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.
Violence erupted in capital Tripoli between armed groups linked to UN-backed Govt of National Accord (GNA) over control of territory and institutions, and could escalate further in Sept. Clashes broke out 26 Aug between fighters of Seventh Brigade, militia established by GNA’s defence ministry in 2017, and coalition of armed groups operating under GNA’s interior ministry. Clashes 26-31 Aug left at least 39 people dead, including at least eighteen civilians, and continued end month. Other armed groups, including some opposed to GNA from city of Misrata, threatened to join fight in Tripoli. UNSMIL 19 Aug said members of brigades nominally loyal to GNA’s interior ministry had in recent weeks attacked state institutions and prevented them from working, and called on GNA to prosecute those responsible; targeted institutions reportedly include internationally recognised Tripoli-based National Oil Corporation and GNA-managed sovereign wealth fund Libyan Investment Authority. 80 members of eastern Tobruk-based parliament House of Representatives (HoR) 28 Aug called on UN political mission (UNSMIL) to restart political dialogue to change composition of Presidency Council; western Tripoli-based High State Council and Misratan politicians issued similar statements. Progress along election roadmap remained stalled after HoR 27 Aug again failed to pass constitution referendum law. Suspected Islamic State (ISIS) militants 23 Aug attacked GNA checkpoint in Wadi Kaam area, east of Tripoli, killing at least six security personnel. U.S. airstrike in Bani Walid, about 150km south east of Tripoli, killed ISIS commander 28 Aug. Tripoli court of appeal 15 Aug sentenced 45 people to death for allegedly killing demonstrators in Tripoli during 2011 uprising against Colonel Qadhafi; 54 other defendants sentenced to five years in prison.
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.
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
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.
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.