Libya, between internecine fights and hopes for peace restoration

Next December 16, representatives of both rival Parliaments in Libya are expected to sign the UN-backed agreement. This aims to set up a unity government and therefore put to an end the political crisis in which the country is delved into for four years now. Many hopes, especially from the international community, have been raised concerning this agreement. But uncertainty remains. Even with the signature of the UN proposal, we can cast doubts about the ability and long-term will of both sides to rebuild peace on an effective manner. Yet, several hurdles have to be overcome, among them the numerous armed groups operating across the country, as ISIL presence illustrates it.

Is Libya near at finding a solution to the years-long prevailing crisis in the country? At any rate, international observers hope the above-mentioned agreement could pave the way for a restored and effective peace. On December 16, Libyan rival Parliaments officials are supposed to sign the agreement proposed by the UN, which provides for the implementation of a unity government, as members of both sides, meeting in Tunis under the auspices of the UN, said[1]. Salah Makhzoum, General National Congress (GNC) – based in Tripoli – official, stated that the agreement will likely to be signed in Morocco. As UN Libya envoy Martin Kobler said: “There was a wide consensus that only through rapid signature of the Libyan political agreement the country can be brought back to unity[2].

Libya has been for years now fitted with two governments. Tripoli’s one, led by the Fajr Libya coalition, has not been recognized by the international community, contrary to the other, based for its part in Tobruk. Both of them have pretended to be the lawful and legitimate political authorities, making the situation particularly complex and thereby fostering an incremental instability. Until now, several meetings have occurred between both sides in order to conclude a political agreement, to no avail. December 6 was the first time representatives announced having achieved such an agreement that must be thereafter endorsed by both Parliaments. Many hopes have since been raised concerning the means to employ to achieve a real exit from the crisis.

Awad Mohammed Abdoul-Sadiq, Tripoli Parliament vice-president, has mentioned an “historic moment that Libyan people have expected, that Arabs have expected, that the world has expected {…} This is an historic opportunity that will not occur a second time[3]. But this excessive enthusiasm could be compromised for some reasons. First, some medias and analysts have told that Makhzoum no longer represents the GNC. Second, the GNC majority might not have been included within the process – the GNC being backed by Libya Dawn, an alliance made of powerful armed groups[4]. In order to end the precarious situation prevailing in the country, several international facilitators met in Roma last Sunday, urging all parties to accept an “immediate comprehensive ceasefire[5]. Among them, US Secretary of State John Kerry reckoned that the conflict had “gone on too long”, the political vacuum having been “readily filled by extremists[6]. He notably added that once the unity government is formed, the international community will be present to cater for the needs of Libyan institutions by providing them support aiming at increasing their capacity to govern.

But even if the current disagreements between both Parliaments were resolved, and with the endorsement of the agreement and the emergence of a political consensus, the country has still a long way to go to towards definitely getting out of the crisis. Indeed, the security situation remains precarious and worrisome since colonel Gaddafi’s ousting and ensued death in the aftermath of the NATO military intervention led by the former French President Sarkozy. Following the Head of State’s death, without any preparation or road map for its future, Libya swiftly felt prey into chaos and has since then witnessed many standoffs between different armed groups for the control of strategic areas.

Furthermore, Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) seems to have strengthened its territorial anchor as it has installed its basis in Sirte, Gaddafi’s native city. This has particularly prompted the international community to find a lasting solution to the Libyan case. Italy is particularly concerned, not only because of its geographical proximity with the North Africa region, but also because the increasing number of migrants crossing the Mediterranean has raised concern. ISIS territorial grip is not surprising per se – the confrontation between Tobruk and Tripoli, added to their weak influence on local powers, have prevented them from having a genuine authority on the country, leaving a great number of areas empty in terms of infrastructures and institutions. ISIS has therefore imposed itself and established its stronghold in the city of Sirte, located in the middle of the competing parliaments. ISIS settlement remains tenuous[7]. But for how long? It seems now that the only way to stymie its expansion lies on the ability and willingness of Tripoli and Tobruk to get closed and create a viable national unity government. It will perhaps be insufficient but it is undeniably the first step towards an appeasement between the regions and an effective (re)construction.

[1] AFRIK.COM, Libye : la signature d’un accord politique prévue le 16 décembre, 12/12/2015

[2] International Business Times, US, Italy Push Libyan Factions to Sign UN-backed Political Deal, 13/12/2015

[3] AFRIK.COM, Libye : la signature d’un accord politique prévue le 16 décembre, 12/12/2015

[4] AllAfrica, Libya: Fragmentation Casts Doubt Over Unity Deal, 12/12/2015

[5] BBC, Libya Crisis: Rome talks call for ‘immediate ceasefire’, 13/12/2015

[6] Ibid.

[7] Libération, Comment Daech progresse en Libye, 12/12/2015

Déborah Guidez

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