Paradoxical Africanisation of Libya after 2011. Growing Influence of Sub-Saharan African Government, Rebel, Diplomatic and Criminal Actors in the Post-Gaddafi State

January 2022


The 2011 downfall of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi marked a tipping point for Libya’s southern neighbours in re-defining their roles on the regional north-south axis. The era of an assertive Libyan foreign policy on Africa came to a halt. Simultaneously, as a consequence of the civil war, multiple African actors, both state and non-state, assumed greater influence inside and over Libya. The country moved from being an exporter of security and insecurity to sub-Saharan Africa, as under Gaddafi, to becoming an importer.

Some aspects of this largely unnoticed, multi-dimensional “Africanisation” of Libya are likely to take root. Changes in Libya’s and sub-Saharan African actors’ standings within the regional setting represent a new reality on the ground that has not been contextualised and analysed thoroughly enough. Only when the international actors do so will they be able to adequately navigate and constructively engage social, political and security structures within the Libya-sub-Saharan Africa framework.

Thus, this paper aims to answer the following research questions: in which specific north- south security-related phenomena did sub-Saharan African actors assume agency? Are the motivations of the actors involved opportunistic or do they include long-term political goals? Which aspects of “Africanisation” are taking solid roots and could be sustained beyond the period of Libya’s instability? Will this change to the regional order be temporary and reversible? What are the implications for the European Union (EU) policies related to peace, security and governance in Libya?



Photo: Sahara desert, Libya/Egypt border, May 2014 – Eritrean refugees crossing the desert after being rescued by a local militia after 3 days of trip without water. Reuters/Giulio Piscitelli
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