All Libyan children receive free education, and as many as three out of ten inhabitants of the oil-rich country are educated. But education and freedom do not necessarily belong together: it is still dangerous to speak out against Gaddafi.
Libya ranks pretty high on the United Nations Human Development Index (HDI according to acronym by abbreviationfinder), which measures education, living standards and life expectancy. In 2009, the country ranked 55th, as the best country in Africa. This is not only because oil revenues have given the six million inhabitants a relatively high standard of living – gross domestic product per head is in line with Russia, Mexico and Chile. What really draws up is a very high school attendance: Measured in the proportion of children and young people in education, Libya is on a par with Iceland and France. According to World Education News & Reviews from 2004, just over 30 percent of the population is in education, and the country has over 270,000 university students. It is more than in Norway.
Education in Libya is free and compulsory up to the upper secondary level. The country has a number of universities and colleges, and higher education is funded through the state budget.
Of course, in the heat of Libya’s oil revenues, it has made it easier to finance school supplies. And the economy has recovered after Libya was taken back into the western heat.
In 2003, the country abandoned its program to develop weapons of mass destruction. Libyan authorities also took responsibility for the 1988 Lockerbie bombing, in which 270 people were killed and agreed to pay $ 2.7 billion in compensation to the survivors. A Libyan citizen, Abdelbaset Ali Al-Megrahi, was convicted of being behind the terrorist act and sent to Scottish prison.
And thus Libya, considered one of the world’s leading supporters of terror in the 1980s, was removed from the United States list of terror states. The country has now been elected to the UN Security Council, and the financial sanctions against the country have been lifted. In 2008, Condoleezza Rice traveled to Libya as the first US Secretary of State since 1953.
In recent years, growth in the Libyan economy has been over 6 percent annually. A number of economic reforms have been implemented to integrate the country into the global economy. Many state-run companies are privatized, international oil companies have returned and more and more tourists are now finding their way to Libya.
However, everything is not just financial prosperity. Employment is the lowest in the region with over 20 percent unemployed. And the country’s own supply of food and clean water is limited. Most of the food is imported, and almost every third Libya lacks access to clean drinking water.
Libya leader Moammar Gadaffi is now the longest-serving African head of state. He took power in 1969. And he has gone a long way from the 1980s when Newsweek referred to him as “the world’s most dangerous man,” to his more storied role today.
But he is still a striking and distinctive figure, with great ambitions for himself and Libya. When he was elected leader of the African Union in 2009, he announced that he would continue to work for the establishment of the “United States of Africa,” and he has been crowned himself “the King of the Kings of Africa.” He has also been generous with money donations to many sub-Saharan countries, and many African migrants have come to Libya to find work or to travel to Europe. The UN estimates that just over 10 percent of Libya’s population are immigrants.
In relation to the West, Gadaffi has not been completely streamlined either. During an hour and a half speech at the UN in 2009, he called the Security Council a “terrorist council.” He has called for the establishment of a South Atlantic Treaty Organization, a kind of NATO for the countries of the South. And when Lockerbie-convicted and cancerous Al-Megrahi was released for humanitarian reasons to die in Libya, he was received as a people hero in his homeland.
Gadaffi has no formal presidential title. The state is formally governed by veterans of the revolution and a number of peoples committees and parliament. In reality, most of the power is gathered with Gadaffi and his colorful family. His personal bodyguard, the Amazon Guard, consists only of women who are experts in martial arts and weapons. One of his sons is a professional footballer in Italy, another is the leader of Libya’s Olympic Committee. His only daughter is a lawyer and participated in the defense of Saddam Hussein. And son Hannibal is best known for several violent episodes in Europe. In 2008, Hannibal and his wife were arrested in Switzerland, charged with violence against two servants. This led Libya to boycott Swiss imports, call back Bern diplomats and expel Swiss companies from Libya.
Son Saif Al-Islam Al-Gadaffi plays an important role in Libyan politics, although he regrets that he is not interested in taking over as head of the father. He runs a charity that has, among other things, negotiated free hostages from Islamists in the Philippines. He has also been central to the efforts to improve Libya’s relationship with the West, and has advocated reforms in Libyan politics, with more emphasis on environmental protection and human rights.
Many Human Rights
Violations Although Libyans get educated about education, what they are allowed to say and do is limited. The government keeps strict control over all content in Libyan media, and has blocked independent Libyan websites. People who criticize the country’s politics or Gadaffi run the risk of imprisonment. Independent human rights organizations are not allowed. Ethnic minorities are discriminated against and foreign workers have limited rights. Prison conditions are bad, and political prisoners have been jailed for a number of years without a sentence. Libyans cannot replace their government, and political parties are banned. Freedom House ranks Libya’s political and civil rights on a scale of 1 to 7, with 7 being the least free.
Area: 1.76 million km2 (4th largest)
Population: 6.3 million
Population density: 3.6 per km2
Urban population: 77 percent
Largest city: Tripoli – approx. 2.2 million
GDP per capita: USD 14430
Economic growth: 6.7 percent
HDI Position: 55