Mohammad Salih Alzawahreh
1. The political and security situation in Libya
1.1 The most prominent conflicts on the Libyan scene
The signing of the Skhirat Agreement under UN supervision in December 20151 came as an end to the conflict that erupted between the Tripoli government and the Tobruk government, as that agreement resulted in a “government of national accord” that would run the transitional phase for eighteen months.
With recognition of the elected House of Representatives that was approved by most of the powers It was approved on April 6, 2016. However, internal divisions and conflicts quickly re-affected the unity of the Libyan ranks, especially after it became clear the direction of the Government of National Accord supporting the empowerment of extremists.
This prompted Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar in December 2017 to announce that the signed Libyan Political Agreement in Skhirat, Morocco, it expired after the end of the period of time specified for it, and with it the mandate of the “Government of National Accord”, and then began to move militarily to hunt down extremist groups loyal to this government, a conflict that expanded and took on regional and international dimensions.
1.2 The three main axes on the Libyan arena
The study identifies three main axes or groups on the Libyan arena:
- a. The Western Libya Group, centered in Tripoli and represented by the Government of National Accord, which is recognized by the United Nations and supported by countries such as Italy.
- b. The Eastern Libya Group, represented by the Libyan National Army led by Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, which controls most of the eastern regions of Libya and is supported by countries such as France and Russia.
- c. Semi-neutral sides, represented by countries such as Algeria, Tunisia, Germany, and the United States, which do not take sides with either the East or the West and aim to ensure that Libya does not slip into total chaos or be controlled by certain groups at the expense of others.
The study argues that the Libyan arena has witnessed many conflicts and alliances, which have contributed to the deterioration of the political and security situation in the country. The study identifies three main axes or groups on the Libyan arena:
The Western Libya Group, centered in Tripoli and represented by the Government of National Accord, which is linked to a network of strong alliances and is supported directly by some regional countries and at the international level.
The Eastern Libya Group, represented by the Libyan National Army led by Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, which raises the slogan of combating terrorism and extends its influence on some areas of the south and the West through understandings and tribal consensus sometimes and armed confrontations at other times.
The semi-neutral sides, represented by countries such as Algeria, Tunisia, Germany, and the United States, position themselves in a way that ensures that Libya does not slip into a state of total chaos or submit to the control of certain political and societal forces and components, therefore, they maintain balanced relations with all parties to the Libyan file, whether the current warring inside Libya or foreign countries with conflicting interests.
1.3 Developments of the Libyan political crisis
According to the study, the Libyan arena has witnessed many conflicts and alliances, which have contributed to the deterioration of the political and security situation in the country. The actual control over the Libyan land was distributed among multiple centers of power, which meant that it was difficult to launch any voting process characterized by impartiality and integrity without being affected by the power of militias, tribal forces, and armed groups.
The differences and factors of internal rivalry and disparities alone would not have succeeded in disrupting Libya’s political stability unless these factors found an incubating external environment, whether at the regional or global levels.
It is argued that against the backdrop of these political events, all efforts of the initiatives launched to strengthen the political track in Libya had faltered, whether those based on popular participation and ballot boxes, such as the General National Congress, or through negotiations and agreements between political and social forces, similar to what happened in the Skhirat Agreement.
The study suggests that the division that reaches the point of conflict in the accounts and estimates of the countries involved in the Libyan file, especially from the perspective of interests and threats, played an important role in disrupting the political track by instructing internal forces to disrupt understandings and work to run the transitional phase in a manner that serves the interests and estimations of those external parties.
1.4 The Libyan political crisis after the Gaddafi era
The Libyan revolution in 2011 marked the end of Gaddafi’s rule and with all its economic, political and security repercussions on the Libyan state, and the segments of Libyan society emerged victorious. The prevailing belief was that the end of Gaddafi’s rule meant the beginning of a new era characterized by stability, security, and economic abundance. However, the Libyan revolution produced armed factions and militias and the presence of pro-Gaddafi parties contributed to the continuation of the Libyan political crisis.
Since 2012, Libya has witnessed a deep political deterioration that contributed to the decline of all political, economic and security sectors of the state, until the coming of the National Accord Conference, which contributed to the convergence of political views in the state and contributed to providing a kind of stability. But that stability quickly faded with the development of conflicts and disputes. The internal and major divisions that appeared on the Libyan arena, in addition to international interventions, constituted a catalyst for the continuation of the political division that Libya is witnessing to this day.
1.4.1 The political crisis, its roots, and paths
The study argues that the main root of the Libyan political crisis is the National Congress Elections Law No. 4 of 2012 which created a state of chaos that absolves the political forces collectively from responsibility. This law hinders the possibility of understanding with a large number of individual members and financial and administrative corruption is the most prominent reason for the emergence of internal conflicts in Libya.
Additionally, the emergence of major powers led by Haftar and the weakness of Libyan state and civil society institutions are also main reasons for the political divisions in Libya. Furthermore, the feeling of the counter-revolutionary current that they can break the political and security balance in favor of the revolution’s current and the emergence of major powers led by Haftar form armed groups opposing the Libyan government and aiming to reach power are also major reasons for the political divisions in Libya.
1.4.2 The security crisis and the weakness of political will
The Libyan arena had been facing many security crises, which hindered the establishment of political unity among all parties involved in the conflict. The struggle for control of power and the proliferation of armed forces and militias led to a widening divide between the parties. At the political level, there was a clear rift between the various axes of power in the Libyan security sector, and many fighters were unwilling to give up their weapons and were ready to use them against the government.
Additionally, the absence of an effective judicial system contributed to fueling the conflict. Economic factors such as poverty and unemployment among the youth also played a role in their decision to join armed groups. These issues created a suitable environment for them to pursue their aspirations and provided a source of income.
1.4.3 The distribution of armed groups in Libya and their impact on national unity
The Libyan security sector is characterized by the presence of multiple armed groups, which are divided into three main regions:
- The south, west, and east. In the south, the battalions are primarily divided into Arab and Tabu sections, with the Arab section led by the Awlad Suleiman and Awlad Bousif tribes, and the Tabu section led by the Martyrs of Umm al-Aranib and Qatrun Martyrs.
- In the west, the formations are predominantly urban in nature, such as in Misurata where there are approximately 25,000 fighters and 230 battalions known as the Central Libya Shield Force.
- In the east, battalions are primarily composed of revolutionaries on the fronts and those close to the Islamist movement, such as the February 17 Brigade, Free Libya Martyrs Brigade, and Rafallah al-Sahati Brigade.
Additionally, there are also the Ansar al-Sharia Brigades deployed in Benghazi and Sirte, and the First Infantry Brigade battalion. Many of these armed groups are based on tribal loyalty and do not follow the military hierarchy system, and they are also characterized by the lack of an effective judicial system and the spread of poverty and unemployment in most corners of the country.
1.4.4 Most important initiatives and efforts to resolve the political crisis
The Libyan crisis has seen many important initiatives and efforts aimed at reaching a peaceful settlement. One of the most notable of these is the Palermo conference, held in Italy in 2018, which emphasized the importance of respecting the results of elections and rejected a military solution in Libya.
The Berlin conference, held in 2020, also focused on finding a political settlement and included a wide range of parties and issues in its approach. However, the meetings of the Security and Military Committee, formed as a result of the conference, were disrupted due to ongoing fighting.
Another important initiative was the Cairo Declaration, which was issued after a meeting between Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar and Chancellor Aqila Saleh, calling for a halt to the fighting and outlining a roadmap for a comprehensive political solution for all Libyan forces and components. Some countries, including Russia and France, have also tried to revive the Berlin track as a basis for resumed negotiations.
Mohammad Salih Alzawahreh – M.A of conflict resolution – University of Jordan
Source: Journal of Political Science and Law – Issue # 35 – March 2023 – The Democratic Arabic Center.