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Freed of Gaddafi, Libya's instability only deepens

Libya may not face literal fragmentation, but it could be doomed to years of instability as it recovers from four decades of rule under Gaddafi, who pitted neighbor against neighbor, town against town and tribe against tribe.

Illegal African migrants and suspected mercenaries stand in a prison in Gherian, Libya. AP

04 Mar 02:30 am IST

     

A large map of Libya hangs on the wall in the home of Idris al-Rahel, with a line down the middle dividing the country in half.

Al-Rahel, a former army officer, leads a movement to declare semiautonomy in eastern Libya, where most of the country's oil fields are located. The region's top tribal leaders meet Tuesday in the east's main city Benghazi to consider unilaterally announcing an eastern state, linked to the west only by a tenuous "federal union."

Opponents fear such a declaration could be the first step toward outright dividing the country. But some easterners say they are determined to end the domination and discrimination by the west that prevailed under dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

Al-Rahel points to the capital Tripoli on the map, in the west. "All troubles came from here," he said, "but we will not permit this to happen again."

The move shows how six months after Gadhafi's fall, the central government in Libya has proved incapable of governing at all. Other countries that shed their leaders in the Arab Spring revolts - Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen - are going through rocky transitions, but none has seen a collapse of central authority like Libya. The collapse has only worsened as cities, towns, regions, militias and tribes all act on their own, setting up their independent power centers.

After liberation from the rule of Gadhafi, Libyans dreamed their country of 6 million could become another Dubai - a state with a small population, flush with petro-dollars, that is a magnet for investment. Now they worry that it is turning more into another Somalia, a nation that has had no effective government for more than 20 years.

Libya may not face literal fragmentation, but it could be doomed to years of instability as it recovers from four decades of rule under Gadhafi, who pitted neighbor against neighbor, town against town and tribe against tribe. The resentment and bitterness he incubated is now bursting forth in general....
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