Fuat Emir Compassionate
After many years of conflict in Libya, the 5 + 5 Joint Military Committee, formed by the representatives of the warring parties, agreed on the ceasefire agreement and the agreement was signed on 23 October 2020.
The removal of foreign mercenaries from Libya within the scope of this permanent ceasefire has undoubtedly become one of the most prominent topics.
After the three-month period given by the committee, both the Sirte-Cufra line, where the Russian Wagner company was active, and the movements in the regions under the control of Caliph Haftar, the leader of the militia groups in the east of Libya, showed that these actors were unwilling to expel the mercenaries from Libya.
However, after the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which is the financier of foreign militia groups, announced that it withdrew its financial support to these groups in March, it was announced that up to 5,000 Chad and Sudanese militias were preparing to withdraw from Libya.
As a matter of fact, the fact that the border control in Libya has not been fully established and the illegal border crossings that create serious security problems especially on the Chad-Niger border seem to warn of the threats that can be created by these irregular and uncontrolled militia groups, which are deemed to be separatist in their own countries.
Following the developments in the Chad-Libya border in recent weeks, with the murder of the 31-year-old Chad President Idris Debi Itno, the Front for Change and Harmony (FACT) in Chad has come to the fore among these groups.
Change and Adaptation Front (FACT) in Chad
FACT, which was included in the list of militia groups affiliated to Haftar in the Libya Experts Panel report published on 8 March by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), was founded by Mehdi Ali Mahmut in 2016.
The emergence of the front became apparent as a result of the dissolution of the Union of Democracy and Development Forces (UFDD), which was the pioneer of the opposition against President Idris Debi in Chad.
Mehdi Ali Mahmut, who was appointed by Mahmut Nuri, the group’s exiled leader, to command the UFDD fighters in Libya, initially received serious reactions in the UFDD, where the fighters of the Goran tribe, one of the important ethnic groups of Chad, were concentrated.
Mahmut’s getting stronger and taking over the management brought various differences of opinion and resulted in the formation of three different groups.
As one of these groups, Under the leadership of Mahmud, the FACT continued its activities in the city of Cufra during a period of intense clashes between the “Libyan Dawn” and the “Karâme Forces” (militias affiliated to Haftar), where the Misrata troops were in the majority.
The Military Command Council for the Liberation of the Republic (CCMSR), another group that evolved from within the UFDD, maintained its neutrality during the civil war.
After the Libyan National Army (LUO) troops affiliated to Haftar captured Cufra in 2017, FACT, which fought in the ranks of the Misrata troops, did not leave the region and made a non-aggression agreement with the LUO.
Since then, FACT has been shown as one of Haftar’s important ally powers. The Chad militia group, spreading from Cufra to Sebha, Tamanhint and the city of Birak, undertook the security of the military accumulations and oil facilities connected to Haftar at these points.
FACT, which played an active role in the Tripoli attack launched by Haftar in April 2019, had to leave the country as a result of the increasing national reconciliation and international pressure with the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LSDF).
FACT’s Abandonment of Libya and Death of President Debi
According to different sources, it was stated that the separatist group that was preparing to leave Libya entered the country on April 11, the day of the elections, in order to protest President Idris Debi and initiate an armed struggle.
In this context, it was reported that the group of 500 people was divided into two groups in convoys, one group moved towards the capital N’Djamena and the other group moved towards the strategic city of Mao.
On April 15, the US Libya Embassy warned about the follow-up and dangers of Chad militia groups who left Libya and pointed to the Vour and Zuarke regions in Chad on the Libya and Niger border.
Two days after these statements, Chad Army Spokesperson Aziz Bermandos Aguna stated that the rebels from Libya started attacks in the Kanem region in the north of the country on 17 April and these attacks were prevented in a short time.
On the other hand, in the statement published on FACT’s Facebook account, the rhetoric that the “Kanem region was liberated” and that the troops were moving towards the capital N’Djamena raised concerns in the international arena as well as in the country, and foreign diplomats within the country were invited to their countries.
Similar riots that took place in 2019 were suppressed by the intervention of the French army and air strikes against rebel groups, and President Idris Debi, who was seen as an ally, was saved from a possible coup.
The FACT uprisings are basically associated with the extension of President Idris Debi’s term of office and his re-nomination in the elections.
After the ongoing clashes, President Idris Debi, who visited the front a few hundred kilometers north of the capital N’Djamena to give morale to the army on April 20, lost his life when the clashes started.
The situation of foreign mercenaries in Libya poses a serious threat not only to Libya, but also to countries such as Niger, Chad, Mali and Sudan, which cover the Sahel zone.
Because it is estimated that there are still many Chad, Sudanese and a limited number of Nigerian foreign mercenaries within the borders of Libya.
The latest developments also reveal the security gap in the south of Libya, which is often taken to the second plan.
In this sense, it is observed that local military councils affiliated to the Libyan Presidential Council are inadequate in the region where illegal immigration and smuggling activities are common. It is known that tribal elements are active and in control in Fezzan province in southern Libya.
Nevertheless, senior officials of almost all European countries during their visit to Libya last week raised the issue of foreign mercenaries and warned the parties.
In addition, the UNSC decided to send a team of 60 people to the country to observe the ceasefire in Libya on April 16, and the decision was welcomed by the members of the 5 + 5 Joint Military Committee.
At this point, making the departure of foreign militias within a certain plan should be among the main priorities. Otherwise, similar events that will take place in the coming days will undermine the reconstruction process of Libya and leave the Dibeybe government in a difficult situation.
Fuat Emir Compassionate is a research assistant for North African Studies at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies (ORSAM). He received his undergraduate degree from Yeditepe University, Department of Political Science and International Relations.