Libyan politicians have moved with salutary speed in 2021 to reunify their divided country. With UN help, the new government should hasten to clear two last hurdles: establishing a legal framework for elections and clarity about who holds supreme command of the armed forces.
Prospects of holding elections by year’s end fading as parliament unilaterally issued presidential election law and voted no-confidence motion against unity govt, escalating political tensions. Tobruk-based House of Representatives (HoR) Speaker Aghila Saleh 8 Sept ratified presidential election law without putting it to vote or consulting rival political factions; law establishes strong presidential system of governance. Unilateral move sparked ire of western-based authorities. Rival assembly, Tripoli-based consultative High State Council (HSC), next day decried law as “flawed” due to lack of consultations, vowed to oppose it in court. Other Tripoli-based political opponents claimed it was designed to impose presidential election alone, without parliamentary ones, despite UN-backed roadmap requiring to hold both by year’s end. While briefing UN Security Council, UN Special Envoy for Libya Ján Kubiš 10 Sept did not express reservations on HoR’s presidential election law. HSC 19 Sept passed its own proposal for constitutional framework, envisaging bicameral legislative model, but also directly elected president. HoR 27 Sept postponed same-day session on parliamentary elections law to early Oct. Following weeks of mounting tensions between parliament and govt, HoR 21 Sept approved motion of no-confidence against govt, citing concerns over budgetary disbursements; PM Dabaiba and his cabinet to stay in power as “caretakers” with curbed access to country’s finances. Dabaiba same day rejected no-confidence vote, called on Libyans to rise up against HoR; in response, hundreds 24 Sept gathered in capital Tripoli. Meanwhile, fighting 3 Sept broke out between rival Tripoli-based armed forces in worst fighting this year. Dabaiba 7 Sept said govt forces arrested senior Islamic State (ISIS) figure Embarak al-Khazimi in operation south of Tripoli. Forces loyal to eastern strongman Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar 14 Sept launched air and ground operation against formerly allied Chadian rebel group Front for Change and Concord in Chad (FACT) in Tarbu area along Chadian border; Chadian and French forces reportedly involved in operation. Presidency Council Chair Mohamed al-Menfi 6 Sept announced release of political prisoners as part of national reconciliation effort; Saadi Qadhafi, son of former leader Muammar Qadhafi, released previous day. U.S. House of Representatives 28 Sept passed bill enabling sanctions against foreign actors in Libya.
Though overdue, the 23 October Libya ceasefire deal is worthy of applause. With help from the UN and their foreign backers, the warring parties should now close the loopholes in the agreement’s text, lest rival interpretations derail movement toward peace.
Turkish intervention in Libya’s war stopped the besieged Tripoli government from collapsing. But fighting with Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar’s forces has since escalated, threatening a protracted conflict. Both Ankara and Haftar’s regional backers should urge their allies toward a return to negotiations and a ceasefire.
Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar’s march on Tripoli has ground to a halt in a war of attrition with the internationally recognised government’s forces on the city’s outskirts. The parties should conclude a ceasefire including Haftar’s partial withdrawal as a prelude to renewed UN peace talks.
An under-reported banking crisis threatens to exacerbate deadly fighting in Tripoli, ignite a protracted resource war and deepen the country’s east-west divide. A way out requires agreeing to a ceasefire in Tripoli and ending the four-year split between the Central Bank’s rival branches.
Adherents of a Salafi school, the Madkhalis, are gaining prominence on both sides of Libya’s divide, causing concerns about puritanical agendas imposed through military and religious institutions. Negotiators should ensure that rebuilt security forces are politically neutral and secure the Madkhalis’ pledge to respect pluralism.
The Libyan parliament and the executive were not able to drive the [peace] process forward alone. This was why tensions between rival groups had increased again in recent times.
There is not doubt that if [Egypt and Turkey] find a way to work together [...], this will reflect in pushing forward political stability in Libya.
If you start with the NATO-led intervention, the big lesson learned was that this planted the seeds for the disarray that followed [in Libya].
The simple fact that [Libya’s new government] able to get a vote of confidence from rival members of the House of Representatives is a massive step forward.
There are major hurdles ahead, legal hurdles [...] and long-term hurdles about uniting [Libya].
The arms embargo in Libya died many years ago. What changed this year was that the violations of the embargo came out into the open more.
Online Event to discuss International Crisis Group’s fieldwork and recent report “Libya Turns the Page”
Reviving the Iran nuclear deal could help alleviate the threat of nuclear proliferation and cool regional tensions. In this excerpt from our Watch List 2021 for European policymakers, Crisis Group urges the EU and its member states to support the Biden administration in re-engaging with Tehran and to facilitate trade between Europe and Iran.
This Briefing Note provides up-to-the-minute analysis of attempts to end Libya’s almost decade-long civil war through talks focused on reunifying the country’s government, oil-based economy and security forces. It is the third in a series of regular updates.
This Briefing Note provides up-to-the-minute analysis of attempts to end Libya’s almost decade-long civil war through talks focused on reunifying the country’s government, oil-based economy and security forces. It is the second in a series of twice-monthly updates.
This Briefing Note provides up-to-the-minute analysis of attempts to end Libya’s almost decade-long civil war through talks focused on reunifying the country’s government, oil-based economy and security forces. It is the first in a series of twice-monthly updates.