New clashes over Libya’s oilfields could wreck the fragile remains of the country’s economy. Beyond security help, international actors must support compromises on state financing between the opposing factions and help pull Libya back from the brink.
Fighting intensified over oil installations in Gulf of Sirte and in capital Tripoli where violence risks escalating in April between local forces and factions from Misrata. Armed coalition Benghazi Defence Brigade (BDB), comprising mostly fighters from Benghazi opposed to east-based strongman Gen Khalifa Haftar and including members of jihadist group Ansar Sharia, 3 March took over key oil terminals of Sidra and Ras Lanuf, ousting Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA). LNA re-took terminals and pushed BDB back to Jufra by 13 March. Eastern Tobruk-based parliament House of Representatives (HoR) condemned attack by BDB, which it considers terrorist group and which enjoys informal backing by some members of rival internationally-recognised Presidency Council (PC) in Tripoli. Several dozen HoR members 7 March voted to withdraw from UN-backed dialogue intended to bridge rift between PC and HoR, however votes insufficient to pass withdrawal from dialogue. Sidra oil terminal 25 March prepared to resume exports. Haftar’s LNA 18 March made advances in Benghazi, reportedly taking over Ganfuda neighbourhood from Benghazi Revolutionaries’ Shura Council coalition of Islamist militias. In several neighbourhoods in Tripoli rival armed groups clashed early March: fighting reported between pro- and anti-PC forces allied to rival Tripoli-based govt of Khalifa Ghwel; between Tripoli and Misratan militias, including pro-PC Misratan forces; and between pro- and anti-Haftar forces. Quartet (UN, EU, AU and Arab League) in Cairo 18 March underscored commitment to Dec 2015 Libyan Political Agreement.
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 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.
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.
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