Since protests broke out in Tunisia in December with the goal of forcing out president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, more countries in the same region have become unsettled. Following Tunisia, Egypt, Algeria, Yemen and Libya have also begun to see popular uprisings and protests aimed at ousting political leaders and addressing issues such as unemployment, inflation and rising food prices.
Protests have been erupting in the last week in Libya in particular, and many are waiting to see how the unrest will affect Libya’s wealth in oil.
Libya’s Colonel Muammar el-Qaddafi, who has been accused of being a terrorist and has been the country’s longest-standing leader at 42 years, has been losing control of the country more and more with each passing day. The country’s army is now on the side of the people of Libya, not on el-Qaddafi’s side, and while it is hard to tell the exact number of deaths from the uprising due to censorship within Libya, accounts range from 300 to 1,000.
“Libya is the farthest of those three [Tunisia, Egypt and Libya] from having anything resembling democracy and individual freedom,” Assistant Professor of Political Science Andrew Civettini said. “So, it will probably be the most interesting to watch.”
Civettini said that it is unlikely at this point for Gaddafi to stay in power, both because citizens are willing to die for the continuing revolution and because of the international community opposing el-Qaddafi.
On the subject of the oil market in relation to Libya, Civettini said, “The oil market has more to do with the possibility that this will spread to gulf states. Particularly if anything happens with Saudi Arabia.”
He also said other countries, after the disastrous examples set by the U.S. in the last decade, are wary of stepping in.
Professor of Political Science Karen Kampwirth said that, in the short run, the effect of the uprising in Libya will have a trivial effect on the U.S., and possibly a positive effect in the long run.
“In the short run…the oil prices have gone up a little bit,” Kampwirth said. She also said that because Libya is currently not an ally to the U.S., there is an opportunity for the U.S. to gain an ally after el-Qaddafi falls, which she said will surely happen.
“There’s no question that Gaddafi is going to fall…at best we [will] end up with a potential ally,” Kampwirth said of what a post-el-Qaddafi Libya could become.
It is unsure how the Libyan people would react to the option of choosing their own government and how they would create their own government.
Kampwirth also said that, in the future, when the people of Libya aim to create a democracy, the resources of both money and knowledge might remain in the hands of those who worked under el-Qaddafi, but she does not think that this is “preordained. I think they have a real shot at having a transition to some sort of democracy.”
Sources: Al Jazeera (www.english.aljazeera.net), BBC (www.bbc.co.uk)