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Libya’s revolution

Brahimi, Alia (2011) Libya’s revolution. The Journal of North African Studies, 16 (4). pp. 605-624. ISSN 1362-9387

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Abstract

Mu'ammar al-Qadhafi's Libya was always supposed to be about people power. There was some irony, therefore, in the fact that the Qadhafi regime was brought to the brink of collapse by the sort of popular grassroots politics that the Libyan leader himself had rhetorically championed. Indeed, unlike the situation in Tunisia and Egypt, the Libyan rebellion appears to have resulted in a wholesale revolution. It was also more prolonged, and more violent. This paper explores three over-lapping factors to account for the difference between Libya and its neighbours. Firstly, the intense personalisation of politics in Libya ensured that, for the hardships and humiliations of the previous four decades, the buck stopped with Colonel Qadhafi himself. At the same time, the methodology of his long rule allowed for no chinks in the regime's armour – it had to be hegemony, or bust. Secondly, the fact that the colonel was able to adopt an iron-fisted approach to the demonstrators was linked, in important ways, to the tribal dynamics of his ‘stateless state’ – particularly those which underlay the security services. Finally, a pre-existing geographical tradition of resistance to centralised authority enabled the rebellion to develop as a credible force and sustain itself for six months, despite military setbacks. When the chips were down, Colonel Qadhafi could fall back on a small but robust network of (divided) tribal alliances, (divided) militias, (divided) regions and a (divided) family competing for his favour. Yet the divisions which he cultivated also provided succour to the millions of people who wished to oust him. The greatest challenge ahead for their representatives is to do away with informal spheres of power in Libya and to bring the political process out into the open.

Item Type: Article
Official URL: http://www.tandf.co.uk/journals/fnas
Additional Information: Special edition on North Africa's Arab Spring. © 2011 Taylor and Francis
Library of Congress subject classification: D History General and Old World > DT Africa
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
Sets: Research centres and groups > Civil Society and Human Security Research Unit
Rights: http://www.lse.ac.uk/library/usingTheLibrary/academicSupport/OA/depositYourResearch.aspx
Date Deposited: 23 Nov 2011 15:28
URL: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/39671/

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