The Impact of Geography and Demography on the Conflict and the Solution in Libya

August 05, 2016

Ismail Rashad

In a previous article, I have pointed out the role of religion and the social group in the struggle for power in Libya. In this article, I assume that any scientist in Libyan social and political history concludes that the struggle for power in Libya is, from another perspective, objectively related to geography, upon which the modern State of Libya has been built up with its borders as known today. Besides, it is where demographic groups have been living with disagreements among each other on common logic and style of living due to objective reasons, as they have been disagreeing since the first days of independence.

In terms of sociology, politics, administration and economy, the modern Libyan state was not a complete product of domestic factors in Libya although their initial features existed in a manner that do not correspond with the modern definition of a state / country. During its two periods of rule which began in the 16th century, the Ottomans did not succeed in building a national Libyan identity as a basis for a modern state later, neither did the Alqurmanlih family which ruled the country between the periods of the Ottmomans.


It might be the case that Libya's features that emerged after the independence in 1951 began to take shape during the Italian occupation due to two reasons: first, the fight against the sole occupant, where the population of the three regions of Tripoli (Tripolitania), Barqa (Cyrenaica) and Fezzan participated in resistance although it was a separate participation in most stages. Second, the decisions issued by the occupation on how to deal with a single Libya according to the geography that shaped the borders of modern Libya in the thirties of the twentieth century. Thus, these two factors launched the beginning of the establishment of the well-known Libya, at least from the point of view of law and in accordance with the theoretical definitions of modern politics.

Being the most important basis to create stabilized political conditions in any country, as it includes administration and economy patterns, social history in Libya had not completed its constructive path to create a modern state that is subject to the terms and definitions of a modern state. The reasons for that are related to the fact that the founders of the Libyan state have not reach agreements through negotiations and discussions, but rather ended up with a social and political contract which resulted in a national identity. Henceforth, it has become a basis for comprehensive socialization programs to form national character. The huge size of modern Libya, the non-integration of all of its demographic components of this sprawling space, and the intervention of external factors, did not allow social and economic development which creates an agreed upon political identity. The failure of the founding generation to reach the logic and patterns of coexistence might be due to their focus on the priority of independence from the occupation and on rescuing Libya from entering the tunnel of a long British/ French Mandate.

The people of the city of Tripoli in particular have formed social trends and economic activities for themselves that are not linked to regions, cities and rural areas of Barqa, especially in Derna, Ajdabia and later on Benghazi. Tripoli was associated with either piracy and maritime trade, or land trade with Fezzan along with an ongoing social and economic activity with neighboring Tunisia. Politically, Tripoli was subject to two patterns of administration, an external Turkish one or a local administration represented by the councils of elders.

In contrast, the movement of trade and social relations was active between Barqa and Egypt's border areas which has created a permanent market for the surplus of grain and livestock that is sold by Barqa tribes in the north and south-east in Matruh, Sidi Barrani and other Egyptian areas. Also, the tribes moved from Barqa to Egypt and vice versa, which is continuing until the present time.

Fezzan was socially and economically associated with areas from Chad, Niger and Northern Sudan. Some in the south-west were associated with the areas from the adjacent Algeria. As a result of the widening demographic vacuum between the three regions as well as the lack of infrastructure, transport and communication, it was not easy to perform any economic, agricultural, industrial, commercial, or social activities relations. Neither it was easy to create social relations between people in these three regions unless in some cases where trade routes were essential to re-settle some people from Barqa in Fezzan in particular.



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