LIBYA ANTE FACTO: State of Gaddafi Libya Pre-War by Adeyemi Oshunrinade


The era of Gaddafi is now over in Libya, the nation and its people have won the freedom they demanded for more than 40 years “poisoned” by the reign of Gaddafi and his family and to those with discontent for his dictatorial government, the war that brought an end to his reign is well worth it.

Libya Ante Facto, is not an attempt to show discord or disdain for NATO and its allies over the war in Libya; rather, as the title shows, the quest is to show the state of a nation before the fact that is, before the war and then to leave the reader to decide whether based on all facts the Libya of today is or would be better than the Libya of yesterday.

Libya as a North African nation is considered the fourth largest in Africa by area; it is the 17th largest in the world and home to about 6.4 million people. In 2009 the nation had the highest Human Development Index in Africa and the fourth highest GDP per Capital behind nations like: Seychelles, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon. The nation gets most of its revenue from oil and no wonder it is deemed to possess the 10th largest oil reserves in the world and the 17th highest petroleum production.

The discovery of oil and natural gas in Libya dates back to 1959; this led to a booming economy and a transformation of Libya from a poor country to the richest in Africa before the war of 2011. In fact, the World Bank defines Libya as an ‘Upper Middle Income Economy’, and in the 1980’s it was rated one of the wealthiest countries in the world; with GDP higher than that of some industrialized nations such as Italy, Singapore, South Korea, Spain and New Zealand.

Compared to other African countries, Libya enjoyed a low-level of poverty. In the first 6 years of the new millennium, the nation reintegrated itself into the global economy, gave up its nuclear aspirations after the fall of Baghdad and decided it was in its own interest to mend fences, accept its mistake over the Lockerbie issue and trade with the rest of the world. As a result of the positive move by Libya, UN decade old sanctions were lifted and the country was accepted into the global capitalist economy.

To boost its economy, Libya started some market economy reforms; it applied for membership of the World Trade Organization, reduced subsidies, and announced the privatization of more than 100 government-owned entities and industries including in the areas of oil refining, tourism and real estate. Many international oil companies returned to the nation, oil giants such as Shell and Exxon Mobile also took their places to benefit from the booming economy of a newly integrated Libya.

According to the UN Development program, Libya had ‘high human development’ in all major index category such as in civic and community well-being; Libyans are also not lacking behind when it comes to the issue of gender inequality and access to infrastructures including information and communication technology. According to the World Health Organization, the government of Gaddafi provided free health care to all its citizens; the infant mortality rate for children less than 5 years fell from 160 per 1000 births in 1970 to 20 in 2000.

Basic health care in Libya is provided to all citizens. The health care system in Libya pre war was not purely state-run but a hybrid of both state and private care. Compared to other states in the region, the health status of the population was relatively good, childhood immunization was almost universal with about 97% of newly born immunized against childhood diseases such as measles and 92% against tuberculosis. WHO notes that the government is substantially increasing the development budget for health care services with comprehensive strategies put in place for HIV/AIDS and Tuberculosis. If a Libyan cannot find the required medical care in Libya, the government provides funds to have such care abroad should the patient prefer to do so.

While much of the provision for health care services is focused on primary care at the local level, significant amounts are spent on Libyans receiving health care abroad. It was estimated that the Libyan government spent approximately $48.8 million annually on overseas medical treatment for its citizens besides the heavy investment on immunization meaning, the majority of its people have been vaccinated against various diseases leading to improvement in the general health of its population.

As of March 2011, the price of 1 liter of petrol in Libya, was 15 pence slashed by 25% from 20 pence. In terms of external debt, the nation ranked 98 out of 184 countries with a debt of $6, 378,000,000 as of December 2010; cheap meals in public restaurants start from 3.50 LYD with a meal just under 2 Euros. As of 2009 the unemployment rate in Libya was estimated at 10% according to the CIA World Fact Book, but has risen dramatically since the war and now estimated to be at 21%.

Libyans who want to borrow money are able to obtain loans from the banks however, the percentage rate charged are not considered interests in the name of Islamic ethics but rather minimal administrative costs. A house is considered a human right during the reign of Gaddafi and even though, Gaddafi himself lived in a 6km compound in the center of the capital, he made sure every Libyan is housed. For the newly born, there is a Child Benefit Welfare paying about 15-20 Libyan Dinars a month per child. Bread was subsidized by the state even though, the price varies from shop to shop; bread usually cost ¼ dinars for 10 baguettes or roughly 500grams per dinar.

The world’s largest irrigation project, known as the Great Man-Made River Project was put in place during the reign of Gaddafi, to make water readily available throughout the desert country; despite criticism that the project was highly exorbitant in financial cost to the nation estimated at $27 billion, the project supplied water to many towns and cities around Libya.

Education is free in Libya. In the mid 1970s, nearly one-half of the primary, preparatory and secondary education was in Tripoli and Benghazi, but due to a reform, the late 1980s led to a distribution of schools all over the country. Boarding facilities for student from the remote parts of Libya were available at some schools at all academic levels. University enrollment rose without interruption since the 1950s. In the 1970s, many Libyan students went abroad for their education funded by the government although, in the 1980s the government was no longer willing to grant fellowship for study abroad, it made sure Libyans were educated at home for economic and political reasons.

The government also opened its doors to expatriate from Africa, Asia, and Eastern Europe; also, the millennium saw a movement of practitioners from the Western nations to Libya after the nation normalized relations with the United States and the rest of the world. Many foreign doctors and skilled laborers earned their living in Libya and called Libya home. The war however, ended employment contracts and those that relied on the country for their livelihood saw an immediate end to their expectations, they were forced to leave with no possibility of coming back, and many will never recover from the loss sustained as a result of the war.

On the International level, Gaddafi had a change of policy after the invasion of Iraq. He fulfilled all the terms of the UN Security Council Resolutions required to lift the sanctions on Libya; he accepted responsibility for the most despicable act of Pan Am 103 and as a result the decade old sanctions on Libya were lifted. He decided to give up all Weapons of Mass Destruction and according to the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, he fulfilled all requirements to have the sanctions lifted. In fact, before his demise, Gaddafi received many foreign dignitaries in Libya including the former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and the former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Whatever happened to the relationship between then and the time of the war, which took place between February to October 2011 remains unknown and is to be left for history to judge. However, one fact is sure, Libya which had been in existence for more than 34 years is now engulfed by destruction, its infrastructures have collapsed and it has now entered a period of governance by a National Transitional Council.

As earlier indicated, the purpose here is not to vilify NATO for its war campaign nor to act as ‘the devil’s advocate’ after all, it is clear Gaddafi prolonged his regime for too long and no leadership will gain legitimacy by turning the guns on its own people. However, the purpose is to shed lights on the state of the Gaddafi Libya before the facts and then let the concerned minds determine for themselves, whether the Libya after the facts is a better nation; for as estimated, it may take the Libya of today 10 or 15 years to recover.

Dr. Adeyemi Oshunrinade [E. JD} is an expert in general law, foreign relations, and the United Nations. He is the author of Murder of Diplomacy (2010) and Wills Law and Contests (2011).

Categories: War and Politics

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3 replies

  1. Wow ! well said. What a great article.
    Keep it coming 🙂


  2. For a leader who has done so much for his people to be bertayed by the same people he fought for over the years leaves much to be desired. The war against Gadafi was orchestrated and executed on a false premise and the worst targeted murder of all time.


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