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« Ozodi Osuji Weekly Lectures on African Countries #27 of 54: Liberia | Main | Ozodi Osuji Weekly Lectures on African Countries #29 of 54: Madagascar »

June 16, 2006

Ozodi Osuji Weekly Lectures on African Countries #28 of 54: Libya

by Ozodi Thomas Osuji, Ph.D. (Seatle, Washington) ---
Flag of Libya

Formal Name: Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya.

Term for Citizens: Libyans.

Capital: Tripoli. Population: 1, 776, 000.

Independence Achieved: January 2, 1952, from Britain.

Major Cities: Benghazi, Tripoli.


Libya is in North Africa. It is bordered by Egypt, Sudan, Morocco, Tunisia, Chad and Niger. Libya has an estimated area of 679, 362 square miles. The country consists mainly of desert. The Mediterranean coast tends to be fertile, whereas the rest of the country is arid wasteland. Less than 2% of the country receives sufficient rainfall to practice agriculture. The climate is Mediterranean at the coastal regions and the rest is desert climate. Over 80% of the population lives along the coastal regions.


Libya’s population is estimated at 5,551,000.

Ethnic Groups: Arabs and Berbers 90%, Tuaregs and Africans make up the rest of the population. Expatriate communities include Greeks, Maltese, Italians, and West Europeans.

Languages: Arabic is the official language.

Education: Free primary education. Literacy rate is estimated at 82.6%.

Religion: Nearly the entire population, 97%, profess adherence to Sunni Islam.

Economy: Oil production is the mainstay of the economy. GDP estimate: $41 billion; Per Capita: $7, 600. Monetary Unit: Dinar (LYD)

History and Government:

Libya has a long history, including been part of ancient Rome. Modern Libya, however, is an Arab-Muslim country. Arabs swept from their Middle East core into North Africa in the seventh century and took over the land. Libya witnessed the rule of many, including Carthage, Vandals, the Ottomans, Italy, France and Britain. Upon independence from the Europeans in 1952, Libya formed an Arab republic. A succession of weak governments followed until a military coupe established Libya’s present government. Libya essentially has one man’s government since Colonel Muammar al Qadhafi took over the government in 1969. Libya is divided into ten military districts, each subdivided into several municipalities and villages.


The term Libya is derived from a Berber word, Lebu, referring to people living west of Egypt. Berbers lived in Lebu (which the Greeks transformed to Libya) and, eventually, were joined by other groups, including Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Greeks, Romans, Germans, and Ottoman Turks.

During the seventh century, Moslem Arabs joined the mix after conquering Libya; they converted the people to their Moslem religion and gave them the Arab tongue. Present day Libyans are mostly a mix of Arabs, Berbers and Africans.

The Ottoman Turks inherited the Moslem empire and ruled Libya until the Europeans came in the 19th century. In 1911, Italy occupied Libya and ruled it until the Second World War when the British defeated Italy in North Africa and book over the rule of Libya.

With the end of the Second World War, Libya passed to the newly formed United Nations as a trust territory. The UN gave Libya independence in 1951.

Libya was a constitutional monarchy until 1969 when Colonel Muammar Qadhafi overthrew the government of King Idris. Qadhafi is still in power. He has toyed with many brands of governing, including Arab socialism or whatever he wakes up and feels is the best way to govern his fiefdom. Currently, he has made peace with the Americans and seems to be toying with capitalism, until he has another dream that tells him to try something else.

Nominally, Libya has a legislature, a court system and an executive system. Kaddafi does not even have a name within this jumble of governing system yet there is no doubt as to who is in charge of the show.

Libya is divided into 32 municipalities for administrative purposes.

The Libyan economy is based on oil. Libya has lots of oil, which means that she has lots of oil money, which means that Kaddafi has lots of money to gratify his latest whims, especially military weapons.

And so Libya chugs along until there is another 28 year old officer in the military ready to chop off Qadhafi’s throat and take over the government. There is no predicable political behavior apart from Qadhafi’s whims. This means that there is instability. But as long as this Arab-military strong man seems to have everything in control, all seems well, on the surface, at least. But no one knows what the country would wake up to the next day.

Posted by Administrator at June 16, 2006 08:04 AM


The "report" shows that you know nothing about Libya.

Posted by: Jamila van Paris at June 16, 2006 04:30 PM

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