trying to put down an Islamist insurgency.
Ronen of the political science department at Bar-Ilan University, and an expert
on Libya, told The Jerusalem Post in an interview that the breakup of the Libyan
state is an option, but not necessarily in the immediate future.
option, she said, is a fullfledged civil war. The central government cannot
afford to lose the huge territory of eastern Libya, where roughly 60 percent of
the country’s oil and gas is concentrated.
If Cyrenaica is able to
fortify its autonomy, it could lead to a domino effect, said Ronen, adding that
other areas in the country, such as the southern desert region of Fezzan, could
However, the southern region is not nearly as motivated as
eastern Libya, she said, noting that this is because eastern Libya was the
cradle of the national struggle against Italian colonialism.
It is also
where the kingdom of Libya was declared in 1951, and is home to several powerful
tribes as well as the stronghold of Islamist movements.
Eastern Libya has
been politically and economically neglected and deprived for four decades. Now
the country is in chaos, with eastern tribes and the armed militias blocking oil
“People in this area say, ‘We are sitting on major gas and oil
reserves, so let’s take for ourselves what we deserve and end the socioeconomic
morass,’” said Ronen.
“In fact these demands are just a symptom of a
broader phenomenon in the Middle East and its margins in the Sahel region, where
separatist demands have dramatically increased since the onset of the Arab
uprisings,” she asserted.
Ronen went on to say that in the region there
is Mali, where a Tuareg independence movement sought to create a new state in
the north of the country called Azawad in 2012. In 2011, South Sudan gained
In 1993, Eritrea gained independence from Ethiopia and of
course, there is the civil war in Syria, which could also lead to divisions in
Reuters contributed to this report.