Bordering the Mediterranean sea, the area now known as Libya has a rich past. More recently in the first decades of the twentieth century, the area was known as Italian North Africa, however between 20-50% of the local population died in a struggle against Italy for independence. In 1947 Italy relinquished all claims to Libya with the lands being administered by the French and British until independence was secured in 1951 under King Idris al-Sanusi. Oil was discovered in 1959 and turned a poor country into a rich one but, as ever, that wealth did not cascade down to the lower echelons of society remaining firmly within the grasp of the ruling elite. In 1969 King Idris travelled to Turkey for medical treatment and on 1st September a military coup led by Muammar al-Gaddafi ousted him in his absence. Idris's nephew was briefly proclaimed king before being placed under house arrest, the monarchy abolished and the Libyan Arab Republic being declared with one Muammar al-Gaddafi at its head, who went on to become Africa's longest serving leader before his death.
Gaddafi instituted a one-man, harsh regime tolerating no dissent and promoted himself as a cult figure. He was known to fund terrorist campaigns such as the IRA and had, as yet, undefined links to atrocities such as the Lockerbie bombing. However in the late 1990s, amid growing concern at his development of weapons of mass destruction, attempts were made to bring him back within the international fold, which were seemingly successful despite achieving little change for the people of Libya themselves by way of creating a society more in tune with their aspirations rather than the demands of their leader. During the Lilac Dawn across the Arab World in the spring of 2011, civil unrest started in Tunisia then spread rapidly to Egypt, seeing the fall of both regimes. Realising that the reign of dictators could be ended by mass popular revolt, this uprising also erupted in Libya, however with initially less clear results. Whilst the rulers of Tunisia and Egypt, after some strong resistance, accepted the inevitable strength of the people's will and went into exile, Muammar al-Gaddafi surrounded by his family cabal, declared that he would rather die than leave Libya, and would be prepared to kill any of his own people who opposed him.
The country then effectively entered into a civil war; a civil war that initially ended with Gaddafi's death and the installation of a National Transitional Council that pledged to hold elections within eight months. Elections were then held on 7th July 2012, and the NTC handed over power to the newly elected General National Congress on 8th August whose role it was to draft a new constitution for Libya and have it ratified by a future referendum. This quickly broke down and a second civil war began in 2014, with parts of Libya split between governments based in Tobruk and Tripoli each supported by various tribal and Islamist militias. A ceasefire was declared on 23th October 2020 leading to the formation of an interim unity government that was announced on 5th February 2021. Libya, with a population of 6.777 million (2019), is in 105th place out of 189 countries and territories in 2019 when ranked in terms of life expectancy, literacy, access to knowledge and living standards.
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