Libya and #AlgerianAftermath

Libya’s and Algeria’s aftermath since Gaddhafi’s removal includes a shared border.

In Washington, DC, the Arab awakening and uprising discussions primarily focus on Tunisia and Egypt…and sometimes Libya.  Yemen’s successful ouster of its leader, President Ali Abdullah Saleh, has largely gone unnoticed because of its lackluster economic ties to industrialized countries.  Although the U.S. and Yemen do not share strong economic ties, their relationship is characterized by security interests in the form of a U.S. fleet off Bahrain, bases in Saudi Arabia, and a large concern for militant groups hanging around Red Sea.

The 2011 revolution started in response to corruption, poor governance, rising prices, unemployment and poverty, and there has been no discernible improvement in any of these areas. Half of the roughly 26 million people who live in Yemen do so under the poverty line. Around 60 per cent of Yemen’s children suffer from malnutrition, while 70 per cent of families need assistance from the government and international organisations.

But even regarding Libya, the flavor of discussion tastes anything but sweet given the U.S. experience with subsequent bombings and the increasing role of Libya militias in and around Misrata and Benghazi.  Again, Libya rises in the U.S., British Italian, and French consciousness because of its security and oil issues.  Note though: despite U.S. experiencing the downside of security challenges via civilian losses in Benghazi, the British, Italian and French have resurfaced to some extent in Libya to capitalize on Libya’s oil and gas industries.  Recently, Tunisia’s Foreign Minister called upon Libyan Authorities to act urgently since two Tunisian journalists were abducted.

Nonetheless, let’s explore the “Arab aftermath” in Libya. (Below, we’ll look at neighboring Algeria, which borders two countries that overthrew its leadership in their respective Arab Uprising experiences.)  Despite European countries’ return to Libya for diplomatic and economic reasons, Turkey evacuated its mission from Libya in early January due to their intelligence warning of attacks.  At a time Libya is calling for foreign direct investment, which is arguably a way to rebuild in its aftermath, it is a bit difficult to do when security is perceived as ‘dangerous’.  Consequently, billions of Turkish investment is at stake in Libya.

Construction projects worth $19 billion have been mothballed by Turkish firms because of the fighting, according to the Turkey Contractors’ Association. 

As Turkey evacuates, a few U.S. think tanks ask: What about Libya in 2015?  Former Ambassador Mack, consultant Jason Peck, and Libya scholar, Karim Mezran thought out loud about Libya in this frame “The Scramble for Oil and Scenarios for Transition”.  Mezran illustrated a few Libya scenarios:

  • partition — worst case
  • military win by 1 side — highly unlikely
  • Intervention.

Yet, Ambassador Mack stressed caution before urging the U.S  to promise engagement with Libya.  At the same time, getting towards stronger security must consider how Libya undertakes its national reconciliation process– a shared concern that both Tunisia and Egypt are dealing with as well.  As one commenter warned, “avoid Iraq’s de-Ba’athification mistake,” and asked: What’s the extent to which Qaddafi era officials participate?  The key to national reconciliation is not blacklisting every Qaddhafi regime era official because 1) not each official was complicit to the same degree, and 2) divisiveness among leadership will further embolden militias.

Aside from security challenges, an oil analyst warned about the Dutch Disease phenomena–where natural resource wealth increases economic development but decreases its manufacturing and agricultural production as a result of increase in currency value.  One way to rectify Dutch Disease is for Libya to redistribute its oil revenue as a lump sum and divide it across each citizen to spend or invest as they will.  We want to know why many Libyan sitting in the room responded with with shaking their heads ‘No’.  Why? Because it worked to some extent in Norway, a non Arab country? Or because they do not trust a power to carry out this redistribution package?

Algeria Aftermath

Libya’s Arab Uprising may have produced an upside for its neighbor Algeria’s political and military actors.  According to a panel held at the U.S. based think tank, New America Foundation:

Despite border problems, it broke Algeria’s state monopoly of violence…~Hannah Rae Armstrong

At the same time oil prices have plummeted below even below $50, Algeria is experiencing decreasing government revenue.   In response, the Algerian Prime Minister placed a freeze on public sector employment.

As a sidenote, unemployment levels are not as high in Algeria as in Morocco, but this freeze will not bode well if non-oil sectors do not emerge.  There is no tourism industry in Algeria–so that sector is not going to offer any short to medium term solutions.

Armstrong interviewed Algerians regarding changes in Algeria since 2011.  One Algerian related to her that “
Head of Algeria intelligence services is like God: Everywhere and nowhere at once.”  Crises on the borders help Algerians stay together because it is evidence of what happens when you don’t, says Armstrong.

The thing is: Armstrong focused on police and military culture, and its impact on civil society in Algeria.  However, conducting interviews in Algeria is no easy task as interviewees may not feel comfortable sharing all their views–even for academic scholarship.  So, we at PITAPOLICY humbly disagree with Armstrong’s conclusion that Algeria’s aftermath– since Libya’s uprising — translates as a success for the Algerian leadership.  Yes, Libya may be more “unstable” since getting rid of Gaddhafi, which makes Algeria look even more stable.  But stability is a goalpost (and argument) used by authoritarian leadership and oil companies.


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Filed under Analysis, PIDE (Policy, International Development & Economics), Politics

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