Title Title
4577296433_2c2b04ed7e_b Hope fading for a fractured Libya after Benghazi bombing
Summary Summary
  After progress stagnated in 2017, violence in Tripoli and Benghazi leaves hope for Libya at its lowest since the fall of Gaddafi
Highlights Highlights
Content Content
  <strong>Violent incidents across Libya over the past few weeks have left dozens dead. While they raised few eyebrows in the West, observers told <em>WikiTribune</em> that they are illustrative of a country where a UN mediation process looks to be failing in the face of violent schisms. </strong>
  <span style="font-weight: 400;">Two car bombs in the Libyan city Benghazi <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-libya-security/twin-car-bombs-kill-more-than-30-in-libyas-benghazi-officials-idUSKBN1FC2TC?il=0">killed an estimated</a> 33 people on the night of January 23. The previous week <a href="https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-libya-security/at-least-20-dead-as-clashes-shut-airport-in-libyan-capital-idUKKBN1F410J?rpc=401&amp;">clashes in the capital</a>, Tripoli, left at least 20 dead, as armed groups fought over the city's only airport.</span>
  <span style="font-weight: 400;">To an extent this violence is par for the course in a country that has not had anything resembling a united and stable government since at least 2014 and arguably since the fall of <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muammar_Gaddafi">Muammar Gaddafi</a> in 2011. Clashes between myriad armed groups across the country occur regularly, particularly over resources and key assets such as the capital’s airport.</span>
  <span style="font-weight: 400;">Tim Eaton, of UK think tank Chatham House, told <em>WikiTribune</em> "What we’re seeing across the country is a large number of actors that have territory and have access to a degree of political power. But there’s so many of them and none have been strong enough to control the whole country."</span>
By Rick Scavetta, U.S. Army Africa via Flickr <h2>A country made of fractures</h2>
  The groups at play across the country are so diffuse that it is more useful to look at the lines of division, rather than key players or groupings, said Eaton.
  Politically, there is the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High_Council_of_State_(Libya)">High State Council</a>, formed from former members of <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_National_Congress_(2014)#National_Salvation_Government">General National Congress</a> which was elected in 2014. The <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/House_of_Representatives_(Libya)">House of Representatives</a>, also known as the "Tobruk" government, is based in Benghazi and has the loyalty of the Libyan National army, and its leader <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Khalifa_Haftar">Khalifa Haftar</a>.
  <span style="font-family: inherit; font-size: 1.6rem;">The Libyan Political Agreement in December 2015 was meant to form an accord between these rival assemblies, creating the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Government_of_National_Accord">Government of National Accord</a>. It was endorsed by the UN, but has never been formally ratified by the House of Representatives, so the "Unity Government" is effectively still made up of two rival groups.</span>
  There are other divisions between the Islamist and the secular political groups and <span style="font-family: inherit; font-size: 1.6rem;">between rival factions and armed groups over land, power and key resources.</span>
  <span style="font-weight: 400;">Tobias Borck, of the Royal United Services Institute, </span>similarly emphasizes that it is almost impossible to summarize the different factions at play.
  "In the East you do have a clearly strongest militia," he said, referring to the "Libyan National Army."
  "It isn't actually the national army," Borck said: "It's a strong militia that is itself fractured internally."
  The bombings in Benghazi are part of a broader effort by rival factions to undermine the idea that Haftar has control of the whole of Eastern Libya, said Eaton. The Tripoli clashes similarly run counter to any narrative that the UN-backed forces of the Government of National Accord have control of the country's capital.
  <span style="font-weight: 400;">"Essentially what these incidents show is the extent to which power is still diffuse and competition is still ongoing between different actors," said Eaton.</span>
  <span style="font-weight: 400;">Borck told <em>WikiTribune </em>that the Benghazi attack was "more dramatic" than the ongoing instability in Tripoli, because Haftar's forces nominally have Benghazi "under control."</span>
  The market was frequented by Salafis who have been fighting against Jihadist Salafis, with Haftar, said Borck.
  "If this is an attack on them, which we don't know yet, the big question going forward is how they react to that, and whether this is the start of a wider campaign," said Borck.
  <h2>Progress stagnates</h2>
  Potted timeline:
   <li style="font-weight: 400;"><span style="font-weight: 400;">February 2011: At the height of the Arab Spring, <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-libya-protests/gaddafi-under-threat-as-revolt-hits-tripoli-idUSTRE71G0A620110221">violent protests break out</a> in Benghzai and spread to other cities including Tripoli.</span></li>
   <li style="font-weight: 400;"><span style="font-weight: 400;">March 2011: NATO <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-libya/nato-to-run-libya-no-fly-zone-but-not-all-action-idUSTRE7270JP20110324">authorizes a no-fly zone</a>. Organized rebel groups capture territory.</span></li>
   <li style="font-weight: 400;"><span style="font-weight: 400;">July 2011: the International Contact Group??? Recognized the main opposition group, the National Transitional Council, as the legitimate government, Gaddafi goes into hiding in August.</span></li>
   <li style="font-weight: 400;"><span style="font-weight: 400;">October 2011:<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_of_Muammar_Gaddafi"> Gaddafi is killed</a>.</span></li>
   <li style="font-weight: 400;"><span style="font-weight: 400;">January 2012: fractures among the rebel groups lead to clashes.</span></li>
   <li style="font-weight: 400;"><span style="font-weight: 400;">March 2012: the National Transitional Council <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/jun/10/libya-split-between-militias">splits (<em>Guardian</em>).</a></span></li>
   <li>February 2014: <a href="http://www.aljazeera.com/news/africa/2014/02/libyan-general-wants-parliament-suspended-2014214111452905729.html">Haftar launches a coup d'etat,</a> <em>(Al</em> <em>Jazeera</em>) but it does not take place. He launches a campaign against extremist groups in the East, leading eventually to his taking control of Benghazi and the division of the country.</li>
   <li>October 2014: <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-31518698">Islamic State (IS) fighters seize Derna</a> in Eastern Libya.</li>
   <li>December 2015: Libyan Political Accord signed, with backing from the UN.</li>
   <li>September 2016: Haftar takes key Eastern oil terminals.</li>
   <li>July 2017: IS driven from Benghazi.</li>
  <span style="font-weight: 400;">The recent violence is "really been a continuation of clashes that have been going on, on and off, for the past few years," said Borck.</span>
  There is an "underlying instability" in Libya, said Borck, that is essentially the outcome of a "non-existent state order."
  "That's really where Libya has been since 2011, but especially 2014," said Borck, "it's quite depressing when you take a longer view."
  <h2>Best made plans</h2>
  The UN's mediation plan is based on three stages, said Eaton. First to amend the Political Agreement so that both assemblies accept it. That can then be the basis for the unity government to set up a conference to bring in some partners who are currently marginalized, and isolate spoilers. On this basis, new elections can be held - the third stage.
  "The truth is, we're still in stage one," said Eaton.
  Part of the difficulty is that the two political assemblies do not represent all of the armed groups, and many of these groups are benefiting from the status quo.
  While there is a liquidity crisis leaving Libyan people desperate, armed groups are making a lot of money from crime, particularly fuel smuggling. Reports of <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-42038451">slave markets</a>, and <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/world-middle-east-32524737/inside-libya-s-people-smuggling-trade">people smuggling</a> across the Mediterranean, should be seen in the context of a long-term financial crisis and rampant corruption. It is reasonable to think that Libyan people are more concerned with the liquidity crisis than issues Western powers focus on, such as combating terrorism and human trafficking, said Eaton.
  <span style="font-weight: 400;">"The international effort is trying to address this at a local, ground-up level," said Eaton. But while the incentives are overwhelmingly in favour of maintaining the status quo, trying to move on to "stage two" is extremely risky. "If it doesn’t work where does that leave the UN process?" said Eaton.</span>
  In the meantime, Libya has<span style="font-weight: 400;"> "reverted to patterns of people avoiding making decisions," said Eaton, "the momentum’s kind of slipping away at the moment."</span>
Categories Categories
  Africa, Current Affairs, Human Rights, Libya, Middle East, Military, United Nations, War &amp; Conflict, Libya
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  Gaddafi, Islamic State group
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