Libya is ruled by everyone and no one. Chaos in Libya is endemic, the state is non-existent, and calls for regional autonomy and secession are increasingly loud. “Libya is not one big mess,” North Africa expert Bill Lawrence, a visiting professor of Political Science and International Affairs at George Washington University, said in January 2014. “It is a bunch of little messes that are not very related. So, the string of assassinations in Benghazi is very different from the political game involved in the militias and their GNC allies in Tripoli, which is different from what’s going on in the borders, which is different from the fighting over smuggling of the trafficking in the South, different from the ethnic conflicts in other communities, and what is happening at the oil facilities. We tend to conflate this all because of the catastrophic weakness of the military and the police.”
But by mid-2014 the civil war in Libya had been transformed into a proxy war, which pitted Islamist forces supported by Qatar, Sudan and Turkey, against more secular forces supported by Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt [and probably the United States]. This became clear after Egypt and the United Arab Emirates launched airstrikes against Islamic militants in the Libyan capital starting on 17 August 2014 and continuing into September.
Nationwide political violence erupted in February 2011, following the Libyan Government’s brutal suppression of popular protests against Libyan leader Mu'ammar al-Qadhafi. Opposition forces quickly seized control of Benghazi, Libya’s second-largest city, as well as significant portions of eastern Libya and some areas in western Libya. Drawing from the local opposition councils which formed the backbone of the “February 17” revolution, the Libyan opposition announced the formation of a Transitional National Council (TNC) on February 27, 2011. The Council stated its desire to remove Qadhafi from power and establish a unified, democratic, and free Libya that respects universal human rights principles.
Following the Revolution of 17 February 2011, several attempts to build democratic institutions on the basis of a new Constitution were hampered by mounting armed confrontation. On 07 July 2012, Libya held its first election in more than four decades, choosing a 200-seat General National Assembly to replace the Transitional National Council (TNC) that governed during and after the fall of the Gaddafi regime. The largely peaceful election marked the first step toward national unity and rebuilding a government by establishing a representative body; over the past several months, support for the interim government has been declining due to poor management of the transition and a lack of transparency. The General National Assembly will formulate Libya’s government, with its two main objectives being to choose a prime minister and select a Constituent Assembly, who will draft a constitution, within 30 days of their first meeting. The success of the election is a promising sign for future state building efforts, despite many issues leftover from the Gaddafi era and civil war.
Lacking effective army and police units, the the National Transitional Council (NTC) has sought to co-opt the country’s numerous revolutionary “brigades,” incorporating them into provisional security forces, the Ministry of Interior's Supreme Security Committees (SSC) and Army Chief of Staff's Libyan Shield Forces. After the 07 July 2012 elections for the General National Congress (GNC), not much changed.
There have been assassinations recently in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi, mainly of security personnel. And the government has made little progress on forming a national army to replace the disorderly revolutionary militias it has to rely on for security. Exasperation has been building at the slow pace of change, from reforming a corrupt Gadhafi-era bureaucracy to repairing crumbling schools, hospitals and a dilapidated infrastructure.
By 2014 the government was paying salaries to 200,000 people who registered as veterans of the uprising that toppled Gadhafi, despite the fact that most analysts believe the actual rebel fighting force was made up of no more than 25,000. Clashes between rival militias over the summer of 2014 cost hundreds of lives and displaced over 250,000 Libyans. The fall of Tripoli to militias, and the move of the elected parliament to Tubruq has left the country with two competing authorities. The fighting has caused widespread damage to public and private property, and infrastructure and precipitated power, water, fuel and food shortages in Tripoli. Insecurity and lawlessness are hampering the delivery of cash to commercial banks across the country, further undermining economic activity. Outside the largest cities most affected by the fighting, the situation is marginally better.
While transfers of arms from Libya to Mali and the Niger have decreased in intensity thanks in large part to Operation Barkhane, several shipments of materiel coming from Libya had been seized from various actors in the 18 months up to the end of 2015, indicating that the country remained a significant source of arms for armed groups in the Sahel.
A Libya-based network provided logistical support, including large quantities of arms, to Syrian rebels in the wake of the Libyan revolution. The Libyans involved with the network were all employed by either the Ministry of Interior or the Ministry of Defence. Initially, supplies were gathered from existing stocks and a post-revolutionary surplus of arms. However, the quantity and quality of those weapons was considered insufficient by the end-users and facilitators. Subsequently, the Libyan network approached several arms brokers to import better quality materiel.
Libyan Political Agreement of 17 December 2015 was the culmination of a nearly one year long UN-facilitated political dialogue process, involving different segments of the Libyan society to end the military conflict. The Agreement offers a prospect of stabilization, ceasefire across the country and an end to political division. The Libyan Political Agreement recognizes the Government of National Accord as the sole legitimate Government in Libya. Ahead of a vote of confidence from the House of Representatives, Fayez Mustafa Al-Sarraj, the President of the Presidency Council of the Government of National Accord took office in Tripoli on 30 March 2016.
The Libyan Political Agreement continues to be the main basis for Libyans to build a country with unified institutions. Elections are planned to be held based on a new Constitution in the period ahead. The process to amend some parts of the Political Agreement stalled despite the efforts facilitated by Mr. Ghassan Salamé, The United Nations Secretary General’s Libya Special Representative. Special Representative Salamé’s initiative to organize a National Conference in Ghadames in Libya on 14-16 April 2019 was postponed due to armed clashes triggered by an offensive by Khalifa Haftar’s forces to Tripoli on 4 th April 2019.
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