Since the collapse of the Qaddafi regime in 2011, Libya has struggled to develop a cohesive, inclusive government. Regional and political differences, existing and expanding patronage and influence networks, and deeply rooted tribal and militia dynamics create roadblocks to establishing a stable, effective government capable of delivering security and services to its citizens. Oil, the country’s most lucrative and important resource, is a driving force for competition between political, tribal and militia groups vying for control of Libya’s oil production and export. Unfortunately for Libya’s population, production rates are low, and key fields and ports have been shut down while militias, tribes, and the government contend with one another for influence or control. The revenue that was previously generated from oil exports is no longer available to fund social services which is causing increased social tensions within Libyan society.
Initially inclined to fight threats and violence with violence, Libya’s central government threatened swift action against any who threatened the nation’s oil infrastructure. This option; however, has kept production low, and ports and oil fields closed. Tripoli is now trying a new engagement strategy in an attempt to build legitimacy with the broader population, by opening dialogue with tribes, militias, and other interest groups. By working together to meet employment and wage demands of the population, Libya’s government is hoping to stabilize operations in the energy sector, and establish its authority. Although a good course of action, this may be putting the cart before the horse. Without a stable government in place, it is unlikely Libya will find a resolution to satisfy the interested parties in the energy sector.