Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 07/2012

Libya's Troubled Transition

Amanda Kadlec, Paul Salem

June 2012

Carnegie Endowment for International Peace


More than a year after the outbreak of the uprising against Muammar Qaddafi’s rule, Libya is in the midst of a challenging transition. Qaddafi is dead, his forty-two-year-old regime overthrown, and the country liberated. And now Libyans are laying the groundwork for elections that will start their country on the path to a new constitution. But absent are state institutions to manage the transition, security services to keep the peace, and sufficient national unity to ensure a safe transition. The National Transitional Council laid out a timetable for transition, but its legitimacy among the public is weak. What is more, it lacks the institutional infrastructure to ensure the timely and successful implementation of its own road map. Adding to the tension are tens of thousands of armed revolutionaries refusing to give up their weapons until their various needs are attended to and repeated outbreaks of fighting between a range of tribal and militia groups settling scores from the recent past or battling over turf. And the country remains deeply fragmented along regional lines. The numerical strength of the westerners of Tripolitania is tensely balanced against the revolutionary force of the eastern region of Cyrenaica—which includes the rebel stronghold of Benghazi—and the divided southern tribes of Fezzan.