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.
Algeria’s diplomatic initiative, launched mid-Jan to find common ground with Tunisia and Egypt on Libyan crisis, continued after FMs of three countries met in Tunis 19 Feb. Egypt was supposed to host meeting between UN-backed Tripoli-based PM Faez Serraj and east-based strongman Gen Khalifa Haftar mid-Feb, but instead Haftar and Serraj met separately with Gen Mahmoud Hegazy, Egyptian army chief of staff and Cairo’s point man on Libya. Serraj and Italian PM Paolo Gentiloni 2 Feb signed MoU aimed at stemming flow of migrants to Europe; Italy offered to train and equip security forces and coast guard, build migrant holding centres and help put in place technology to secure Libya’s southern border. Anti-Serraj factions in Tripoli said Serraj did not have authority to sign MoU and appealed against it in court. Military factions tied to Serraj’s rival Tripoli-based PM Khalifa Ghwel 9 Feb said they had created Libyan National Guard, umbrella force that explicitly challenges UN-backed Presidential Guard. Serraj-led Presidency Council 12 Feb declared Libyan National Guard illegal, but latter continued to patrol in Tripoli. Rival armed groups clashed in Tripoli 23-24 Feb after one accused other of kidnapping four members, nine people injured in eastern Abu Slim district; Govt of National Accord-brokered ceasefire went into force 25 Feb. Unidentified gunmen 20 Feb opened fire on convoy of Serraj and two allied high-level politicians in Tripoli, no casualty. Security chief of Benghazi in east Salah al-Hewidi, who refused to leave his post after being sacked, reportedly wounded in car bomb attack in Benghazi 22 Feb. Car bomb targeting military convoy 26 Feb exploded in Benghazi’s Al-Hawari district, reportedly killing two. Authorities in east 21 Feb temporarily froze their own 16 Feb directive barring women under 60 from travelling abroad without male guardian, 23 Feb imposed travel restrictions on all citizens under 45. UNICEF 28 Feb reported that women and children migrants trying to reach Europe had been abused and arbitrarily detained including in Libya.
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 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.
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.
The negotiations [over Libyan oil fields] take multiple groups and multiple actors to move things. It’s still a very fragile oil and gas structure.
Amid the uncertainty around the US presidential transition, both sides [in Libya's conflict] risk overestimating their strength and foreign backing.
The retaking of Sirte is certainly a negative blow to Islamic State affiliates in Libya because they will no longer have a territorial stronghold in the country.
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.
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.
Originally published in Internazionale
Originally published in Internationale Politik