Implementation of the UN-mediated 2015 political deal that established the Presidency Council and Tripoli-based interim government has been hindered by claims of illegitimacy by rival political forces. Although the framework of the deal is the only viable path to resolving the Libyan conflict, Crisis Group encourages all parties to negotiate a new government with nationwide legitimacy. Important steps were taken in July 2017, when rivals President al-Serraj and General Haftar agreed to a ceasefire agreement and to hold elections in 2018. Yet Libya remains deeply divided and failure to implement the agreement could adversely affect regional security as well as increase migrant flows into the European Union. Crisis Group aims to inform the international community, as well as national and regional actors, about the importance prioritising economic development and basic political consensus as the main stepping stones for sustainable peace.
A renewed struggle this summer over Libya’s main oil export zone cut sales in half, squeezing hard currency supplies amid outcry about mismanagement of hydrocarbon revenues. To build trust, Libyan and international actors should review public spending and move toward unifying divided financial institutions.
PM Serraj pursued cabinet reshuffle and began to implement new economic reforms and security measures in capital Tripoli, as violence flared in south. UN-backed PM Serraj 7 Oct appointed four new ministers (interior, economy, finance and sports) without consulting fellow members of Presidency Council (PC) or seeking approval from Tobruk-based parliament House of Representatives (HoR); spokesperson 22 Oct said cabinet reshuffle still ongoing. Serraj’s appointment of former militia leader and politician from Misrata, Fathi Bash Aga, as interior minister and Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Ali Issawi, suspected of involvement in 2011 killing of prominent eastern military commander, as economy minister triggered outrage in east. Consultations between Tripoli-based High State Council (HSC) and HoR to remove Serraj and change composition of PC he heads continued. Unidentified gunmen 16 Oct killed leader of so-called Tripoli Brigade, Khairi al-Kikli, dubbed Hankoura, while other gunmen cut off supply of city’s drinking water. Serraj 23 Oct approved plan for new security arrangements in Tripoli, Greater Tripoli Security Plan, which is supposed to create joint police and army forces to secure city; UN political mission (UNSMIL) same day welcomed plan. Haftar’s east-based Libyan National Army (LNA) 7 Oct arrested former Egyptian army officer turned al-Qaeda affiliate and founder of al-Murabitun militant group Hisham al-Ashmawy in eastern city of Derna. Fighting flared in south near Chadian border mid-Oct reportedly between LNA and its auxiliaries on one side and gunmen whom LNA claimed were Chadian armed groups on other. LNA 13 Oct reportedly carried out airstrikes on alleged Chadian rebels near Tamassah oasis. Clashes between LNA-allied and Chadian militia 13-14 Oct reportedly left four Libyans and eleven Chadians dead. Haftar discussed insecurity in border area with Chadian President Déby in Chadian capital Ndjamena 16 Oct (see Chad). Islamic State (ISIS) militants attacked town of Fuqaha’ in Jufra region (centre) 28 Oct killing at least five people, kidnapping ten and setting fire to public buildings. (Updated 1 Nov)
Four main Libyan leaders meet in Paris on 29 May to sign a roadmap to peace, including 2018 elections with united international backing. But with Libya’s UN-backed peace process at risk from the meeting's format and the accord that France has brokered, the sides should instead commit to a broader declaration of principles.
The surprise electoral defeat of one Libyan leader and the hospitalisation of a rival show the error of relying solely on individuals to achieve national reconciliation in Libya. All sides in Libya’s conflict should focus instead on making institutions more representative and improving governance.
The principal gateway into Europe for refugees and migrants runs through the power vacuum in southern Libya’s Fezzan region. Any effort by European policymakers to stabilise Fezzan must be part of a national-level strategy aimed at developing Libya’s licit economy and reaching political normalisation.
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.
In terms of dynamics and movement of armed groups on the ground [in Libya], I would say it’s even worse than 2011 after the fall of Gaddafi. At least in 2011 they had a sense of optimism and respect for one another. Now they are all trying to carve out territory but with deep distrust and animosity with each other.
Without more progress on the security and economic track [in Libya] and with a Parliament that is barely functioning, it is extremely unlikely that appropriate security and legal conditions will be in place to hold elections.
It’s a sign the Qaddafists are mobilizing, trying to have their say [for the first time since 2011]. Libya’s getting more complicated. A breakthrough doesn’t seem imminent.
[Libyan military strongman Khalifa Haftar does not have] sufficient strength or support [to take power in Libya]. He faces particularly strong opposition from (rivals in) the west, especially in Misrata.
[A U.S. military] strike [against ISIS positions in Libya] seems to indicate Libya is mainly an anti-terrorism file and only subsequently a political file [for the U.S. government].
Now the problem is that those [political] factions [across Libya] have fragmented internally. It's even more difficult to solicit representative views.
While Libya’s first reform package since the fall of Gaddafi in 2011 has had positive initial effects, more must be done to improve the deteriorating economic situation in the country. In this excerpt from our Watch List 2018 annual early-warning update for European policy makers, Crisis Group urges the EU and its member states to address some of the packages’ core issues and press the government to create more thorough economic reforms.
How can the dizzying changes, intersecting crises and multiplying conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa since the 2011 Arab uprisings be best understood, let alone responded to? This long-form commentary by MENA Program Director Joost Hiltermann and our team steps back for a better look and proposes new approaches.
Khalifa Haftar, who rules eastern Libya, has dismissed the two-year-old, UN-backed accord about how the country should be run. Haftar’s regional and international partners should act now to mitigate this new risk of escalation over his apparent ambition to rule Libya on his own.
The fraught history of the military intervention shows that EU engagement in Libya should first and foremost be guided by strategic vision.
Originally published in Körber-Stiftung