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.
Forces aligned with eastern-based strongman Gen Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) 2 June moved into strategic towns of Waddan, Hun and Sawkna in central desert region of Jufra, clashing with rival coalition Benghazi Defence Brigade (BDB) which includes members of jihadist group Ansar Sharia; twelve killed. LNA forces supported by Egyptian airstrikes 3 June took over Jufra air base, ousting Misratan forces and their allies including BDB. In Benghazi in east, after two days of heavy fighting LNA 24 June said it had gained control of central Souq Al Hout neighbourhood, one of last two districts where it still faced armed resistance; at least thirteen LNA fighters reportedly killed. Militia in al-Zawiya city in north west shot dead two members of rival militia 3 June sparking heavy clashes. Under amnesty law promulgated by eastern Tobruk-based House of Representatives (HoR), Abu Bakr al-Sadiq Brigade that controls town of Zintan in west said it had freed Seif al-Islam Qadhafi, son of former President Qadhafi, 9 June after over five years in captivity. Protesters in Bani Walid in west 24 June called for Seif al-Islam Qadhafi to lead country. UN Security Council 20 June approved appointment of former Lebanese Culture Minister Ghassan Salamé as new UN envoy for Libya, replacing German diplomat Martin Kobler. Unidentified gunmen 28 June opened fire on UN political mission (UNSMIL) convoy on coastal road west of Tripoli, no casualties reported. Eastern-based govt broke off ties with Qatar 5 June following Saudi Arabia and allies (see Qatar).
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.
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.
To stop the migrant flows to Libya, we [...] need to deal with the economic problems of the country, because people are [...] smuggling humans, because the country is falling into a deep economic crisis.
[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.
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.
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.
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.