afrol News, 1 February - As most Libyan still are too afraid of secrete government agents to express their ample discontent, three of Muammar al-Ghaddafi's sons are preparing for a possible popular uprising. One is a reformist; two are hardliners.
Tunisia is Libya's main western neighbour; Egypt its main eastern neighbour. Libya is flanked by revolution and ordinary Libyans are as fed up with leader Ghaddafi as Tunisians and Egyptians were with their rulers.
While Libya is North Africa's by far richest nation due to its oil wealth and a modest population of 6.5 million, more than 40 years of "revolutionary rule" by Mr Ghaddafi has done little to smooth out social injustices. Ordinary families have little hope of creating a better future for their children and no channals to express their frustrations.
The below-25 year population amounts to 47 percent. Unemployment rates in Libya are estimated to be even higher than in Egypt. As in other Arab countries, unemployed youth find it nearly impossible to establish a family and day-to-day life is a perpetual frustration.
Adding to the problems is a growing housing crisis, to some degree made more frustrating by the expropriations and large property development schemes in favour of Mr Ghaddafi's cronies or tourism industry investors.
Not surprisingly, the first signs of unrest in Libya came as citizens recently occupied several hundred homes that were still under construction, also looting the offices of foreign contractors who are building them. It seemed the spark that could have ignited a popular rising, but government was quick to react.
Authorities announced a significant reduction of customsfees and taxes for basic food items, reversing recent price rises that had affected the poor and middle classes. Also, a US$ 24 billion fund was announced, which is to invest in social housing and local community development.
The unrest was contained - for now. But many Libyans are waiting for an occasion to take to the streets, particular in the country's second city Benghazi, where opposition to the Ghaddafi regime is strongest. The problem is the start, as secrete agents are thought to be anywhere and would hit fiercely against anyone trying to start unrest.
Also, communication is a large problem. Censorship in Libya is even stronger than in Tunisia, and much heavier than in pre-unrest Egypt as no other media than the government's exist. Access to internet is not bad, but an ample surveilence system exists and creates fear. The safest communication card, for now, is the mobile entwork.
Ghadaffi Siblings prepare for unrest
While Libya's "Great Leader" Ghaddafi has made the first steps towards social reform that on a longer run could improve living standards, also three of his sons - all seen as possible successors to their father - are preparing answers to the potential unrest.
Libya, according to several US Embassy cables from Tripoli published during the last days through Wikileaks, for some years has seen a power struggle between Mr Ghaddafi's siblings. The "Great Leader" himself may have nurtured this successin struggle as "a calculated effort to prevent any one of them from authoritatively gaining the prize," US Ambassador Gene Cretz noted.
Muammar al Ghaddafi's "reformist" son Saif al-Islam
if al-Islam Ghaddafi has for years presented himself as a reformist, celebrated for reopening Libya's doors to Western govenrments and investors. Among Libyan power-holders, however, Saif al-Islam has met much resistance. His reform efforts, which would have given Libya its first constitution and parliament, utterly failed due to conservative opposition in 2008.
Brother Mutassim al-Ghaddafi during the last years has build up a considerable power base as Libya's National Security Advisor, giving him a strong position within the security forces and in international diplomacy. Mutassim is a conservative, strongly countering any reform schemes and seen to prepare for his succession through army support.
A "dark horse" (Ambassador Cretz) in the Libyan succession struggle is younger brother Khamis al-Ghaddafi, Commander of the 32nd Brigade, "widely known to be the most well-trained and well-equipped force in the Libyan military." Khamis, although seen as a conservative, is alternately supporting each of his elder brothers, but also believed to have his own agenda in the succession struggle, where he could count on army loyalty.
Last year, the power struggle was shifted dramatically in favour of "reformist" Saif al-Islam as Mutassim and another brother, Hannibal, were involved in scandals provoking world-wide headlines, including drunkenness, playboy behaviour and wife-beating. Saif al-Islam "wisely distanced himself from the local drama," Ambassador Cretz noted, also pointing out he had declined to accept an official government role to maintain a positive image among the Libyan population.
One year ago, the US Ambassador observed that "young Libyan contacts" had repeated that "Saif al-Islam is the 'hope' of 'Libya al-Ghad' (Libya of tomorrow), with men in their twenties saying that they aspire to be like Saif and think he is the right person to run the country."
"Domestic audiences - particularly among Libya's swelling ranks of young adults - may welcome him as Libya's knight in shining armor," Ambassador Cretz concluded.
According to unconfirmed reports from Tripoli, Saif al-Islam indeed is active these days, trying to work out a reform agenda for Libya. The well-articulated and educated Ghaddafi son sees himself as a possible leader to take over if Libyans demand the dethroning of his father. Even the "Great Leader" could see his secession by Saif al-Islam as the most realistic option if the people would demand reform.
At the same time, however, Ghaddafi senior currently depends more on his two conservative sons to control national security forces in possible clashes with the population. Both are preparing for such a confrontation, which would given them an upper hand in Libya's succession struggle.
By now, however, both parties are still working discretely out of the spotlight. No one has commented on the mounting unrest in the Arab world except the "Great Leader" himself, stating he was "very sorry" about what happened to his dictator colleage in Tunisia.
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