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.
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.
At summit in Paris hosted by French President Macron 29 May, rival leaders committed to holding parliamentary and presidential elections 10 Dec; meanwhile violence continued in capital Tripoli in west, Derna and Benghazi in east and Sebha in south. In Tripoli, two Islamic State (ISIS) militants 2 May attacked electoral commission, killing thirteen staff and three security officers; some Tripoli militias pushed govt-aligned Presidential Guard out of two bases 26 May. Head of Tripoli-based UN-backed Presidency Council (PC) Faiez Serraj 9 May passed decree giving more autonomy and legal authority to Special Deterrence Force, Salafi-dominated Tripoli-based armed group loyal to him. Eastern commander Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar 7 May oversaw large military parade in Benghazi in east; 8 May announced Libyan National Army (LNA) would launch new operation to wrest control of eastern city of Derna from coalition of Islamist militants recently renamed Derna Protection Force (DPF); LNA airstrikes 15 May reportedly killed five DPF members; LNA commander killed and two fighters wounded 22 May; UN 31 May said indiscriminate shelling on city had killed at least five civilians, including two children, since 22 May, described violence there as “unprecedented”. Also in east, ISIS claimed car bombing at checkpoint in Ajdabiya that killed at least two LNA troops and kidnapping of police officer in Awjila, both 22 May. Car bombing in Benghazi 25 May killed at least seven civilians. Fighting restarted in early May in southern city of Sebha between militias composed of Awlad Suleiman Arabs and affiliated with Haftar’s LNA, and Tebu ethnic minority militias affiliated with Tripoli-based Govt of National Accord (GNA), at least 30 killed by late-May including civilians. PC 13 May called for immediate ceasefire and deployment of neutral force in Sebha. Human traffickers trying to prevent some 200 captive Eritreans, Ethiopians and Somalis from escaping reportedly killed at least twelve in Bani Walid, about 180km south east of Tripoli 23 May.
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.
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.
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.
The smuggling business [in Libya] is a business. It’s all about money.
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
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.
A recent dramatic decrease in migrants reaching Europe may be partly explained by payoffs to armed groups in Libya. In this Q&A, Crisis Group’s Senior Analyst for Libya, Claudia Gazzini, warns about the risks associated with this policy, arguing that while working with armed groups may be necessary in the short term, any durable solution requires putting Libya’s economy and politics back on track.