Imperatives for Post-Conflict Reconstruction in Libya

Content from the Brookings Doha Center is now archived. In September 2021, after 14 years of impactful partnership, Brookings and the Brookings Doha Center announced that they were ending their affiliation. The Brookings Doha Center is now the Middle East Council on Global Affairs, a separate public policy institution based in Qatar.


Having endured for four decades, the political system of Jamahiriya – or ‘state of the masses’ – created by Colonel Muammar al-Qaddafi, has resulted in Libya having a unique political dynamic. Its growth has been stunted in many ways, as it lacks political parties, civil society organisations, trade unions, economic associations and even a unified army. When he led the coup that brought him to power in 1969, Qaddafi exploited the fact that the country had two capitals, Tripoli and Benghazi, claiming that he wanted to take power from King Idris al-Sanousi, who was accused of favouring the eastern part of Libya. Ironically, Qaddafi himself meant to marginalise that same region, particularly Benghazi, hoping to centralise his power and government in Tripoli. It is not surprising, therefore, that this year’s uprising began in the east, with its hub in Benghazi.

The confirmed killing of Qaddafi and his two sons Muatasim and Saif al-Arab, and the fleeing of the rest of his family, represents an end of an era of autocracy for Libya. Libyans now face new challenges – in particular, the reconstruction of a war-torn country and the building of institutions that never existed under Qaddafi’s heavy-handed rule. While military force was necessary to oust Qaddafi, a successful recons»truction process requires a different set of methods, approaches and philosophies. Libyans are encouraged not to rush this process, as rebuilding the nation will be arduous and complicated, for two reasons. The first is the extent of reconstruction required, as the former regime left behind a society that requires rehabilitation in almost all areas of education, health, economics and infrastructure.

Second, several competing priorities exist, and identifying the starting points for the country’s rehabilitation will be challenging for Libyans and the international community alike. Beginning this process correctly is crucial. For an effective launching of a national reconstruction process, Libyans as well as the international community should take into consideration certain imperatives for rebuilding a war-torn Libya. These imperatives include ownership, legitimacy, inclusion, reconciliation and capitalising on tribalism.

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