Daily Maverick (Johannesburg)

17 July 2014

Libya: A Government in Name Alone

analysis

What exactly constitutes a government? This is a question Libyans are asking themselves after their post-revolutionary administration revealed, yet again, the limits of its authority. If the government can't even protect Tripoli's international airport, how can it be expected to protect the country as a whole? By SIMON ALLISON.

As the official government of a strife-ridden country, there's plenty that you can afford to let drift while remaining in charge. Too often, your legitimacy does not depend on performing mundane duties like the provision of basic services, or guaranteeing human rights and the rule of law. Nor, ultimately, does authority derive from a democratic mandate.

Realpolitik dictates that genuine control comes instead from the effective control of a select few state institutions, and of a few key bits of infrastructure. There is a reason why Robert Mugabe, when forced into a unity government, refused to let the opposition control either the army or the police, happily sacrificing the finance ministry instead.

There is a reason why successive governments in Somalia have gladly accepted international protection for the airport in Mogadishu, knowing that without this lifeline to the outside world it is just another warring faction in a country rife with...

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