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Libya

Sekondi Accra

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) backed rebel uprising that began in February 2011 which saw the emergence of media outlets affiliated with opponents of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's forty-year reign has been successful. Colonel Gaddafi was reportedly killed just outside of his hometown of Sirte on October 20, 2011. The new regime, headed by Mustafa Abdul Jalil, now controls radio stations, newspapers and websites along with Libya TV - a Qatar based satellite station. The National Transitional Council (NTC) is presently the country's recognized government. It must be remembered that Gaddafi was clearly regarded with suspicion by western powers who were responsible, through (NATO) for the April 29, 2011 drone attack that killed his youngest son (Saif-al Arab, 29) and three grandchildren. Gaddafi espoused the doctrine of Pan Africanism which some political observers state he adopted as a result of the failure of his previous Pan Arabism philosophy. This coupled with an effort to become an influential player in managing the political landscape of Africa, in particular in its Sahara/Sahel region, placed the general in a precarious positon with western powers. His influence was substantial in the following countries: Central African Republic, Chad, Liberia, Mali, Somalia and Sudan. These nations have at least two things in common: they are destitute and politically unstable. The west accused Gaddafi of meddling in the affairs of the aforementioned countries. Gadaffi's Libya, it should be noted, also contributed to the African Union by providing up to 15% of its budget. The NTC will probably not continue the funding.

Before the current hostilities, Libya was beginning to gain acceptance back into the international community which came when the UN lifted sanctions in 2003. Before protests for a more democratic government began in early 2011, Tripoli was in the process of consolidating its economic and political relations with foreign allies. Gaddafi's efforts to transform the African Union into an intergovernmental institution with real power has not been accepted with much enthusiam by African leaders. In July 2010, relations between Switzerland and Libya improved with the release of Swiss businessman Max Goeldi. This concluded a diplomatic incident that started when Gadaffi's son, Hannibal, and his wife were detained in Geneva bringing a period of increased tension and a Libiyan visa ban on Europeans in February and March (2010).

Gaddafi's wife and daughters have fled to Algeria and now that he is dead his son, Saif al-Isa, 38, may try to succeed him. He is seen as a reformist and interlocutor for foreign business interests. Saif is also the chairman of the Gaddafi Foundation and had a voice in decisions related to Libya's sovereign wealth fund. However, his influence over financial matters was severely compromised when the United States government froze all US and some foreign assets of the Gaddafi's.

In October of 2009, Saif refused an official government post, claiming that democracy was his main condition for accepting any office. As chairman of the Gaddifi Foundation, Saif promotes human rights in Libya. In March 2010, he negotiated the release of 202 prisoners, including 34 Libiyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) members, after some senior LIFG fiercely opposed Colonel Muammar Gaddafi in the 1990s. However, with the Gaddafi government being accused of outright murder of Libiyan potesters, Saif's humanitarian stance is viewed as somewhat hypocritical by many western foreign analysts. Furthermore, Saif faced coniderable resistance from the conservative establishment and from his brother al-Mu'atassim. Needless to say, the struggle between conservatives and reformist has been placed on hold as the world community and Libya decides the fate of its present government.

Shukri Ghanem, considered close to Saif, is once again leading the National Oil Corporation (NOC) after tendering his resignation in August 2009. In March 2010, a government attempt to draft a new law for the energy sector created a disagreement between conservatives, who wanted stricter conditions for foreign governments and reformists, who wanted to open up the market. In October 2009, Prime Minister al-Baghdadi Ali al-Mahmudi, close to al-Mu'atassim, was named head of the new Supreme Council for Energy Affairs. The government transferred to it some tasks previously assigned to the NOC, such as the power to negotiate contracts along with supervision of production and development goals. Ghanem assured oil companies that the new legislation would guarantee the sanctity of contracts. However, in light of the recent hostilities, Ghanem's promises appear to be premature.

Before the current disruption, Libya was Afica's third biggest oil producer after Angola and Nigeria. But as of early 2011 major oil corporations had not received real returns on their investments, despite several licensing rounds in areas thought to be promising. Instead gas development seems to be more propitious. The energy sector is the leading source of revenue, contributing 95% of export earnings and 25% of GDP.

Libya was only moderately affected by the global economic crisis. Growth slowed to 2% in 2009 due to the drop in petroleum prices and the lowering of OPEC production quotas. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimated strong growth in 2010, at 10.6%, and forecast growth of 6.2% in 2011 as demand for petroleum increased.

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The Libyan People's Bureau (embassy-equivalent) is located at 2600 Virginia Avenue NW, Suite 705, Washington DC 20037 (tel. 202-944-9601, fax 202-944-9603).
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