Libya: Whose Land is it?

Libya: Whose land is it? Property Rights and Transition.

Mary Fitzgerald

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In 1978, Muammar Qaddafi decreed that no Libyan could own more than one house. All rental properties were subsequently reallocated to tenants or confiscated by the state. In 1986, he abolished land ownership altogether. These and other sweeping redistribution policies had far-reaching consequences, creating the profound grievances, administrative chaos and economic imbalances that have hampered the reconstruction of Libya since 2011.

In the current context, any discussion of these land, housing, and property rights can seem irrelevant. Four years after the hopeful uprising that deposed Qaddafi, the elected government controls just a faction of the country, a rival rump government sits in the capital, and the Islamic State is gradually making its presence known. Weapons abound, militias do as they please, and the oil-rich nation is nearly broke. As of March 2015, some 400,000 Libyans are internally displaced and more than a million are estimated to have fled the…

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