Our Senior Analyst Claudia Gazzini travels to southern Libya and finds neglect, smugglers, a gold rush, and simmering tensions among a patchwork of ethnic, tribal and militia actors on the edge of the Sahara Desert. She also discovers much longing for a united, well-governed Libya.
Deadly attacks in south and Tripoli throughout month severely dimmed prospects of reconciliation and heightened risk of escalation in June. UN-backed Tripoli-based PM Serraj and major military opponent Gen Khalifa Haftar met for first time in over a year in UAE capital Abu Dhabi 2 May, reportedly agreed two-week ceasefire in south. Misratan-led unit Third Force with Benghazi Defence Brigade (BDB), coalition comprising mostly fighters from Benghazi, and local units, nominally loyal to Serraj, attacked military base in Brak al-Shati in south 18 May, killing 80 to 130 members of Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) and civilians; pictures online suggested most were shot at close range. Serraj claimed Govt of National Accord (GNA) did not know attack was planned. Under pressure from Misratan constituencies who condemned attack, Third Force withdrew from south (where it had been since 2014) and relocated to Jufra area in centre, where BDB also has presence. LNA moved into Temenhent air base near Sebha 25 May and carried out airstrikes on rival forces in Hun and Jufra. Retaliating against Islamic State (ISIS)-claimed killing of Coptic Christians near Minya, central Egypt 26 May, Egyptian air force bombed Derna in east same day and Hun in centre 28 May to limit terrorist groups’ ability to “threaten national security”. Anti-GNA forces attacked bases of pro-GNA units in Tripoli 26 May, 52 killed. Pro-GNA forces subsequently took back bases and reportedly reclaimed control of Tripoli international airport. Some Misratan forces reportedly withdrew from capital.
The UN-brokered peace process in Libya has stalled, leaving unresolved pressing issues like worsening living conditions, control of oil facilities, people-smuggling, and the struggle against jihadist groups. New negotiations are needed to engage key actors who have been excluded so far.
The imminent collapse of Libya’s economy could impoverish millions, foster chaos and more radicalisation. At the heart of Libya’s misery is frenzied competition for control over the country’s oil resources. Ongoing UN-led talks should urgently prioritise economic governance, local ceasefires and armed defence of oil facilities.
The Sahel’s trajectory is worrying; poverty and population growth, combined with growing jihadi extremism, contraband and human trafficking constitute the perfect storm of actual and potential instability. Without holistic, sustained efforts against entrenched criminal networks, misrule and underdevelopment, radicalisation and migration are likely to spread and exacerbate.
After six months of worsening clashes, Libya is on the brink of all-out civil war and catastrophic state collapse. All parties must press the two rival authorities to join a national unity government, resolutely uphold the UN arms embargo, and persuade regional actors to stop fuelling the conflict.
Unless Libya breaks the cycle of violence and urgently reforms its justice system, there is a real risk of an increase in assassinations, urban violence and communal conflicts.
The violent death of the U.S. ambassador and three of his colleagues is a stark reminder of the challenges Libya still faces and should serve as a wake-up call for the authorities to urgently fill the security vacuum.
The fact Egypt has a free hand to carry out these strikes [in Libya] is a cause of concern for those political and military forces on the ground that are opposing Haftar.
To stop the migrant flows to Libya, we [...] need to deal with the economic problems of the country, because people are [...] smuggling humans, because the country is falling into a deep economic crisis.
[The Libyan tribes know that] any attack against [the city of] Misrata could result in a freezing of trade between the north and the south, and people would suffer from that.
While the GNA's Minister of Defence in western Libya, Mahdi al-Barghati, supports the [Benghazi Defence Brigades (BDB)] ... the Presidential Council has officially condemned the [recent oil] attack.
The fact that [abuse of women and children] has increased so much in this past year or two is also directly related to the deteriorating economic situation in Libya.
Whether or not this state of suspended animation marks the beginning of Libya as a 'failed state' depends primarily on its economic standing.
Despite suffering significant blows in Syria and Iraq, jihadist movements across the Middle East, North Africa and Lake Chad regions continue to pose significant challenges. In this excerpt from the Watch List 2017 – First Update early-warning report for European policy makers, Crisis Group urges the European Union and its member states to prioritise conflict prevention at the heart of their counter-terrorism policy and continue investment in vulnerable states.
Africa is experiencing the highest number of humanitarian crises since the 1990s. As the new chair of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, takes office, International Crisis Group suggests how he can strengthen the organisation’s response to threats to continental peace and security.
Libyan factions are once again fighting for control of key oil installations in the Gulf of Sirte’s “oil crescent”. The latest offensive risks reducing Libya’s oil production and is undermining efforts to broker a peace deal. In this Q&A Claudia Gazzini, Senior Analyst for Libya, assesses the fallout.
As the UN-backed effort to form a unity government is yet to bear fruit, the conflict in Libya could face further escalation in 2017. In this excerpt from our Watch List 2017 annual early-warning report for European policy makers, Crisis Group urges the European Union and its member states to first focus on supporting a political settlement, which will contribute to solving the wider issues of uncontrolled migration flows and instability in the region.
The seizure of Libya’s main pre-2013 oil terminals by an opposition force is a blow to the authority of Libya’s fledgling UN-backed Presidency Council. But smart compromises might help restart the flow of oil, as Crisis Group’s Senior Libya analyst Claudia Gazzini explains in this Q&A.