Dividing Libya mooted as solution to conflict

2011-08-13 14:47

The division of Libya into two regions – one ruled by Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and another by the rebel grouping – is being proposed in diplomatic circles as a way to end hostilities in the war-torn North African country.

South African government officials said outright the solution would fly in the face of the roadmap which the African Union (AU) has proposed as a solution, while European diplomats, especially those whose countries have been in support of the rebels, say this has been on the table from the start of the war, now entering its sixth month.

Said one: “It has been there from the start. We think it is a big risk if the country were to split, because the people on either side might still not be able to decide for themselves. And then you didn’t get rid of Gaddafi.”

Issaka Souare, a researcher at the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), said before 1952, when Libya gained independence, it was divided into three regions.

“After independence they united these three regions, but if you look closely the flag the rebels have now is the flag of the old kingdom of Benghazi,” he said.

If each side has access to the Mediterranean Sea and access to oil, a division may be the solution, according to Souare.

“The military situation is at a stalemate and it is clear Nato went beyond its mandate. So this may be a way out.”
The disbandment of the cabinet of the Transitional National Council this week sparked fears that divisions in the rebel camp have reached a new peak.

In Britain these fears were partly waylaid by the opening of a Libyan embassy under rebel rule in London. “That sort of indicates where we stand. We are not too worried,” a British diplomat said.

“It is not a source of worry for us, we think it is a source of hope that someone in Libya is organising and we trust the leadership to be able to manage things internally,” another diplomat concurred.

Souare, however, feels there is reason for concern. “The rebels are only united against Gaddafi, for the rest they are a fragmented unit with various interests,” he says.

According to Souare the assassination of rebel leader Abdel Fatah Younes has brought to the fore the divisions within the rebels, which gives Gaddafi the upper hand in the conflict.

“Many people want to see the back of Gaddafi but with the rebels in the state they are, removing Gaddafi does not guarantee peace or stability,” Souare said.

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