CrisisWatch

Tracking Conflict Worldwide

CrisisWatch is our global conflict tracker, an early warning tool designed to help prevent deadly violence. It keeps decision-makers up-to-date with developments in over 70 conflicts and crises every month, identifying trends and alerting them to risks of escalation and opportunities to advance peace. In addition, CrisisWatch monitors over 50 situations (“standby monitoring”) to offer timely information if developments indicate a drift toward violence or instability. Entries dating back to 2003 provide easily searchable conflict histories.

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January 2024

Middle East & North Africa

Libya

Tripoli-based govt’s decision to lift fuel subsidies sparked backlash, and latest UN-sponsored national dialogue initiative aimed at resolving political stalemate remained stalled.

Public debate revolved around financial and economic feuds. Tripoli-based PM Abdulhamid Dabaiba 10 Jan announced controversial plan to remove fuel subsidies, in likely attempt to curb smuggling of subsidised fuel. Move created uproar among constituencies and politicians who have ties to smuggling rackets, and eastern-based govt in following days called decision “null and void”. Amid opposition and concern that removal of subsidies without proper compensation plans could cause significant inflation and impact ordinary Libyans, Dabaiba 17 Jan said issue will be put to referendum. 

More controversies affected oil sector. National Oil Corporation (NOC) 7 Jan declared force majeure at Sharara Oil Field after protesters closed site in uproar over deteriorating economic conditions in southern region; NOC 21 Jan lifted force majeure after deal with protesters.

UN envoy initiative to resolve political stalemate found no traction. U.S. ambassador to Libya, Richard Norland, in Jan visited capital Tripoli and eastern city of Benghazi to mobilise support for UN envoy Abdoulaye Bathily-sponsored meeting of Libya’s five main political stakeholders to settle “issues impeding progress toward elections”. Speaker of eastern-based House of Representatives (HoR), Aguila Saleh, 23 Jan met with Norland in Benghazi and confirmed rejection of Bathily’s invitation, insisting that first step toward unification should be appointment of new unity govt. Norland same day also met with Libyan National Army (LNA) leader Khalifa Haftar in Benghazi to discuss political stalemate. Following meetings with Norland, Dabaiba and head of Tripoli-based advisory body High Council of State, Mohamed Takala, around 25 Jan announced accepting Bathily’s invitation. Bathily also held series of meetings, including with Haftar 30 Jan and Saleh next day, who reiterated his side would not attend UN-brokered political dialogue unless govt appointed by east-based parliament was present, or both govts were excluded. Meanwhile, Presidency Council pushed separate initiative, National Reconciliation Conference, with preparatory committee meeting held 14 Jan in Zuwara city; conference would supposedly be held in Sirte city in April and include members of former Qadhafi regime. 

December 2023

Middle East & North Africa

Libya

UN-led push to convene meeting of five major political stakeholders faced setbacks as disagreements persisted on whether new govt or elections should come first.

UN envoy’s initiative to convene stakeholders’ meeting faced obstacles. UN Special Representative for Libya, Abdoulaye Bathily, 18 Dec briefed members of UN Security Council on his latest initiative to convene meeting of Libya’s five main political stakeholders, said all invitees had submitted names of their respective delegations but lamented that “Libyan leaders show no commitment to ending the long-standing stalemate”. Stakeholders have reportedly stated irreconcilable conditions for their participation. Notably, eastern-based House of Representatives (HoR) Speaker Aguila Saleh conditioned attendance to focusing discussions on formation of “new govt for elections” and rejected participation of Tripoli-based PM Abdelhamid Dabaiba on grounds that he is no longer legitimate. Meanwhile, Dabaiba, while ready to discuss outstanding issues in electoral laws, categorically rejected any discussions on “new govt”. Libyan National Army (LNA) chief Khalifa Haftar conditioned Dabaiba’s Govt of National Unity (GNU) participation to inclusion of HoR-appointed govt, or exclusion of both govts.

Drone allegedly targeted Russian military cargo in country’s east. Local media reports suggested drone mid Dec targeted Russian Ilyushin military cargo aircraft in Jufra airbase in central Libya; U.S. Africa Command denied involvement. Cargo plane could have presumably been used to deliver equipment to Haftar or to his allies as Jufra airbase falls under LNA’s authority; base is also known, however, to be transit point for Russian military activity in neighbouring African states. Some foreign analysts suggested strike could be work of Tripoli-based authorities who possess armed drones but whether these have sufficient autonomy to carry out strike in Jufra, some 500 kilometres from capital, is unclear.

In other important developments. UN Mission 21 Dec expressed concern over death in custody of former Defence Minister Al-Mahdi al-Barghathi after authorities in Oct arrested him in Benghazi city, demanded independent investigation. Presidency Council early Dec expressed concern after Niger in Nov repelled law that criminalised transportation of irregular migrants to neighbouring Libya and Algeria for onward travel to Europe, while GNU reportedly appealed for urgent EU support to secure country’s southern border.

November 2023

Middle East & North Africa

Libya

Attempts to break political deadlock and unify state institutions continued to fail as distrust between rival authorities remained high.

Rival authorities remained at loggerheads on new unified executive and elections. Heads of rival assemblies, Aghela Saleh of eastern-based House of Representatives (HoR), and Mohamed Takala of Tripoli-based High State Council (HSC), around 8 Nov met in Egypt but failed to reach breakthrough; Saleh continued to back HoR-approved election laws and called for formation of interim unity govt, while Takala insisted that his assembly did not approve final version of laws and allegedly refused to back new govt formation. Taking stock of impasse, UN envoy Abdoulaye Bathily 23 Nov invited key stakeholders – Presidential Council, HoR, HSC, Tripoli-based govt and Libyan National Army – to attend meeting to reach settlement on outstanding issues pertaining to electoral process. Eastern-based govt of Osama Hamad immediately denounced its exclusion from UN-led talks, said Bathily has “entrenched division among Libyans” and called on UN Sec Gen António Guterres to “appoint a new UN envoy”.

Unified mechanism to lead reconstruction of flood-hit city of Derna remained elusive. Eastern-based govt headed by Osama Hamad 1-2 Nov hosted international conference for reconstruction of Derna city following September devastating floods; over 70 foreign companies and handful of diplomats attended, but Tripoli-based authorities were not invited and western diplomats, who do not recognise eastern-based govt, boycotted. UN mission (UNSMIL) continued to call for unified and coordinated mechanism for reconstruction, warning that unilateral initiatives risk deepening existing rift between rival administrations.

In other important developments. Tensions remained elevated in eastern city of Benghazi and western city of Gharyan following deadly fighting in October; separate incidents were triggered by return of two military commanders to their hometowns, and served as reminder that perceptions of hostile movement by rival forces can fuel localised violence. Meanwhile, dispute between Tripoli-based PM Abdulhamid Dabaiba and Central Bank Governor Seddiq al-Kebir early Nov reached new peak, allegedly over latter’s plan to meet eastern-based authorities; following spat, al-Kebir reportedly left Tripoli and flew out to Türkiye. Turkish Parliament 30 Nov approved extension of military mission in Libya for additional 24 months.

October 2023

Middle East & North Africa

Libya

Parliament passed election laws, but major obstacles to holding votes remained; deadly clashes erupted between rival forces in eastern city of Benghazi and western city of Gharyan.

Election laws continued to spark controversy. Eastern-based House of Representatives (HoR) early Oct approved revised versions of presidential and parliamentary election laws and referred them to High Electoral Commission for implementation. Mohamed Tekala, new head of rival Tripoli-based High State Council (HSC), in following days rejected laws and scrapped cooperation with HoR; some HSC members contended that move did not reflect HSC’s stance, but just that of Tekala-aligned members. In briefing to UN Security Council, UN Special Representative for Libya Abdoulaye Bathily 16 Oct welcomed “some progress” in electoral process, but noted most politically contentious issues remained unresolved, with mandatory second round of presidential election and linkage between presidential and parliamentary elections putting electoral process at “high risk of disruption”; Bathily also noted negotiations between rival authorities required to form new govt ahead of elections remain elusive.

Rival forces engaged in deadly clashes. Former Tripoli-based Defence Minister al-Mahdi al-Barghathi early Oct travelled to his home city of Benghazi, allegedly alongside 40 of his followers. Claiming that Barghathi’s return had not been pre-approved and could be first step in plot to mobilise anti-Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar forces in Benghazi, forces aligned with Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) 6 Oct attempted to arrest him in Salmani district, sparking firefight that allegedly left at least 17 people dead, including one of Barghathi’s sons; LNA also cut off all communication in Benghazi for over a week. Meanwhile, clashes 29 Oct erupted in western city of Gharyan between Tripoli-based govt-affiliated militia and forces loyal to militia leader Adel Daab (who was expelled from Gharyan in 2019 by forces affiliated to former Tripoli-based govt after he handed control of city to Haftar’s forces); local sources reported eight people killed and 27 injured.

In other important developments. After flooding in Sept devastated eastern city of Derna, anger continued to simmer among locals who blame disaster on poor governance. Total death toll still uncertain: local authorities confirmed retrieving over 4,000 bodies, but number of missing is unclear.

September 2023

Middle East & North Africa

Libya

Floods devastated eastern city of Derna after Storm Daniel caused dam collapse, leaving thousands dead; UN envoy for Libya reiterated support for unified govt before elections.

Up to 20,000 people feared dead after devastating floods. As Storm Daniel 11 Sept hit eastern Libya, two dams located upstream from coastal city of Derna collapsed; water swiped away entire neighbourhoods, resulting in an estimated 20,000 deaths. In rare sign of unity, aid in following days poured from across country. Various state agencies affiliated with Tripoli-based govt sent in aid and some military commanders from western Libya arrived in Derna. East-based authorities however denied entry to Derna to Tripoli-based govt ministers in likely attempt to prevent Tripoli from taking credit for rescue efforts. International support effort also defied traditional geopolitical divides. Traditional allies of general commander of Libyan National Army, Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, including United Arab Emirates and Egypt, immediately stepped in to help, but historical allies of Tripoli-based authorities, Qatar and Türkiye, also sent search and rescue teams and specialized equipment to help locate survivors. Debate erupted over human responsibility for tragedy. Hundreds of protesters 18 Sept rallied in Derna, blaming long-term neglect for dam collapse and chanting slogans against eastern parliament, House of Representatives (HoR), and its speaker Aguila Saleh. Country’s top prosecutor 25 Sept announced detention of eight current and former officials pending investigation into collapse of dams; several others reportedly detained in following days.

UN envoy for Libya reiterated support for unified govt before elections. UN special envoy to Libya, Abdoulaye Bathily, early Sept met with several Libyan officials, including Aguila Saleh and Khalifa Haftar, and Tripoli-based PM Dabaiba. In meeting with latter, Bathily 5 Sept reiterated elections should take place under supervision of unified govt. Bathily in aftermath of Derna flood continued to urge Libyan stakeholders to step up efforts toward holding elections and unifying national institutions.

Controversy over former FM’s meeting with Israeli counterpart persisted. After revelation that Tripoli-based FM Najla al-Mangoush held talks with her Israeli counterpart, Eli Cohen, in Aug sparked widespread protests, leading to her dismissal, prosecutor’s office 2-3 Sept launched investigation into bilateral meeting.

August 2023

Middle East & North Africa

Libya

In apparent policy shift, UN envoy for Libya called for unified govt before elections take place; rival militias engaged in deadly clashes in Tripoli, revealing precarious security outlook in capital.

Amid political gridlock, UN urged unified govt for elections. Tripoli-based consultative body, High State Council (HSC), 6 Aug elected Mohamed Takala as new leader, unseating incumbent Khaled Mishri, with unclear consequences on HSC’s support for eastern-based House of Representatives (HoR)’s plan to appoint interim govt as part of roadmap to general elections. HoR 8 Aug discussed draft election laws agreed upon in June by UN-backed “6+6” joint committee (composed of HoR and HSC representatives) and referred comments back to committee. Meanwhile, UN envoy for Libya Abdoulaye Bathily 22 Aug told UN Security Council agreement on unified govt is “imperative” to lead country to elections; statement appears as reversal of UN longstanding position that elections should be held ahead of govt unification.

Central Bank announced reunification after decade-long division. Central Bank Governor Sadiq al-Kabir 20 Aug said Central Bank of Libya reinstated as unified institution almost ten years after splitting into two rival branches; it is still unclear, however, whether procedures required to make unification operational have been activated.

Fighting between rival Tripoli militias left dozens dead. Members of Special Deterrence Force (alias Rada militia) 14 Aug detained commander of 444 Brigade, Mahmud Hamza, at Mitiga airport in capital Tripoli. In response, members of 444 Brigade opened fire at Rada militiamen, leading to intense fighting with heavy artillery around Mitiga airport and elsewhere in Tripoli that continued into 15 Aug; UN reported at least 55 people killed and over 100 injured. Fighting, which in following days subsided as Hamza was released, took place amid turf war between Rada militia and 444 Brigade commanders (both allied to Tripoli-based PM Dabaiba) for control of Tripoli International Airport upon its reopening.

In other important developments. Eastern strongman Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army 25 Aug launched airstrikes against Chadian rebel positions on Libyan side of border with Chad (see Chad). Dabaiba 28 Aug suspended FM Najla Mangoush after protests previous day erupted in several cities over Mangoush’s meeting with Israeli counterpart.

July 2023

Middle East & North Africa

Libya

Parliament approved roadmap for selection of new unity govt before elections, drawing UN’s ire, and oil revenue distribution took centre stage.

Parliament adopted controversial plan to appoint new unity govt. East-based House of Representatives (HoR) 25 July approved roadmap paving the way for appointment of supposed unity govt before presidential and parliamentary elections; HoR presented plan as part and parcel of broader roadmap agreed to in June by HoR and Tripoli-based High State Council (HSC) representatives forming UN-backed “6+6” committee. UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) 26 July criticised “unilateral” initiative going counter to UN-backed efforts to enable elections as soon as possible, and warned it could “inflict serious negative consequences for Libya and trigger further instability and violence”. In response, HoR accused UN of misleading public opinion when describing decision as “unilateral”.

Rival factions set up joint committee on oil revenue distribution. Head of east-based govt, Osama Hamad, HoR chairman Aguila Saleh, and eastern strongman Field Marshall Khalifa Haftar late June-early July made separate calls for “fairer” redistribution of oil revenues, threatening to close off oil production should Tripoli fail to put portion of oil revenues at direct disposal of eastern authorities. In response, Tripoli-based Presidency Council Chairman Mohamed Menfi around 6 July agreed to form committee tasked with “distributing oil revenues” and including representatives from eastern and western Libya. UN, EU and most western embassies in following days welcomed decision.

Struggle for control of Central Bank led to kidnapping, oil field closure. Gunmen 11 July kidnapped former finance minister and prominent figure from eastern Libya, Farj Bou Matari, at Tripoli airport. Tribesmen close to Haftar 13 July shut down oil production at El Feel and El Sharara oil fields to protest Matari’s abduction, who was released 15 July. Tripoli-based oil ministry next day said production had resumed at oil sites. Kidnapping likely linked to claims that Bou Matari early July enjoyed tentative backing of rival assemblies, HSC and HoR, to replace Siddiq al-Kebir as Central Bank governor.

June 2023

Middle East & North Africa

Libya

Political deadlock persisted despite headlines suggesting that rival factions reached agreement on election laws while selection of new interim govt remained controversial.

Stakeholders sent contradictory signals on elections and new govt. Following series of meetings in Moroccan town of Bouznika, members of 6+6 joint committee – composed of House of Representatives (HoR) and rival Tripoli-based High State Council (HSC) representatives – early June announced agreement on legal framework for presidential and parliamentary elections. HoR Speaker Aguila Saleh and head of HSC Khaled Meshri 6-7 June travelled to Morocco but failed to sign off on electoral legislation as points of contentions persisted, notably on whether military officers can run for president. Meanwhile, amid competing plans aimed at appointing new interim govt before elections take place, eastern forces commander Khalifa Haftar 16 June congratulated outcome of Morocco talks and called for formation of “technocratic” govt to oversee election preparation, suggesting that he may now favour parliament-led selection process, rather than keeping Tripoli-based PM Dabaiba in office as part of power-sharing deal. In briefing to UN Security Council, UN Envoy to Libya Abdoulaye Bathily 20 June said failure to reach agreement among major stakeholders on eligibility criteria for presidential election, linkage between presidential and parliamentary elections, and formation of new unified govt could “trigger a new crisis”.

Tripoli conducted fresh strikes in west. Dabaiba 1 June insisted drones strikes carried out late May in western Libya targeted sites used by “criminal gangs” for human trafficking, drug and fuel smuggling, denying HoR claims that strikes were aimed at “settling political scores”; Dabaiba also denied Turkish involvement in strikes. Forces loyal to Dabaiba 7-8 June conducted fresh strikes near Zuwara city, reportedly targeting fuel smuggling site.

Tensions over control of oil wealth threatened to escalate. Eastern-based PM Osama Hammad 24 June threatened to impose blockade on oil and gas facilities to prevent exports in protest at alleged unfair distribution of oil revenues by Tripoli-based authorities; 26 June said he discussed mater with Tripoli-based National Oil Corporation Chairman Farhat Bengdara.

In other important developments. Drone strikes 29 June reportedly hit Al-Kharruba airbase used by Russian paramilitary group Wagner; Tripoli-based authorities denied responsibility.

May 2023

Middle East & North Africa

Libya

Violence broke out in west as efforts to form new executive heightened political tensions, all the while undermining UN moves to organise elections in late 2023.

Eastern-based PM Bashagha dismissed amid negotiations for unified executive. Eastern-based House of Representatives (HoR) 16 May suspended PM Bashagha as head of HoR-backed govt citing allegations of financial irregularities, and appointed finance minister and close ally of eastern army commander Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, Osama Hammad, as interim PM. Haftar’s sons and heads of militias close to rival Tripoli-based PM Dabaiba in May met in Egypt’s capital Cairo to forge deal on new unity govt that would leave Dabaiba in place, while conceding some ministries to Haftar affiliates; some MPs are opposed to this plan, however, and want Dabaiba removed. Meanwhile, as part of UN-backed efforts to hold presidential and legislative elections by year’s end, 6+6 joint committee – composed of HoR and rival Tripoli-based High State Council representatives – 23 May announced breakthrough on number of issues related to elections but conditioned further steps on agreement on new govt.

Political tensions fuelled violence between armed groups in Zawiya city. Clashes between rival militias who battle for influence and control of trafficking routes 21-24 April left at least four civilians dead in Zawiya city (west). Renewed clashes 11 May erupted, reportedly leaving two people dead. Precarious calm in following days prevailed following mediation by notables and community leaders, but tensions rose again after Tripoli-based govt 25 May ordered drone strikes on militia-held buildings in Zawiya, targeting factions close to MPs who want to dislodge Dabaiba. Fresh drone strikes in Maya port outside Zawiya 29 May killed two and wounded nephew of HoR MP Ali Bouzriba; HoR immediately condemned attack, and armed group close to Bouzriba same day closed off gas pipeline to local electricity plant in retaliation.

Concerns persisted over fallout of conflict in Sudan. State-owned National Oil Corporation 1 May denied media reports that it delivered oil from Sarir refinery to Mohamed “Hemedti” Hamdan Dagalo’s paramilitary Rapid Support Forces in Sudan, however locals claimed fuel smuggling from south-eastern Libya toward Sudanese border continued.

April 2023

Middle East & North Africa

Libya

Efforts to unify country’s rival factions behind electoral roadmap remained in stalemate, making presidential and parliamentary elections in 2023 increasingly elusive; concern grew over potential fallout of Sudanese conflict.

Political process remained stalled. East-based House of Representatives (HoR) 2 April published in official gazette series of amendments to 2021 laws on presidential and parliamentary elections. Amendments provide for ineligibility for president of dual nationals, but otherwise do not significantly differ from original laws, suggesting their main purpose may be to show Libyans, UN and international partners that parliament is actively working toward elections as means of fending off a UN-backed alternative mechanism. In briefing to UN Security Council, UN envoy for Libya Abdoulaye Bathily 18 April said he had offered UN technical assistance to HoR-High State Council committee working on electoral laws, made no mention of his previously announced proposal to create High-Level Panel for Elections that would take over drafting of election laws.

UN gathered rival military coalitions’ leaders on Libyan soil for first time in years. Bathily 26 March in capital Tripoli and 8 April in Benghazi city hosted meetings between commanders of rival military coalitions; another meeting between rival chiefs of staff held 14 April in Benghazi without participation of UN envoy. Bathily early April also toured Libya’s neighbouring states of Chad, Niger and Sudan to discuss repatriation from Libya of foreign fighters.

Potential fallout of conflict in neighbouring Sudan sparked concern. After conflict between Sudanese army and paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) 15 April broke out in Sudan, credible media reports, including from The Wall Street Journal 19 April, alleged eastern strongman Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar’s forces delivered weapons to RSF, which Haftar denied; some reports claimed weapons delivered via airlift, but local sources alleged weapons hauled overland. Matter could fuel tensions between Haftar and its Egyptian ally, which supports Sudanese army (see Egypt). Amid growing concern about potential spillover of fighting into southern Libya, where Sudanese militiamen are present, Haftar forces 24 April closed border with Sudan and reportedly sent military reinforcements to southern town of Kufra.

March 2023

Middle East & North Africa

Libya

UN initiative to provide constitutional framework for elections struggled to gain traction.

UN envoy’s plan for elections failed to secure endorsement. Special Representative of UN Sec-Gen for Libya Abdoulaye Bathily 11 March said legislative bodies, House of Representatives (HoR) and High State Council (HSC), had agreed to form joint committee of six members each to draft electoral laws; also said presidential and legislative elections could be held by year’s end if clear roadmap and electoral laws are in place by June. Statement appeared to give centre stage to legislative bodies’ initiative to provide legal framework for elections, suggesting Bathily has backtracked on his recent proposal to establish High-Level Panel for Elections. HoR Speaker Aguila Saleh 13 March reiterated opposition to Bathily’s proposal, confirmed HoR is on track with its own roadmap and intends to appoint new interim govt once election laws are finalised; issue of new executive to replace Tripoli-based govt of PM Abdelhamid Dabaiba is major point of departure from Bathily’s plan. UN Security Council 16 March adopted presidential statement on Libya, stating that Council “recognises the continued role of the HoR and HSC” to securing legal basis for elections, while downplaying Bathily’s initiative.

Efforts to unify divided military institutions inched forward. Bathily 16 March hosted meeting of 5+5 Joint Military Commission (JMC) – which brings together representatives of armed forces from eastern and western Libya – in Tunisia’s capital Tunis to discuss way forward in security track and reunification of military institutions; renewed commitment to create initial joint force (one unit) to be deployed in central Libya. Military leaders from both east-based Libyan National Army (LNA) and Tripoli-based military coalition, including some JMC members, 26 March met in capital Tripoli under UN auspices, committed to continue to work toward unification of military.

National oil company chairman allegedly under U.S. scrutiny. Allegations in March surfaced among Libyan businessmen that chairman of Libya’s National Oil Corporation, Farhat Bengdara, is under U.S. scrutiny for his alleged role in allocating funds to cover expenses of Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar’s LNA forces, part of which might have bankrolled sanctioned Russian paramilitary Wagner Group.

February 2023

Middle East & North Africa

Libya

Political deadlock persisted one year after Libya split into two rival govts.

East-based parliament continued to chart unilateral path out of political crisis. Tobruk-based House of Representatives (HoR) 7 Feb approved constitutional amendment that could be used as basis for elections. Amendment calls for simultaneous presidential and parliamentary elections to take place within 240 days of adoption of election laws by joint committee of HoR and Tripoli-based advisory High State Council (HSC) members. Tripoli-based critics of HoR, including some HSC members, accused body of seeking to buy time, notably opposing open timeline for drafting election laws and obligation to have presidential election. In another unilateral move, HoR President Aghela Saleh 16 Feb proposed formation of 45-member committee – including HoR, HSC and independent members – to decide on new executive to replace two govts now in place.

UN Libya envoy proposed new initiative to break stalemate. In briefing to UN Security Council, Special Representative for Libya Abdoulaye Bathily 27 Feb criticised HoR’s constitutional amendment as “controversial”, underscoring that it does not stipulate clear roadmap, including timeline, for holding elections in 2023. Instead, Bathily proposed formation of high-level steering committee composed of representatives of political and security institutions, and other political, tribal and civil society leaders to facilitate adoption of legal framework and time-bound roadmap to enable elections in 2023.

UN welcomed coordination mechanism for withdrawal of foreign fighters. UN Support Mission to Libya 8 Feb said officials from Libya’s 5+5 Joint Military Commission – which brings together representatives of armed forces from eastern and western Libya – as well as liaison committees from Sudan and Niger, approved “coordination mechanism” for “withdrawal of mercenaries and foreign fighters from Libya” during two-day meeting in Egypt. Mechanism unlikely to affect presence of Turkish forces alongside Tripoli govt or Russian Wagner contractors alongside eastern forces.

Energy deal with Italian company ENI sparked controversy. Opponents of Tripoli-based PM Abdelhamid Dabaiba, including his own oil minister and HoR members, early Feb criticised as “illegal” $8bn agreement struck late Jan between National Oil Corporation and Italian state-owned oil company ENI, arguing it required HoR buy-in; investment plan notably outlines steps to increase Libya’s oil and gas export capacity.

January 2023

Middle East & North Africa

Libya

Dialogue between rival assemblies on amending draft constitution to chart roadmap toward elections reached dead end, and disputes around demarcation of maritime boundaries continued.

Rival assemblies’ dialogue track came to an abrupt halt. Heads of rival assemblies, Aghela Saleh of Tobruk-based House of Representatives (HoR) and Khaled Mishri of Tripoli-based High State Council (HSC), 5 Jan met in Egyptian capital Cairo, pledged in vaguely-worded joint statement to refer amended constitutional draft to their respective chambers. Cairo 11 Jan hosted meeting between head of Presidential Council Mohamed Menfi and head of Libyan National Army, Field Marshall Khalifa Haftar; 15 January held another meeting between Menfi, Haftar and Saleh. Saleh in following days however refused to sign off on document outlining key agreements between HoR and HSC and reaffirmed HoR is Libya’s one and only legislative body and does not need HSC’s approval, suggesting that HoR amend 2011 constitutional declaration “before March”.

Diplomatic initiatives to press for elections continued. U.S. Central Intelligence Agency Director William Burns 12 Jan made first visit to Libya since 2012, met with PM Abdelhamid Dabaiba in capital Tripoli and reportedly also with Haftar in Benghazi city; Burns pressed on his interlocutors need to move forward with elections before year’s end. Turkish intelligence chief Hakan Fidan 17 Jan also visited Tripoli and met with Dabaiba and Mishri to discuss political situation; reportedly also met with some armed groups’ leaders in Tripoli.

Controversies over disputed demarcation of maritime boundaries continued. National Oil Corporation 2 Jan protested against Athens’ ongoing oil and gas exploration in waters disputed between Greece and Libya. Tripoli’s Court of Appeals 9 Jan suspended implementation of Libya-Türkiye deal on oil and gas exploration that two countries had signed in Oct until final verdict on case. Meanwhile, Tripoli-based Govt of National Unity 28 Jan signed deals with Italian govt aimed at boosting Libyan energy supplies to Europe and clamping down on migrants attempting to cross Mediterranean Sea.

December 2022

Middle East & North Africa

Libya

UN efforts to foster dialogue between rival parliaments faced new challenges, handover of terrorism suspect to U.S. sparked outrage domestically, and maritime borders riled Mediterranean waters.

Spat erupted between country’s rival parliaments after period of rapprochement. East-based House of Representatives (HoR) 6 Dec voted to set up constitutional court in eastern city of Benghazi. Tripoli-based advisory High Council of State (HCS) same day condemned move – which could invalidate recently reactivated Tripoli-based Constitutional Chamber – as unlawful, and 11 Dec suspended contact with HoR. HoR Speaker Aguila Saleh and HCS Chairman Khaled al-Mishri 23 Dec however agreed to drop plans to create constitutional court. Meanwhile, meeting between Saleh and al-Mishri scheduled for 4 Dec as part of UN-led political process postponed for “logistical reasons” and “political obstacles”. U.S. embassy in Libya 24 Dec called for “alternative mechanisms” to be considered as way of producing constitutional basis for elections if HoR-HCS talks fail.

Handover of Lockerbie suspect to U.S. sparked tensions. Media outlets, including British daily The Guardian 13 Dec, reported Tripoli-based govt (GNU) handed over Abu Ajila Masoud al-Marimi – key suspect in bombing of Pan American Flight 103 over Lockerbie town in Scotland in 1988 – to U.S. authorities after armed group in Nov kidnapped him in Tripoli. Head of rival govt, east-based PM Fathi Bashagha, 13 Dec called move “illegal”. Attorney general’s office next day announced investigation into Tripoli-based PM Dabaiba’s decision to extradite Masoud, and demonstrations against extradition 16 Dec took place in several cities.

Standoff persisted over maritime borders in Mediterranean Sea. GNU 7 Dec criticised as “irresponsible” Greece’s recent agreements with energy firms for oil and gas exploration near maritime borders with Libya. Athens same day retorted that GNU’s recent energy deals with Türkiye violated international law. After Egyptian President al-Sisi 11 Dec issued decree demarcating Egypt’s western maritime border, GNU 16 Dec and HoR 22 Dec said decision violated Libya’s territorial waters. Bashagha 14 Dec called on Egypt, Türkiye and Greece to not “take any unilateral steps” that would “worsen the situation in the Mediterranean”. Greek media late-Dec reported Athens plans to extend territorial waters south and west of Crete island.

November 2022

Middle East & North Africa

Libya

Tensions between Tripoli-based institutions reached new heights as country remained divided into two rival govts with no political solution in sight.

Rival institutions remained at odds on means to resolve political crisis. Tripoli-based advisory High Council of State (HCS) Chair Khalid al-Meshri 14 Nov accused militiamen affiliated with Tripoli-based PM Abdelhamid Dabaiba of “besieging” HCS headquarters; said HCS had convened session to follow up on tentative agreement with eastern-based legislature House of Representatives (HoR) to work toward forming new unity govt. Dabaiba, who is opposed to HoR-HSC negotiations, immediately denounced “incitement and exaggeration”, saying only “a few” protesters had gathered outside HCS building, accused Meshri of making secret “power-sharing” deals to delay elections. HoR Speaker Aguila Saleh same day condemned “threats and intimidation by armed groups using force” against HCS. Dabaiba 29 Nov reportedly accused Meshri and Saleh of “systematically obstructing elections”. East-based military commander Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar around 22 Nov weighed in on political crisis, saying “time has come for the Libyan people to put an end to failed experiments and dead ends”, accusing politicians of “worshipping their seats of power”.

Greek FM’s refusal to meet Tripoli-based govt minister sparked diplomatic spat. After Tripoli-based Govt of National Unity (GNU) in Oct signed deal with Türkyie on oil and gas exploration in areas of Mediterranean contested by Athens, Greek FM Nikos Dendias 17 Nov canceled Tripoli visit upon landing to avoid being welcomed by his Libyan counterpart, FM Najla al-Mangoush; Dendias claimed he had come to meet Tripoli-based Presidential Council head Mohamed al-Menfi. GNU subsequently recalled its ambassador from Athens and summoned Greek chargé d’affaires in Tripoli.

In other important developments. In his briefing to UN Security Council, UN sec-gen’s special representative for Libya, Abdoulaye Bathily, 15 Nov renewed call for legislative and presidential elections but did not articulate how he planned to address sources of friction over electoral roadmap. International Criminal Court (ICC) Chief Prosecutor Karim Khan early Nov met with Haftar during first ever visit to Libya, 9 Nov told UN Security Council he expects latter to cooperate with ICC investigations into alleged crimes committed by Haftar’s Libyan National Army.

October 2022

Middle East & North Africa

Libya

Series of deals between Ankara and Tripoli inflamed internal and regional tensions; UN Security Council extended political mission’s mandate as new envoy took office in capital Tripoli.

Energy deals between Tripoli-based govt and Ankara triggered uproar. Tripoli-based govt 3 Oct signed preliminary economic and maritime agreements with Türkiye, opening door to joint oil and gas exploration and drillings in Libya-claimed Exclusive Economic Zone in Mediterranean, disputed by Egypt and Greece. East-based PM Bashagha and House of Representatives (HoR) Speaker Aguila Saleh immediately rejected deal as null and void, saying Tripoli-based govt’s term expired in Dec 2021. Egypt and Greece 3 and 9 Oct condemned hydrocarbon exploration deal as “illegal”, with Athens vowing to oppose it “with all legal means”. EU 3 Oct reiterated that it considers 2019 agreement demarcating Turkish and Libyan Exclusive Economic Zones (which latest oil and gas deal builds on) as infringement of sovereign rights of other states. Tripoli-based PM Dabaiba 25 Oct travelled to Türkiye and reportedly signed two military deals with Turkish govt with a view to strengthening military cooperation.

Rival camps held military parades, adopted bellicose rhetoric. On occasion of military parade in southern city of Sebha, East-based military commander Field Marshall Khalifa Haftar 17 Oct called for popular “rebellion” against “governmental failure”; said his forces “are ready to protect the people in their uprising”. Forces loyal to Tripoli-based govt 22 Oct held televised military exercise in Dabaiba’s presence. Aguila Saleh and Khaled al-Mishri, head of Tripoli-based High State Council, 20-21 Oct met in Morocco, said they had agreed to take steps to unify rival govts and resume dialogue on holding elections; Dabaiba 21 Oct rejected “parallel paths”.

UN renewed efforts to help break political stalemate. New UN Sec-Gen Special Representative Abdoulaye Bathily 14 Oct arrived in Tripoli to assume his duties and in following days held talks with rival leaders, including Dabaiba, Aguila Saleh, Presidential Council Chairman Mohammed al-Menfi, and National Oil Corporation chairman Farhat Bengdara. UN Security Council 28 Oct unanimously extended political mission UNSMIL’s mandate for another year, urged parties to agree on roadmap to presidential and parliamentary elections.

September 2022

Middle East & North Africa

Libya

Crisis of two rival govts remained intractable as Sirte-based PM Fathi Bashagha came out weakened of failed efforts to enter capital Tripoli.

PM Dabaiba continued to consolidate control in Tripoli. Militias aligned with Tripoli-based PM Abdelhamid Dabaiba early Sept reportedly took over security headquarters in Ain Zara town south of Tripoli after repelling forces loyal to rival Sirte-based PM Fathi Bashagha in late Aug. Situation inside Tripoli remained calm in Sept, but renewed clashes between rival armed factions 2-3 Sept broke out in Warshafana area west of Tripoli with reports of mortar fire. Fighting 25-26 Sept also erupted in Zawiya town, 40km west of Tripoli, allegedly over fuel trafficking; at least five people killed including ten-year-old girl; UN Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) next day “condemned the use of heavy artillery in densely populated neighbourhoods”.

Parties sought to strengthen relations with Ankara. Dabaiba and Bashagha, 31 Aug-1 Sept made parallel visits to Türkiye to seek Ankara’s support. Turkish FM Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu 14 Sept said Türkiye seeks to “build good relations” with various Libyan parties amid media reports that Turkish drones turned late-Aug clashes in Dabaiba’s favour.

New UN envoy appointed. UN Sec-Gen António Guterres 2 Sept appointed Senegalese diplomat and former govt minister Abdoulaye Bathily as special representative for Libya and head of UNSMIL after obtaining Security Council’s approval, ending nine-month search. Dabaiba, who in Aug had reportedly objected to Bathily’s nomination, 3 Sept assured envoy of his “full support”. Bathily, who 25 Sept officially assumed duties, will have to mediate between Libyan factions now divided between those adamant that Dabaiba stay on until elections, those proposing new power-sharing deal and govt reshuffle under Dabaiba, and those calling for entirely new “third” govt. Foreign capitals also split on path ahead.

In other important developments. After power struggle erupted in Aug between Supreme Court and Tobruk-based House of Representatives (HoR), HoR Speaker Aguila Saleh 15 Sept announced appointment of Abdullah Abu Razizah as new chief justice of Supreme Court to replace Mohammed Al-Hafi; Abu Razizah few days later took office.

August 2022

Middle East & North Africa

Libya

Worst fighting in years broke out in capital Tripoli between forces loyal to rival govts, raising prospect of a return to full-blown war. Fighting 26-27 Aug raged across Tripoli as forces aligned with Tobruk-based House of Representatives (HoR)-appointed PM Bashagha failed to take control of capital and oust Tripoli-based govt of PM Dabaiba; 32 people reportedly killed and 159 injured. Flare-up followed days of escalating tensions between rival factions. Smaller-scale clashes 5-6 Aug opposed Bashagha-aligned forces and militia loyal to Dabaiba near airport road in Tripoli. Amid build-up of forces outside Tripoli, UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) 23 Aug called for “immediate de-escalation”, warned that “current political stalemate [...] cannot be resolved through armed confrontation”. Bashagha 24 Aug called on Dabaiba to step down and peacefully hand over power to avoid bloodshed; Dabaiba rejected call, denounced “threats to ignite war” and vowed that no one would be allowed to meddle with security of Tripoli. Dabaiba 25 Aug urged head of Tripoli-based consultative High State Council, Khalid Al-Mishri, and HoR Speaker Aguila Saleh to approve constitutional basis for elections. Meanwhile, Supreme Court 18 Aug announced decision to reactivate its Constitutional Chamber, which had been inactive since 2016. Dabaiba same day welcomed move, saying it could act as “deterrent” to “abuses and violations” of 2015 power-sharing agreement. Opponents however denounced political manoeuvring in reaction to HoR session held 16 Aug, during which lawmakers voted on amending statutes of Supreme Court and ruled it could appoint advisers to top court. After Dabaiba in July changed oil leadership, Central Bank 2 Aug reportedly disbursed 8.5bn dinars to National Oil Corporation as part of 15bn “urgent and temporary financial arrangement” concluded in mid-April. Libya’s envoy to UN, Taher El-Sonni, 15 Aug said Dabaiba’s govt had rejected UN proposal to appoint Senegalese former Minister Abdoulaye Bathily as new head of UNSMIL; move came after UN Security Council late July extended UNSMIL’s mandate for only three months amid Russian insistence that new UN mission head is chosen before it agrees to longer extension.

July 2022

Middle East & North Africa

Libya

Wave of protests highlighted popular frustration with political standoff; deadly clashes erupted between rival factions in capital Tripoli; and oil exports resumed after controversial oil leadership change. Series of spontaneous demonstrations – driven by difficult living conditions, including recurring electricity cuts, and political actors’ inability to form consensus on elections – early July rocked several cities across country. Notably, protesters 1 July stormed and set fire to House of Representatives building in eastern city of Tobruk. Under pressure from popular mobilisation and shrinking prospect of any political breakthrough, Sirte-based PM Bashagha 8 July said his govt would in following days attempt to take office in Tripoli with support of loyal armed forces; military commanders of Western region 13 July reiterated Tripoli is “a red line”, vowed to confront any attempts to sow discord among security components in capital. Deadly fighting between rival factions 21-22 July broke out in several Tripoli neighbourhoods, with 16 people reportedly killed; in response, Tripoli-based PM Dabaiba 22 July suspended Interior Minister Khaled Mazen, replacing him on an interim basis with local govt Minister Bader Eddine al-Toumi. Meanwhile, Dabaiba 12 July dismissed National Oil Corporation (NOC) Chairman Mustafa Sanalla, replaced him with former Central Bank Governor Farhat Bengdara. Sanalla next day rejected decision, said Dabaiba’s mandate to govern had expired. Militia loyal to Dabaiba 14 July deployed outside NOC headquarters in Tripoli and installed Bengdara as chairman. NOC’s new leadership 15 July lifted force majeure which was declared in April at several oil facilities, enabling oil production and exports to resume in following days; NOC 31 July said crude production had returned to pre-force majeure levels of 1.2mn barrels per day. Arabic language media outlets Al Jazeera Arabic and Al-Araby Al-Jadeed in July reported growing convergence between Dabaiba and eastern strongman Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar. Notably, Lt-Gen Abdelrazzak Al-Nadhouri, second in command of Haftar-led forces, 18-19 July reportedly met with Lt-Gen Muhammad Al-Haddad, chief of staff of Libyan army, to discuss unification of military institution. Meanwhile, U.S. judge 29 July found Haftar liable for war crimes over alleged extrajudicial killings and torture in Libya, paving the way for plaintiffs to seek compensation.

June 2022

Middle East & North Africa

Libya

Crisis of two govts dragged on as UN-led talks failed to forge consensus on constitutional basis for elections. House of Representatives (HoR) 15 June passed Sirte-based PM Fathi Bashagha’s proposed govt budget. Bashagha unlikely to be able to tap into state funds, however, as Tripoli-based Govt of National Unity (GNU) immediately rejected budget, and Central Bank of Libya Governor Siddiq Elkebir, who is in charge of making disbursements into govt accounts, did not signal he would recognise budget. Bashagha’s efforts to win international support remained unsuccessful. UN Sec-Gen office 23 June said UN would continue to recognise Tripoli-based PM Abdelhamid Dabaiba as legitimate PM until elections are held. Delegates of HoR and Tripoli-based High State Council 12-20 June met in Egypt’s capital Cairo for third round of UN-sponsored political talks, failed to find agreement on constitutional basis for elections; new UN-convened talks between rival assemblies’ chairmen 28-29 June took place in Switzerland, failed to make breakthrough. Simultaneously, some politicians in recent weeks tried to forge consensus for “third” govt to replace both Bashagha and Dabaiba-led executives, while eastern strongman Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar and Dabaiba aides in June allegedly met outside Libya to negotiate deal aimed at persuading Haftar to drop support for Bashagha in favour of Dabaiba. Politically driven closures of oil sector throughout June persisted, with production fluctuating between 600,000-900,000 barrels/day, equivalent to 50-75% of country’s total oil production before closures; National Oil Corporation 30 June declared force majeure on oil terminals of Sidra and Ras Lanuf in Gulf of Sirte region due to shutdown of oilfields. Meanwhile, security situation in capital Tripoli remained tense. Notably, rival western militias 10 June clashed in Souk el-Tlath neighbourhood, leaving at least one dead; UN Support Mission in Libya next day expressed concerned and urged restraint, also reported mobilisation of armed groups from areas surrounding Tripoli. Heavy fighting between rival GNU-affiliated militias 22 June left three combatants and one civilian dead in Zawiyet Al-Dahmani neighbourhood. Pan-Arab media 23 June reported clashes at military base in Tripoli as 22 June transitional phase deadline set by 2020 roadmap passed.

May 2022

Middle East & North Africa

Libya

Political crisis took violent turn as forces loyal to rival govts clashed in capital Tripoli amid lack of substantial progress in UN-led negotiations; oil and gas fields and export terminals remained closed. Tobruk-based PM Fathi Bashagha 17 May entered Tripoli in bid to install his govt in capital city; armed groups loyal to Tripoli-based PM Abdelhamid Dabaiba mobilised and opened fire, leaving one person killed; Dabaiba’ camp reportedly granted Bashagha safe passage out of Tripoli following mediation by local actors and members of 5+5 Joint Military Commission – comprising representatives of Libya’s two rival military coalitions. In televised addresses same day, Dabaiba condemned “coup project”, said Bashagha “committed suicide politically”, while Bashagha said his govt would be based in central city of Sirte but claimed Dabaiba had “lost control” of Tripoli. Reports in following days emerged that Tobruk-based House of Representatives (HoR) Speaker Aghela Saleh and head of Tripoli-based High State Council (HSC) Khaled Mishri mid-May met in Egypt, agreed to work together toward “third way” including new govt that would replace Dabaiba and Bashagha’s; latter’s entourage however denied Saleh had dropped his support for Bashagha. UN-led negotiations made little substantial progress in charting way out of political impasse. UN Acting Special Representative for Libya Stephanie Williams 15-20 May convened second round of talks between representatives of rival assemblies in Egypt’s capital Cairo; participants reviewed 2017 draft constitution and found consensus on two thirds of articles, but failed to concretely discuss roadmap to elections and crisis of two rival govts; talks to resume 11 June. Oil and gas fields and export terminals – shut down in mid-April by pro-Libyan National Army head, Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, and pro-Bashagha constituencies to weaken Dabaiba’s access to oil revenues – remained closed; crude oil exports down to approximately 700,000 barrels/day, one third less than normal, with estimated $40mn daily loss of foregone oil sales revenues. As part of U.S. efforts to persuade rival authorities to accept “financial mechanism” to oversee disbursement of govt funds, U.S. ambassador to Libya, Richard Norland, 26 May met in Tunisia with various state institution representatives.

April 2022

Middle East & North Africa

Libya

Political feud engulfed country’s economic and financial institutions as rival authorities sought to secure access to oil revenues; UN efforts to negotiate way out of political impasse remained vain. Five military officers loyal to eastern strongman Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar 9 April withdrew from UN-backed so-called 5+5 Joint Military Commission (comprising representatives of country’s two rival military coalitions), urged Haftar to shut down oil production to prevent Tripoli-based PM Abdulhamid Dabaiba from accessing oil revenues; move came after National Oil Corporation (NOC) transferred oil sales revenues to Tripoli-based Central Bank of Libya (CBL), whose governor has remained loyal to Dabaiba, despite promising in March to abide by Tobruk-based House of Representatives (HoR) order not to do so. NOC mid-April declared force majeure and suspended operations at Al-Feel and Sharara oil fields, Zuwetina and Brega oil terminals, after local protesters allegedly backed by Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) entered sites; all sites remained closed by month’s end. Clashes between two rival militias allied with Dabaiba’s govt 22 April disrupted operations in Zawiya oil facility (west). Meanwhile, delegates from HoR and rival Tripoli-based consultative High State Council (HSC) 13-18 April attended UN-backed political talks on legal framework for elections in Egypt’s capital Cairo; participants failed to make breakthrough but agreed to resume talks in May (after Muslim holy month of Ramadan). HoR-appointed PM Fathi Bashagha 21 April presided over his first cabinet meeting in Sebha city (south); govt renewed commitment to pursuing “peaceful option” to assume duties in Tripoli. Meanwhile, Islamic State (ISIS) 19 April claimed responsibility for previous night car bomb attack targeting LNA camp in Umm al-Aranib town (south); no casualties reported. LNA said it repelled 25 April attack by armed group, reportedly affiliated with ISIS, in Ghadwa area near Sabha city. British daily newspaper Financial Times 28 April reported some 1,000 pro-Moscow Syrian mercenaries and about 200 operatives from Russian private military company Wagner Group, who had been stationed alongside Haftar-led forces, pulled out of Libya in recent weeks; also said some 5,000 pro-Moscow mercenaries allegedly remain in country.

March 2022

Middle East & North Africa

Libya

Crisis of two rival govts raised spectre of renewed localised clashes and tug of war over control of state’s resources, putting 2020 ceasefire at risk. Tobruk-based House of Representatives (HoR) 1 March endorsed PM Fathi Bashagha’s 39-member cabinet in controversial vote of confidence marred by procedural shortcomings. Bashagha same day vowed to install his govt in capital Tripoli “peacefully and securely”. Tripoli-based incumbent PM Abdulhamid Dabaiba immediately condemned “fraudulent vote”, refused to cede power and said he will “hold accountable anyone who dares to approach any government building” in Tripoli. Armed groups loyal to Tripoli-based govt 3 March shut down airspace and detained two ministers of Bashagha-led govt to impede them from attending swearing-in ceremony in Tobruk city (east); ministers released next day, domestic flights between east and west resumed 22 March. Pro-Bashagha forces 10 March deployed on eastern edges of Tripoli, raising fears of confrontation with pro-Dabaiba forces. U.S. Ambassador Richard Norland immediately warned against escalation, while UN mission same day called on parties to “refrain from any action that could lead to armed clashes”. Bashagha next day said forces had withdrawn and assured “there will not be a war”. Field Marshall Khalifa Haftar’s forces 15 March stormed Dabaiba’s Government of National Unity (GNU) headquarters in Benghazi city (east) and dismissed all employees; later handed building over to Bashagha’s govt deputy PM Salim Al-Zadma. UN Under Sec-Gen for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs Rosemary DiCarlo 16 March warned Security Council that “political polarization” in Libya “risks dividing the institutions once again”; also highlighted recent increase in human rights violations, hate speech and political violence. After UN Special Adviser on Libya Stephanie Williams 4 March asked HoR and Tripoli-based consultative High State Council (HSC) to nominate six delegates each to form “joint committee” to resolve political impasse, HSC 15 March nominated representatives, but HoR failed to appoint representatives and did not attend UN-backed HoR-HSC Joint Committee talks in Tunisia 22-24 March. Bashagha 22 March banned implementation of GNU-issued decrees or instructions; next day accused GNU of usurping power and occupying state institutions’ headquarters in Tripoli; 26-28 March repeatedly vowed to enter Tripoli in next few days.

February 2022

Middle East & North Africa

Libya

House of Representatives appointed Fathi Bashagha as new PM, increasing polarisation and raising risk of institutional division; vote of confidence in new govt could result in two rival govts vying for power. Unidentified gunmen 10 Feb attacked incumbent PM Abdulhamid Dabaiba’s convoy in capital Tripoli; sources close to Dabaiba denounced “assassination attempt”. Tobruk-based House of Representatives (HoR) hours later appointed former Tripoli-based Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha as PM-designate and tasked him with forming new govt by late Feb. HoR same day postponed elections indefinitely by passing new political roadmap stipulating HoR and rival Tripoli-based assembly, High State Council, will task experts committee with amending never-adopted 2017 draft constitution; amendments to be subjected to referendum prior to elections. Bashagha’s appointment follows 2021 deal with his past foe, Libyan National Army head Khalifa Haftar, providing that in case of failure to hold presidential election in Dec 2021, Haftar would support Bashagha as head of new govt in return for concessions in cabinet line-up and on condition that Bashagha increase funds allocated to Haftar-led military forces. Dabaiba immediately rejected HoR’s move, vowed to remain in post until national elections are held. Hundreds 11 Feb demonstrated in Tripoli and Misrata city against HoR; military brigades loyal to Dabaiba next day converged on Tripoli from other towns to “secure the government headquarters and key sites in the capital”. Dabaiba 21 Feb announced multi-track plan leading to parliamentary elections in June and postponing constitutional review and presidential election to after new parliament is seated; also reiterated elections “sole solution” to political crisis. HoR 28 Feb postponed vote of confidence in Bashagha’s proposed govt citing need for more consultations on cabinet line-up. Foreign powers remained divided on way forward, with several foreign capitals adopting wait-and-see attitude while Egypt and Russia supported Bashagha’s bid to premiership. Dabaiba’s Govt of National Unity 17 Feb criticised UN Special Adviser Stephanie Williams for allegedly making contradictory statements on political crisis.

January 2022

Middle East & North Africa

Libya

Following failure to hold presidential election in late Dec, parliament and others manoeuvred to postpone polls indefinitely. Tobruk-based House of Representatives (HoR) Speaker Aguila Saleh 17 Jan called for replacing interim Govt of National Unity (GNU) with new govt, contending PM Dabaiba’s mandate expired 24 Dec, and proposed new constitutional drafting process. High National Election Commission (HNEC) same day said six to eight months needed to resume electoral process (constitutional drafting process notwithstanding), 20 Jan set up committee to review presidential candidacies submitted in Nov. Dabaiba 23 Jan also called for adoption of new constitution before elections, but denied his mandate expired on 24 Dec, insisting new govt can only be appointed following elections. UN Special Adviser Stephanie Williams 24 Jan insisted “Libya does not need another prolonged transitional period”; comment came after Williams 16 Jan said holding elections by June, in line with UN-brokered 2020 roadmap, was “very reasonable and possible”. Dabaiba 31 Jan announced applications for interim PM would open next day and said HoR would meet 8 Feb to vote on new PM; several politicians throughout month appeared to campaign for PM position, including former Tripoli-based Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha and Tripoli-based High State Council Chair Khaled Mishri, both of whom recently made important overtures to eastern strongman Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar. Islamic State (ISIS)-affiliated combatants 24 Jan claimed having killed two security personnel near southern town of Sabha one week earlier; new attack in same area 26 Jan reportedly killed another three. Meanwhile, French govt 4 Jan said around 300 mercenaries had left eastern Libya, hailing start of phased withdrawal of thousands of foreign forces in line with 2020 ceasefire. Central Bank Governor Saddek Omar Elkaber 20 Jan announced launch of bank’s reunification process. Brussels Prosecutor’s Office 21 Jan said it had issued international arrest warrant against Libyan Investment Authority Chairman Ali Mahmoud Hassan on corruption and embezzlement charges as part of investigation into management of Libyan assets frozen in Belgium after fall of Muammar Qadhafi in 2011.

December 2021

Middle East & North Africa

Libya

Authorities postponed presidential election in last-minute move as tensions ran high around capital Tripoli. Amid disputes over eligibility of candidates, electoral timetable and scope of future president’s powers, High National Electoral Commission (HNEC) 20-22 Dec postponed first round of presidential election, initially scheduled for 24 Dec, for one month, as House of Representatives (HoR) committee tasked with monitoring election process 22 Dec said it was “impossible” to hold polls as planned. U.S. Ambassador Richard Norland immediately expressed “disappointment”. After British embassy 24 Dec expressed continued support for Govt of National Unity (GNU), said it would “not endorse the establishment of parallel governments or institutions”, HoR Foreign Affairs Committee next day accused UK of “interference”, said only HoR could decide on formation of new govt or continuation of GNU. Elections unlikely to take place in Jan as HoR election committee 27 Dec recommended laying out “new, realistic and applicable roadmap … rather than fixing new dates and repeating the same errors”; HoR next day suspended session on political roadmap. Earlier in month, several controversial presidential candidates cleared to run: Tripoli Appeals Court 1 Dec upheld PM Abdulhamid Dabaiba’s presidential bid; Sebha Appeals Court next day reinstated Saif al-Islam Qadhafi as candidate; Tripoli Appeals Court 6 Dec overturned Zawiya court ruling barring Khalifa Haftar from running. Run-up to tentative polls marred by tensions. HNEC 2 Dec said electoral centres subjected to armed robbery and voter cards theft; militiamen 8 Dec entered HNEC’s Zawiya premises to demand postponement of elections until adoption of new constitution. Forces affiliated with different armed groups 16-21 Dec took up positions in and around Tripoli in possible protest at Presidential Council’s 15 Dec decision to replace Tripoli Military Zone Commander Gen Abdelbasit Marwan with Gen Abdelkader Mansour; Council 21 Dec suspended appointment, while UN mission (UNSMIL) same day said mobilisation “creates tensions and increases the risk of clashes that could spiral into conflict”. Following Nov resignation of UN Envoy Ján Kubiš, UN Sec-Gen António Guterres 6 Dec appointed Stephanie Williams – who served as Acting Special Representative in March 2020-Jan 2021 – as new Special Adviser on Libya.

November 2021

Middle East & North Africa

Libya

Registration of polarising presidential hopefuls amid heated controversy over electoral framework could presage mobilisation of rival forces around 24 Dec polls. Several controversial figures submitted presidential candidacies to electoral commission throughout Nov: son of late dictator Muammar Qadhafi, Saif al-Islam Qadhafi, who is wanted by International Criminal Court, 14 Nov; eastern strongman Khalifa Haftar 16 Nov; and PM Abdulhamid Dabaiba 21 Nov. Election commission 24 Nov disqualified 25 out of 98 registered candidates, including Qhadafi. Qhadafi’s lawyer late-Nov tried to appeal decision, but Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) forces impeded access to Sebha courthouse where appeal should be filed; LNA 30 Nov reportedly withdrew. Tripoli court 28 Nov accepted appeal submitted by presidential hopefuls against Dabaiba’s candidacy, while Benghazi court same day rejected appeal against Haftar’s candidacy. Electoral Commission expected to release final list of presidential candidates in early Dec. Meanwhile, several Tripoli-based anti-Haftar and anti-Qadhafi constituencies voiced opposition to presidential and parliamentary election laws unilaterally adopted by House of Representatives (HoR) in Sept-Oct. Notably, some 25 mayors 9 Nov signed petition against electoral framework; in following days, some 40 HoR members, and separately military coalition of anti-Haftar forces, endorsed petition. French President Emmanuel Macron 12 Nov hosted international conference for Libya; world powers reaffirmed need to hold elections on time and vowed to push for sanctions against anyone who disrupts electoral process, but some cracks appeared among foreign stakeholders and within UN over current electoral framework. Both UK and Italy’s representatives stressed need for consensus on election legislation, while Egypt and France did not express any concern on current electoral framework. UN Sec-Gen António Guterres same day urged Libyans “to come together in a spirit of national unity” and “forge a consensus on the legal framework for the elections”; statement departed from line of UN Envoy Ján Kubiš, who in recent weeks rubberstamped HoR’s electoral laws; Kubiš 23 Nov offered his resignation which Guterres accepted. UN Security Council next day threatened sanctions against those “obstructing or undermining the elections”.

October 2021

Middle East & North Africa

Libya

Uncertainty persisted over whether elections will take place in Dec, while tensions within PM Dabaiba’s govt resurfaced. Tobruk-based House of Representatives (HoR) 6 Oct issued long-awaited parliamentary election law despite lack of proper qualified majority and without consulting political rivals; text envisages parliamentary elections taking place several months after presidential election set for 24 Dec. Critics, especially among Tripoli-based constituencies, immediately denounced procedural flaws and said sequencing violates political component of UN-backed peace plan that envisages simultaneous presidential and legislative elections. Participants in Libya Stabilization Conference in capital Tripoli, 21 Oct reiterated their support for 24 Dec date (set during UN-backed forum in Nov 2020), as did embassies of France, Germany, Italy, UK and U.S. in joint statement 25 Oct. So-called 5+5 Joint Military Commission, comprising representatives of Libya’s two rival military coalitions, 6-8 Oct met in Switzerland’s Geneva city in presence of UN Envoy Ján Kubiš, agreed on Action Plan envisaging “phased, balanced and synchronized withdrawal” of mercenaries, foreign fighters and forces. Tensions still brewing between Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar-led Arab Libyan Armed Forces (ALAF) and Tripoli-based Govt of National Accord (GNU) over salary disputes, with GNU refusing to pay ALAF salaries to Haftar’s central command and instead demanding to make direct payment to individual bank accounts. Political tensions between easterners within GNU and PM Dabaiba resurfaced. Notably, deputy PM Hussein al-Qatrani and others 10 Oct accused Dabaiba of sidelining ministers from east. Amid stalled unification of Central Bank, Dabaiba’s govt took controversial measures against heads of some top income-generating institutions, notably sacking head of state-owned Telecommunications holding company Faisal Gergab mid-Oct, allegedly after latter’s refusal to authorise transfer of profits into govt accounts; oil ministry 19 Oct also announced suspension of National Oil Corporation head Mustafa Sanalla, officially to allow investigations into alleged administrative offences. UN human rights investigators 4 Oct said war crimes and crimes against humanity likely committed by all conflict parties, including external actors, since 2016.

September 2021

Middle East & North Africa

Libya

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.

August 2021

Middle East & North Africa

Libya