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.
Efforts to reunify Libya after six years of internal strife have drifted. Global and regional powers should seize the opportunity of a high-level UN meeting on Libya and a new UN special envoy to speak with one voice and act to build an effective and inclusive peace process.
Ghassan Salamé, UN envoy for Libya, 20 Sept unveiled three-step plan to break political stalemate including renegotiation of parts of 2015 peace deal, conference aimed at appointing new Presidency Council reducing nine members to three and preparation of elections; international actors voiced unanimous support. Negotiations between rival parliamentary bodies House of Representatives and State Council began 25 Sept in Tunis as first step in UN plan. Representatives of Libyan National Army (LNA) loyal to eastern-based strongman General Haftar visited Moscow early Sept and French and Italian ministers made separate visits to his headquarters; Haftar also visited Rome and Paris 27-28 Sept in ongoing consultations. Members of State Council representing city of Derna 14 Sept called on UN Human Rights Council to take action to end LNA’s siege on city and avoid humanitarian disaster. Rival armed groups Dabashi Brigade and Anti-ISIS Operations Room clashed in Sabratha area, 80km west of Tripoli mid to late Sept, at least seventeen killed, clashes lessened end-Sept. Migrant departures to Europe resumed after lull in July and Aug; at least 100 left Sabratha 15 Sept, over half feared drowned after boat ran out of fuel. U.S. airstrikes 22 Sept killed seventeen alleged Islamic State (ISIS) fighters in camp some 200km south east of Sirte.
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.
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.
[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.
The smuggling business [in Libya] is a business. It’s all about money.
Several members [of the Libyan Presidency Council] think [Faiez al-Serraj] is not fit to lead–that he does not have the knowledge, charisma or decision-making capability.
We are already seeing signs that [attempts by ISIS remnants to influence and win over groups opposed to General Khalifa Haftar in Libya] may have already happened.
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.
A recent dramatic decrease in migrants reaching Europe may be partly explained by payoffs to armed groups in Libya. In this video, Crisis Group’s Senior Analyst for Libya, Claudia Gazzini, warns of the risks associated with short-term solutions to the flow of migrants reaching Europe through Libya.
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.
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.