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Oil in Fueling Violent Conflicts in Libya Thesis

Problem Statement

The issue of conflicts that ensue in countries that possess valuable natural resources has persisted for years to the extent of capturing the attention of scholars and global commentators who have delved into examining whether any connections exist between such resources and clashes. Various West African countries have been caught up with this menace where conflicts have been observed to arise following the need for particular individuals in the respective countries using all means possible to secure a share of such resources against the wish of other equally interested people. This study narrows down to Libya as one of the West African countries where the issue of ‘presumed’ oil-related clashes has been dominant. Factional and dynastic violent confrontations that occur between leaders of the nations that possess significant oil deposits have also been presumed to be the root of conflicts that are characterized by divided citizens. Brutal killings among individuals who fight to have the slightest share of natural resources typically attract devastating outcomes, which have compromised diplomatic relations not only at the state level but also globally.

Over the years, scholars in the fields of political science, international affairs, and security studies have sought to investigate the link between oil and violent conflicts (Ross, 2004, p. 35). Nonetheless, most of the inquiries fail to narrow down the actual association between the two variables, which have a considerable potential of disrupting world peace. In this case, the essence of investigating the mechanisms that define the link between the two variables goes a long way in fostering an understanding of how oil and oil supply contribute to violent conflicts in Libya and the world today (Humphreys, 2005, p. 509). The case of Libya demonstrates how conflicts over oil and natural oil resources can extend beyond the national level as depicted by various inter-state wars where different parties have scrambled for the control of oil-rich zones.

In contemporary settings, clashes over the control of natural resources prompted the need for a closer look at the triggers of such conflicts (Schulze, 2007). For this reason, experts unceasingly investigate the associations between different variables by analyzing case studies that have disrupted national and international peace. The notable cases studies that can bolster an understanding of world peace include the scenarios of Iraq, Nigeria, Syria, South Sudan, and the South and East China Seas. Important to note, although the different cases incorporate similar variables such as the case of Libya, they denote some uniqueness regarding the mechanisms, which facilitate the association between fossil fuels and violent conflicts. In most of the case studies, unresolved historical antagonism leads to the eruption of violence between disagreeing sects, tribes, and people (Collier, 2005).

For example, in Nigeria, the scramble over oil resources involves Christians and Muslims among other tribal cohorts. On the other hand, in Syria and Iraq, the skirmishes involve antagonistic Shiites, Sunnis, Turkmen, Kurds, and others. The Libyan civil war is among the most disturbing results of violent conflicts that are founded on fossil fuels in the North African country. The overthrowing of the country’s president, Muammar Gaddafi, witnessed in 2011 after more than forty years of divisive governance in Libya is a clear demonstration of the extent to which oil and natural oil can result in violent conflicts in a country. Even after the downfall of the renowned president, it is alarming to realize that the country still battles with civil unrest stemming from the issue of controlling and sharing natural resources in the country. For instance, the renewed violence in 2014 resulted in casualties tuning at the range of tens of thousands. Besides causing the loss of lives, the chaos is accountable for the declining Libyan economy.

Thus, the need to uncover the long-standing differences among parties in conflict over oil and oil supplies in the Libyan context is crucial. The current study, which unearths the oil-conflict nexus after Gaddafi’s fall, is relevant in different dimensions. For instance, the study offers:

  1. The opportunity to understand better the oil-conflict relationship that has not been covered previously and possibly gather data from different resources and interviews on the topic
  2. The opportunity to test the available arguments on the oil-conflict link from previous research and validate their applicability
  3. The opportunity to benefit from the analysis made throughout the research by decision-makers involved in the conflict in Libya
  4. The opportunity to identify the solutions to the Libyan oil conflict

Literature Review

General Link Between Abundant Oil Resources and Civil War

Oil and conflict encompass two inter-related variables that prompt investigation for better understanding. The association of the two variables hints the existence of mechanisms that influence the detrimental consequences witnessed in the Libyan context. Notably, the way oil and oil supply chains affect the conflict in Libya denotes a gap in the literature that has not yet realized in-depth coverage. Nonetheless, several case studies have tried to explain the relationship between natural resources and conflict in various countries. The notable case studies include the oil-conflict situations in Iraq and Nigeria, which are respectively the leading oil producers in the Middle East and the major suppliers of the same commodity in West Africa. It is also important to point out that the relationship between the two variables has not been explained sufficiently in the war-peace. The arguments available are too broad to be true and lack enough evidence from global case studies, especially upon noting that not all oil-producing/exporting countries suffer from internal/externally driven conflict.

Basedau and Richter (2014) confirm this claim by asserting that not all oil-exporting counties suffer from conflict. In other words, the authors argue that certain conditions make oil-producing states vulnerable to conflict. The three main conditions that the authors reveal include “oil dependence with low abundance, the geographical overlap between oil reserves and excluded ethnic groups, and, finally, an authoritarian regime” (Basedau & Richter, 2014, p. 14). Scholars such as Michael Ross, Paul Collier, and Anke Hoeffler who kick-started the literature on the link between resources and civil war have not given specific state conditions that allow conflict to arise. Nonetheless, they all agree to the grievance argument where the resource wealth is distributed discriminately, thus causing different segments of the society to rebel against the government or fail to cooperate with other parties (Ross & Voeten, 2014). Such economic privileges extend to include aspects of political inequality (Collier & Hoeffler, 1999).

In a different study, Basedau and Lay (2009) argue that the presence of abundant oil resources in a country is one of the considerable causes of civil war. The study gives a broad assumption that civil war is inevitable in oil-rich sovereignties. Particularly, oil resources offer the motive, as well as an opportunity for conflict, thus leading to the development of indirect, economic, and institutional triggers of chaos (Basedau & Lay, 2009). However, the study ignores the integration of the rentier state theory that underlines the realization of peace through large-scale distributive policies, patronage, and efficient repression. Therefore, it is not necessary for a country rich in oil resources to engage in war since it can buy off peace by the resources derived from fossil fuels. Notably, developed countries rich in oil distribute funds acquired from oil effectively compared to poor or underdeveloped countries (Collier & Hoeffler, 2012). As a result, developed countries experience a greater socio-economic and political stability compared to developing nations that are rich in oil.

The exclusion of particular ethnic groups, especially on the assumption of political positions and the overlap of oil reserves, is a considerable factor fostering the mechanism between oil and conflict. In this respect, Basedau and Pierskalla (2014) conducted a study to investigate the extent to which ethnic exclusion facilitates the oil-conflict nexus by analyzing such events in Africa between 1990 and 2000. The study uncovers that the existence of monopoly ethnicities in countries rich in oil reserves has the potential of igniting conflicts since minority communities feel excluded from the benefits of such resources. Nonetheless, Basedau and Pierskalla (2014) argue that the political exclusion of specific ethnic cohorts does not spark violent conflicts in the oil-rich countries. Therefore, the ethnicity aspect of civil wars in oil-abundant countries is just a conditional mechanism for the oil and conflict association, especially in the African region characterized by different and multiple ethnicities in a given country.

Leder and Shapiro (2008) underscore that the scarcity of natural resources, including oil, has the possibility of shifting political structures from democracies to authoritarian regimes, thus leading to violent conflicts. The two scholars suggest that a decline of natural resources, especially oil, would trigger a considerable demand for the precious resource. Essentially, the scramble for the limited resources may provoke confrontations that can result in military conflicts, which encourage the emergence of authoritarian regimes. Conversely, Basedau, and Richter (2014) identify authoritarian regimes as the political institutions accountable for the emergence of civil wars in countries with abundant oil reserves such as Libya. Therefore, the need to investigate whether authoritarian regimes are the mechanisms for the oil-conflict association or the outcomes of such conflicts is crucial to facilitate a better understanding of the Libyan case.

Jeff Colgan, author of Fueling the Fire: Pathways from Oil to War, presents eight main mechanisms that drive conflict within oil-producing countries besides the oil-related grievance argument discussed earlier and resource war where states acquire the resource by force. Colgan (2013) argues that petro-aggression, the externalization of civil war in petro-states, financing for insurgencies, conflicts over potential oil-market domination, and control over transit routes can all be causal mechanisms to fuel the conflict and/or prevent collective international and national work to resolve it. Whether alone or coupled with each other, any of Colgan’s (2013) identified mechanisms can drive conflict in oil-producing countries.

All the papers discussed above have used a comparative analysis as part of their methodology. It has proven to produce reliable results where the paper draws some of its data from them too. This paper will later take a closer look at the cases of Iraq and Nigeria critically examining the way different authors have analyzed the oil-conflict relation in those states and the applicability of their arguments to the case of Libya.

The Oil-Conflict Relationships in Iraq

Iraq is one of the countries in the world where conflicts have always been reported. Such conflicts have been marked by happenings such as the killing of prominent leaders and citizens in the country. In recent times, the international community has been focusing on political events in Iraq following the emergence of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The surfacing of the ISIS in the Middle East is a demonstration of the shift in political structures after the invasion of Iraq by the United States’ armed forces in 2003 (Moore, 2015). However, questions arise regarding the invasive move by the US and its allies in Iraq.

A considerable section of scholars argues that the abundance of oil reserves in Iraq influenced the invasion of the US in 2003 (Moore, 2015). On the other hand, scholars with different views identify the acquisition of ammunition by the Iraqi radical groups, including the Al-Qaeda, as the concern that prompted the invasion by the US in the country, a move that led to unceasing civil unrest that has affected global peace up to date. The leadership approaches of leaders in the Middle East, especially the reign of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, accounting for one of the mechanisms that supported the eruption of civil war-related to oil in the country (Moore, 2015). Therefore, there is the need to engage in research that uncovers the various ways in which oil resources fuelled chaos in Iraq.

Saddam Hussein, a former President of Iraq, embraced a leadership approach that encouraged violent conflict within the country and beyond. Micozzi and Bangura (2012) describe Hussein as an extremely dangerous individual who predisposed the masses to the risk of violent conflicts. The annexation of Kuwait is a depiction of the dangerous political moves undertaken by Hussein as denoted by the response of the US in the 1991 intervention. Hussein engaged in extremism as a way of securing subjective immunity contrary to the influences and plots of foreign governments. In response, after taking part in the 1991 Gulf War, the US considered the need for regime change in the Middle East. Bejesky (2015) insists that the US sought to transform Iraq’s “rogue regime” under the leadership of Saddam Hussein by establishing a model of Arab diplomacy. However, according to Bejesky (2015), the interventions of the US turned out to be violent conflicts with Iraq since the clashes sought to change Saddam Hussein’s extreme leadership strategies. Arguably, Saddam Hussein’s radical leadership tactics were founded on his desire to secure and control the country’s oil reserves, a situation that the real owners, the international communities, and other interested parties could not tolerate and hence their move to eliminate the self-driven leader (Bejesky, 2015).

The presence of foreigners interfering with oil production and supply processes in a country is also an important mechanism for triggering violent oil conflicts (Hoffman, 2004). The situation influences the existing extremist groups to recruit locals to form an uprising against foreigners. In the context of Iraq, extremist groups, including the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, facilitated the recruitment of locals to resist the intervention of the US. Particularly, the US perceived the existence of collaboration between extremist groups and Saddam’s leadership. The extreme groups in Iraq used the resources from the production and supply of oil to fund their activities. Therefore, to a considerable extent, Bejesky (2015) concludes that the recruitment of locals by the extremist groups such as Al-Qaeda, founded on Jihad, influenced the development of war fuelled by the availability of natural resources (Saltman & Winter, 2014).

Hansen-Lewis and Shapiro (2015) assert that the acts of terrorism undertaken by extremist organizations in Iraq contributed to the country’s long-standing civil unrest. Particularly, the 9/11 attacks that left devastating outcomes in the US prompted an urgent reaction to destabilizing perpetrators of the heinous act besides preventing such events from happening in the future. Johnson (2005) identifies the ideological differences between the Iraqi insurgents led by Al-Qaeda and the leadership approaches to international relations as the major triggers of conflict in Iraq. Notably, the US supports the essence of civilization in international relations whereas the Iraqi political organizations uphold the importance of culture in shaping political behavior. In this light, Johnson (2005) underscores that the Iraqi political behavior based on a culture that supports extremism provoked the US to invade Iraq in 2003 after the 9/11 ambush.

Interested audiences often misunderstand the influences of oil in the conflict between the US and Iraq. However, scholars have not exhaustively investigated the extent to which the oil factor created the war preconditions between the American and Middle Eastern countries. Notably, one of the main mechanisms for oil conflicts is the forceful acquisition of oil reserves (Moore, 2015). In this light, the availability of significant oil reserves in Iraq could have been the mechanism that preconditioned the war between the countries in 1991 and 2003. Undoubtedly, the rich oil reserves present in Iraq attracted the Anglo-American interest in the Middle Eastern region. Importantly, both American and British oil companies gained significantly after taking control of Iraq’s oil industry. Therefore, according to Morelli and Rohner (2015), oil is one of the core motives that propagate the conflict between Iraq and the US, as well as Britain.

The Oil-Conflict Relationships in Nigeria

The Niger Delta area in Nigeria has one of the richest oil reserves in the world. For this reason, Nigeria is one of the largest oil producers and suppliers globally (Omeje, 2005). Nonetheless, according to Watts (2008), the Niger Delta is marred with violent conflicts that are influenced by the presence of precious crude oil in the region. Particularly, armed guerrillas that consist of youths hiding in the Delta’s swamps and creeks have been attacking the oil corporations in the region, thereby undermining the efficiency of oil production and supply processes (Lei & Michaels, 2014). Additionally, such frequent attacks undermine the economic growth of Nigeria, owing to the disruption of the main economic activity in the West African country. Additionally the detrimental outcomes of the conflict manifest in the form of the loss of life, as well as the destruction of property, especially oil production equipment and machinery.

Besides, Omeje (2005) identifies oil politics in Nigeria as the major contributing factor for the state violence spanning over decades. Notably, the oil sector in Nigeria contributes significantly to the government’s revenues gained from the activities of the transnational oil companies. As such, the Nigerian political economy is prominent since it influences the coexistence of its people, especially in the Niger Delta region. Omeje (2005) integrates the “triple alliance” theory to foster an understanding of the extent to which the political economy in Nigeria contributes to the persistent violent conflicts. In this respect, Nigeria acts like a captured state that focuses on safeguarding the interests of the international capital, which is denoted by significant investments in the oil industries.

Undoubtedly, greed and growth opportunities influence the emergence of violent conflicts in different regions, especially Africa. Ikelegbe (2005) identifies greed and the availability of opportunities as the propagators of violent struggle in Nigeria’s oil fields. The violent struggles also arise from inter and intra-communal scramble over resources. The diverse ethnic groups around the Niger Delta engage in conflicts regarding which community should reap the benefits of the oil production and supply processes (Idemudia & Ite, 2006). For this reason, since the 1990s, Nigeria has reported numerous cases of oil theft and trading by the militia groups situated in the Niger Delta. The study conducted by Ikelegbe (2005) uncovered the key aspects influencing the oil conflict in Nigeria. Such aspects include the economic interference of the government, the international community, TNOCs, and militia groups. The inquiry also uncovered that the economy allows the entry of firearms, thereby facilitating violent confrontations among the disagreeing parties, which include the government, oil corporations, the international community, and the militias.

In a similar study, Idemudia and Ite (2006) delved into the key factors accountable for the eruption of violent conflicts in Nigeria’s Niger Delta region. Notably, the political and economic institutions of the country influence the volatility of the West African country. Leadership wrangles over the control of oil production, refining, and supply are some of the causes that undermine peaceful coexistence in the country. Additionally, some communities feel politically marginalized. Thus, they engage in the formation of guerillas to acquire a higher voice in the political and economic arenas of the country. Besides, the major economic activity of the country, in this case, oil production, and supply, is one of the factors that fuel the oil-conflict relationship in Nigeria since different groups want to gain from the proceeds of the lucrative oil industry. Therefore, the political approach and the economy stand out as the causes of the Nigerian oil conflicts, which have extended over two decades.

According to Ukeje (2010), the approach of the government towards the Ogoni among other Niger Delta communities sparked an array of responses that sought to raise grievances against the oppression of the ethnic communities. The establishment of the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP) in 1990 is one of the responses that attracted the government’s concern. The government saw the essence of eliminating the activism of MOSOP by capturing and hanging its activists led by Ken Saro-Wiwa, the founder of the radical group. In this light, the elimination of Saro-Wiwa, an activist who was seeking to secure the rights of the Ogoni people from the exploitation of the oil corporations present in the Niger Delta, propagated radicalism among the various ethnic communities, thus leading to violent conflicts and terrorism directed towards parties interested in the Nigerian oil business.

Ukeje (2010) sought to uncover the influence of oil production and supply activities in the parties that were provoking oil communities in Nigeria to react violently. The Ijaws are one of the ethnic communities affected by the oil drilling and supply processes in Nigeria. Ukeje (2010) insists that the Nigerian state, as well as the multination oil companies, engage in processes that facilitate the political marginalization, socio-economic and cultural strangulation, and environmental dilapidation of ethnic communities in the Niger Delta. As a result, militias around the Niger delta respond by engaging the government and TNOCs in violent conflicts in a bid to secure their interests (Collier & Hoeffler, 2012). The Ogoni ethnic cohort is the largest in the Niger Delta region. It perceives the operations of TNOCs as exploitative in different aspects. For this reason, the ethnic group has been challenging oil corporations such as Mobil and Shell that have been operating in the Niger Delta region since the 1980s. Notably, the Ijaws are among the largest Nigerian ethnic groups. This category of people perceives itself as left out in the political, cultural, economic, and environmental elements of the oil sector. In this respect, the aspect of ethnicity warrants consideration in the course of understanding the oil-conflict nexus in Nigeria.

The concept of the rentier state is applicable in the context of the Nigerian civil wars, owing to the abundance of a commodity that can facilitate the paying of patronage to masses in the country. Particularly, according to Omeje (2006), the presence of oil along the Niger Delta is a cause of misery and anxiety among the oil-bearing communities. Notably, since independence, the Nigerian government has been putting measures geared towards detaching the oil-bearing communities from acquiring or asserting any sort of consequential stakes in the abundant oil resources. By so doing, the government protects its interest, as well as that of its partners in the oil sector. Omeje (2006) identifies the political approach as ironic since it bars the immediate communities from benefiting from the oil resources in their backyards.

Natural Resources and Conflict

According to Ross (2006), the relationship between natural resources and conflict requires further investigation to facilitate the acquisition of in-depth knowledge regarding the mechanisms that link the two variables. Based on the need to understand the unique causal mechanisms in the oil conflict in Libya, analyzing another natural resource conflict is relevant in the context of this paper. Undoubtedly, similarities and differences exist in the conflicts that involve different types of natural resources. In this light, Ross (2006) insists that the likelihood of violent conflicts emerging in countries with precious natural resources is higher relative to the case in economies with scare resources. Thus, according to Ross (2012), the rise of rebel and extremist organizations in countries that produce and distribute gas, oil, and diamonds is higher compared to the situation in countries with a limitation of such commodities. In this respect, according to Cotet and Tsui (2013), the correlation between natural resources and civil war is direct to a considerable degree.

According to Sousa (2016), the intervention of external administrations, especially Charles Taylor’s National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL), shows that diamond as a natural resource is also characterized by the involvement of foreign governments in civil wars. The Liberian administration provided soldiers to facilitate the ousting of Sierra Leone’s leader. The scramble for diamonds and oil in Angola also triggered external intervention to neutralize the greed and grievance mechanisms of the civil wars witnessed between 1960 and 1999 (Sousa, 2016). The intervention of the US in Iraq and Libya denotes the similarity with the case of conflicts involving the control of highly valuable natural resources such as oil and diamonds. Diamond conflicts, as well as oil clashes, involve leadership issues that shape the political economy of the affected region. Sousa (2016) asserts that greedy leaders in Angola contributed to the escalation of the civil wars in the country for close to four decades.

Nonetheless, the labor aspect of conflicts in areas with ample natural resources is affected differently since the production of some commodities requires skilled labor while experts handle the production processes in other cases. The engagement of children in diamond mining activities in both Angola and Sierra Leone denotes the parties affected by the scramble for natural resources in different parts of the world (Le Billon, 2008). Therefore, the grievances of the rebellious groups and the government agencies involved may be different, owing to the level of skills required in the production and distribution of natural resources. Conversely, oil-drilling activities require skilled labor. For this reason, foreign employees working in oil environments characterized by civil wars are usually victims of terrorism or kidnapping activities because of their relevance to the trade (Colgan, 2013).

Oil Wealth and Conflict in Libya

Libya boasts of having the largest crude oil reserves on the African continent. Figures show that the country has close to 50 billion barrels of crude oil in its reserves (Almnfi & Yang, 2015). Before the onset of the civil war, Libya realized the production of an average of 1.6 million barrels. The oil wealth accounts for considerable growth and development of the Libyan economy since oil exports constitute at least 80% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) (Almnfi & Yang, 2015). Therefore, the abundance of the oil commodity influences the political economy of the country to a substantial extent, thus making it the livelihood of the nation’s economy (Etelawi, Blatner, & McCluskey, 2017). Disruption of oil exploration, production, and supply activities would undoubtedly affect the growth and development of the Libyan political economy.

Nonetheless, Blanchard (2016) insists that the absence of a constitutional rule in Libya for over five decades exposed the rights of different groups affected by the oil trade to jeopardy. The reign of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya represented a one-man absolute rule before his ousting in 2011. International bodies such as NATO facilitated the bloody demise of Gaddafi (Paine, 2016). The need for competing for power in the oil-rich country led to his assassination, thereby denoting the extent to which the leadership aspect contributes to the oil-conflict nexus in the North African country (International Crisis Group, 2011).

Basedau, Mähler, and Shabafrouz (2014) assert that wealth in natural resources raised the value of the Libyan state as a target, leading to impactful national conflicts. Thus, natural resources influence the different interested parties to compete towards capturing the state as denoted by the intervention of the NATO coalition that led to the brutal killing of Gaddafi in the Battle of Sirte (Ronen, 2017). In this regard, the attacks geared towards the removal of Gaddafi from power denote the competition to capture the state characterized by oil-rich fields. The political and security vacuum emerging after the removal of Gaddafi from power escalated the oil conflict in the country. Currently, the absence of a constitutional rule in Libya has given room for the rise of militias that also compete to capture the state from the government (Etelawi et al., 2017). In this regard, militias such as the Benghazi Defense Brigades (BDB) seek to compete over the control of the oil crescent in Libya, a situation that has resulted in violent conflicts with the country’s military forces (Blanchard, 2016). In this regard, the power and security vacuum left after the killing of Gaddafi has facilitated the intensification of the violent conflicts in Libya as different parties compete for power and wealth.

The value of sovereignty increases in a country that experiences an increase in the wealth of its resources. Paine (2016) holds that separatist movements, including militias and terrorist groups, emerge in a bid to facilitate the control of the value of the sovereignty experienced in the country with richness in natural resources (Etelawi et al., 2017). In the Libyan context, militia groups such as Benghazi Defense Brigades (BDB) have been causing trouble in the oil fields as they seek to gain control of the oil trade. Since 2011, militia groups have been attacking oil plants in Benghazi and Tripoli among other oil crescent regions to acquire sovereignty from the government. Additionally, the eastern strongman, Khalifa Haftar, also wants a considerable share of the oil proceeds besides intending to take the entire control of the trade. However, the capture of key oil ports by Libyan militias intensifies the conflict between them and Haftar who also wants to influence the sovereignty of the Libyan state.

According to Almnfi and Yang (2015), the continued interest to reap the benefits of natural resources in Libya has seen one of the largest militia groups in the country capture the key oil ports and refineries. Recently, the Benghazi Islamist militia seized the biggest oil port in the country situated al-Sidra, as well as the largest refinery located at Ras Lanuf. The situation also intensified the competition for power in Libya’s political economy when the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA), supported by the United Nations (UN), asserted its authority in the country (Almnfi & Yang, 2015). Therefore, the enmity between Haftar’s forces and the GNA has been escalating the situation in Libya since both of them seek power to facilitate the control of oil production and distribution activities. In turn, the clashes have jeopardized the sovereignty of Libya to a considerable extent.

. Power struggles in Libya fielded by the richness in natural resources currently manifest the extent to which the conflicting parties influence the government’s decisions. Notably, Haftar has considerable backing in the parliament that is situated in the eastern urban area of Tobruk. Militias who are supported by Haftar concentrate on the seizure of the key ports since the move can imply their acquisition of power and wealth in the war-torn country (Basedau et al., 2014). On the other hand, the GNA also makes advancements geared towards securing key ports and refineries since the government needs the resources to emphasize its authority in the country. Conflicting parties also target the oil production fields and terminals, thus denoting the influence of the commodity on the country’s power struggles. The oil crescent was the concentration of violent conflicts in the country for a couple of months in 2016, thereby uncovering the degree to which the quest for control of the political economy continues to influence the escalation of civil war in Libya even today. The greed for power and wealth motivates the separatist movements led by Haftar’s militia forces to continue seizing major oil fields, terminals, and ports in the country.

Di Lernia and Gallinaro (2014) uncover that resources derived from the production and supply of oil and natural gas in Libya fund the conflicting parties. Remarkably, the Libyan government raises at least 80% of its GDP from the oil industry. As such, Gaddafi’s government relied on revenues from the oil industry to run the country. However, after the ousting of the leader, the conflicting parties identified the oil resources as their major source of funding for their violent activities. Fuel smuggling is one of the ways of funding the actions of the militia groups in Libya (Bodea, Higashijima, & Singh, 2016). The Zawia militia is reported to carry out oil smuggling activities that facilitate the funding of the civil war. Besides the smuggling of oil, militias in Libya interfere with the arms trade by smuggling sophisticated firearms and selling them to other illegal forces to fight the explorers, as well as government security agencies that guard the oil fields, terminals, refineries, and ports (Di Lernia & Gallinaro, 2014). Additionally, the unreliability of the country’s security forces plays a major role in facilitating the smuggling of weapons used in violent conflicts.

According to Colgan (2015), the smuggling of oil by seas from Libya has attracted the attention of the international community. In several instances, the US marines intervene in the issue of smuggling oil by the sea in a bid to cut the source of funding for the militias (Colgan, 2015). The motives of the separatist movements are usually the perception that natural resources have significant benefits, including the amassment of power and wealth. In response, players such as the National Oil Corporation have been establishing strategies seeking to cut the smuggling of oil from the country. However, Kuperman (2015) holds that militias continue overwhelming oil corporations in Libya, owing to the weak security structures and a political vacuum existing in the country.

Consequently, the oil wealth in Libya accounts for the country’s economic and political weakness as an aftermath of the continued civil war. The civil war powered by oil has affected the political climate in Libya detrimentally. Notably, negotiators such as the Benghazi Brigade perceive the seizure of important oil ports as a strategic move towards weakening Haftar’s political influence in the future (Bodea et al., 2016). However, since Haftar also wants to accumulate power, he orders the Libyan military to fight against other groups that are interested in the political economy of the country (Colgan, 2014). The situation further undermines the political and economic well-being of the North African state. Hence, with a clear identification of the link between natural resources and conflicts, it is possible to establish some practical solutions that can see the country gain peace while reaping from its natural resources.


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"Oil in Fueling Violent Conflicts in Libya." IvyPanda, 10 Jan. 2021, ivypanda.com/essays/oil-in-fueling-violent-conflicts-in-libya/.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "Oil in Fueling Violent Conflicts in Libya." January 10, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/oil-in-fueling-violent-conflicts-in-libya/.


IvyPanda. (2021) 'Oil in Fueling Violent Conflicts in Libya'. 10 January.

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