Una asignatura pendiente en Libia

Un Estado fallido. En eso se ha convertido Libia a lo largo de la última década, pasando de protagonizar una de las llamadas “Primaveras Árabes” a sumirse en el invierno más severo. La caída del régimen autoritario de Muamar el Gadafi en 2011 no terminó de traer las mejoras en las condiciones sociales que algunos esperaban, sino que puso a los libios a merced del desgobierno y la miseria. Sin que el mundo haya reparado demasiado en ello, la guerra civil que lleva años hostigando a Libia corre el peligro de hacerse crónica.

La comunidad internacional no puede rehuir sus responsabilidades ante esta trágica deriva.…  Seguir leyendo »

Mahmud Turkia/AFP via Getty Images Fighters loyal to the Government of National Accord, which has been reinforced by Turkish-backed Syrian militia forces, at a lookout post near the front line, Tripoli, Libya, January 12, 2020

At a mud-caked intersection this month, some hundred-and-fifty feet from the front line, a lanky militia fighter approached and then abruptly turned around when he saw me, a Westerner. I’ve been covering Libya’s conflicts for years and noticed some minor but distinctive details about his appearance: a do-rag tied around his head, an olive green tactical vest, and perhaps a certain military bearing. The Libyan commander I was with confirmed it, with a chuckle: “That’s not a Libyan look.”

Fifteen minutes later, I was inside a poured-concrete villa that served as the living quarters for a group of war-hardened Syrian fighters.…  Seguir leyendo »

Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R) speak as they attend an inauguration ceremony of a new gas pipeline "TurkStream" on 8 January 2020 in Istanbul. AFP/Ozan KOSE

What happened in Moscow? 

On Monday, Russian government officials hosted Libya’s two rival leaders, whose respective military forces have been at war for nine months, in a bid to usher them toward a ceasefire agreement. One is Faiez Serraj, who heads the internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli; the other is Field Marshall Khalifa Haftar, who leads a coalition called the Arab Libyan Armed Forces (ALAF), previously known as the Libyan National Army (LNA). Haftar’s coalition does not recognise the Serraj government, and in April launched an offensive to take control of the Libyan capital. Fighting has killed over 2,000 people, put Tripoli under siege by Haftar’s forces and sucked in several foreign powers.…  Seguir leyendo »

This week, Libyan cease-fire talks brokered by Russia and Turkey addressed the country’s latest bout of conflict, which has claimed more than 2,000 lives and displaced hundreds of thousands of Libyans. Negotiations took place between the Government of National Accord (GNA) and rival Libyan Arab Armed Forces (LAAF).

Russia and Turkey’s involvement represented a change in international engagement with Libya’s conflict, as they asserted their leadership in the political process and attempted to sideline Western countries and the United Nations. It looked as if it was set to pay off. The prime minister of the GNA, Fayez Serraj, agreed to the deal, but commander of the LAAF, Khalifa Hifter, left Moscow without signing.…  Seguir leyendo »

Los críticos del presidente turco Recep Tayyip Erdoğan en el extranjero lo consideran un megalómano cuasidictatorial. Pero ahora Erdoğan (que fue primer ministro de Turquía durante once años antes de ser elegido presidente en 2014) también es un apostador imprudente. Turquía ha comenzado a desplegar tropas en Libia a pedido del Gobierno de Acuerdo Nacional (GAN), que tiene el respaldo de Naciones Unidas y lleva ocho meses rodeado en Trípoli por el avance de las fuerzas del Ejército Nacional Libio (ENL) comandadas por el mariscal Khalifa Haftar.

Será una locura en sentido militar y diplomático. Erdoğan ya tiene al lado de Turquía el perturbador ejemplo del conflicto sirio.…  Seguir leyendo »

Aphrodite rose gracefully out of the waters of the eastern Mediterranean and its Nereids guided sailors in distress. How did this sea, cradle of so many civilisations, end up as a military flashpoint? This year its eastern shores could become Europe’s equivalent of the South China Sea, bristling with great power tension, or a model for co-operation. I would like to believe the latter but it is going to require a leap of faith in the ability of hard-nosed autocrats to give ground and in terrorist groups to show restraint. That’s a stretch.

Let’s start with the positive. The discovery of large undersea hydrocarbon reserves is giving shape to a new regional constellation: Egypt and Cyprus, Israel and Greece.…  Seguir leyendo »

Angela Merkel greets Fayez al-Serraj, prime minister of the Government of National Accord of Libya, in May. Photo: Getty Images.

There has been a stark contrast between messaging coming from the international community and trends on the ground as Libya’s latest bout of civil war enters its eighth month.

Led by Germany, some states have been trying to build consensus for a ceasefire ahead of a summit that is expected to be held in Berlin in the next few months. Today marks the date of one of the final planning meetings for the summit.

The increasing use of drone technology, airstrikes and further influxes of fighters trend points in the opposite direction. Warring groups in Libya continue to receive support from external states, undermining international efforts to de-escalate the conflict.…  Seguir leyendo »

The continued violence between the two local forces competing for power, and their inability to cooperate has locked the conflict in a stalemate that sees no immediate end. In this excerpt from its Watch List 2019 – Second Update, Crisis Group urges the European Union and its member states to work towards an internationally-monitored ceasefire.

Since the outbreak of violence in Tripoli last April, the prospect of a negotiated settlement to end the competition for power in Libya has only grown more remote. The military offensive launched by the Libyan National Army (LNA), which is headed by Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar and based in the east, against forces allied with the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli has thwarted UN-led efforts.…  Seguir leyendo »

On Wednesday at least 44 migrants were killed and more than 130 injured when an airstrike hit a migrant detention center in Tajoura, 10 miles east of Tripoli, the capital of Libya. Hundreds of men, women and children, mostly from African countries, who left their homes for Europe, have been locked up for months — in some cases for years — at the detention center.

The civil war in Libya intensified in early April after Gen. Khalifa Hifter, the leader of eastern Libya militias, ordered his forces to advance on Tripoli, where the country’s internationally backed Government of National Accord is led by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj.…  Seguir leyendo »

A Muqtada al-Sadr mobile phone cover for sale in a Baghdad market. Photo: Getty Images.

State weakness and protracted conflict continue to plague Iraq and Libya. A breakdown of the unitary state, competition for power and influence, and the absence of a social contract all continue to drive conflict, while allowing a proliferation of local armed groups to flourish.

Yet while such groups in both countries are often viewed solely as security actors, many of them are better considered as ‘hybrid’ networks that also span the political, economic and social spheres. Western policies to mitigate the threats presented by these groups must therefore extend beyond security-based interventions to necessarily inclusive and political approaches focusing on accountability as a route to peace.…  Seguir leyendo »

Khalifa Haftar arrives for a conference in Palermo in November 2018. Photo: Getty Images.

The Libyan Arab Armed Forces (LNA) led by Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar launched an offensive on the Libyan capital, Tripoli, on 3 April.  The offensive soon lost momentum as forces in western Libya nominally-aligned to the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) rallied to prevent the advance of Haftar’s forces. Significant reinforcements have been despatched from across the country, raising the prospect of a protracted period of fighting – everyone involved has few incentives to back down and many incentives to avoid failure.

If the fighting drags on, the LNA’s revenue generation model may be its undoing.

Securing the necessary funding for the LNA’s operations has been key to Haftar’s success and the sustainability of his effort to establish security and a military governing authority across territories under LNA control.…  Seguir leyendo »

Todas sus cuentas en las redes sociales han desaparecido de pronto, se han cerrado.

Es el 4 de abril de 2019 y el mariscal Haftar acaba de dar a sus tropas la orden de “marchar” hacia Trípoli. Al día siguiente explica: “Voy a limpiar la ciudad de terroristas”. El tono es inequívoco.

Los que han cerrado sus redes sociales son los numerosos libios, procuradores, jueces, abogados y activistas con los que trabajo ya desde hace años, que se encuentran en Bengasi, Trípoli y otras ciudades y que, en la incertidumbre sobre lo que va a ocurrir, se esconden mientras esperan el fuego de mortero y los bombardeos.…  Seguir leyendo »

Libyan fighters loyal to the government run during clashes with forces loyal to Khalifa Hifter south of Tripoli's suburb of Ain Zara on Wednesday. (Mahmud Turkia/AFP/Getty Images)

Libya is a week into its third civil war since 2011. The trigger was an attempt by Khalifa Hifter, the warlord who controls eastern Libya, to seize the capital, Tripoli — and power — by force. Since he formed his own army command in the east in 2014, Hifter had grown stronger over the years with the help of foreign support. Now, he apparently believed he was strong enough to break off ongoing negotiations over the formation of an interim government and create new facts on the ground by force.

Hifter’s initial plan was to get a small force into Tripoli before his opponents could react, prompting some local armed groups and security officials to defect to him.…  Seguir leyendo »

In Libya, Benghazi’s Old Town lies in ruins and many areas remain mined and booby-trapped. Credit Giles Clarke/UNOCHA, via Getty Images

On Thursday General Khalifa Hifter, the leader of eastern Libya militias, ordered his forces to advance on Tripoli, the capital, where the country’s internationally backed Government of National Accord is led by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj.

Ghassan Salame, the United Nations envoy to Libya, had recently urged opposing Libyan factions to come together at a U.N.-brokered national conference in mid-April to lay the groundwork for elections and pull Libya back from the brink. By ordering his forces toward Tripoli when U.N. Secretary General António Guterres was in the city to help organize the national conference, General Hifter has made his disdain for the peace efforts clear.…  Seguir leyendo »

U.N. Special Representative for Libya Ghassan Salame indicated in a statement to the Security Council that a national conference should be convened at the start of 2019 to “create a space for Libyans to crystallize their vision for the transition and no longer be ignored by their politicians.” This follows a conference in Palermo, Italy, that brought together international partners and Libyan stakeholders to discuss the situation.

Salame’s framing suggests that the conference will seek to impose a new path, regardless of what existing institutions might want. In other words, Libya’s transition plan, established in 2012, is being rebooted following a painful lack of progress on a number of fronts.…  Seguir leyendo »

‘When foreign people come for visitors’ days, the guards give us good food, a good environment, sanitation.’ Refugees pray in a detention centre in Tripoli. Photograph: Ismail Zetouni/Reuters

I tried to reach Europe at the start of this year. We were in the boat for 26 hours, in the middle of the Mediterranean, and an Italian helicopter came to take photos. After that, the Libyan coastguards appeared to take us back to Libya, and they brought us to hell. Since then, I’ve been in a detention centre in Tripoli.

As of today, infected people here have gone three weeks without tuberculosis medication, and now we think all the men and boys have it. Doctors stopped showing up, they stopped the medicine, and we all live together. Even the guards don’t come near us, they tell others not to come close.…  Seguir leyendo »

Firefighters and rescuers respond after armed men stormed the headquarters of Libya's National Oil Company in Tripoli on 10 September. Photo: Getty Images.

Last month, the leaders of Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA), the Central Bank of Libya (CBL) and the High State Council agreed a long-awaited package of economic reforms.

But, without accompanying structural reform they can at most offer a short-term fix.  The recent fighting in Tripoli illustrates the inextricable links between control over the distribution of state revenues and conflict. A sustainable political settlement must therefore include economic components.

Long-anticipated reform

One of the principal goals of the reforms announced on 12 September is to curb profiteering from the state’s resources by those who can access foreign currency at the official rate (1.38…  Seguir leyendo »

The bloody three month-long standoff over crude oil export terminals in eastern Libya earlier this summer served as a stark reminder that the  United Nations are nowhere nearer to finding a political solution than they were when they started nearly seven years ago. One often overlooked consequence of this bloody stalemate is that it casts a long shadow over Algeria and Tunisia with which Libya shares long and porous borders.

Seven years ago, Italian and Algerian officials warned France, the UK and the US of the huge risks for regional security were Libya to disintegrate. Backing the military operation, NATO paid no heed to such warnings, despite what had happened in Iraq since 2003.…  Seguir leyendo »

May’s municipal elections in Tunisia had many commentators speculating about the future of the country’s ongoing democratic transition. The results were roughly in line with expectations, with the “Islamist” Ennahda taking 27.5 percent of the vote, the “secular” Nidaa Tounes taking 22.5 percent and independent candidates taking 28 percent. At the same time, voter turnout, at 35.5 percent of registered voters, was disappointingly low.

Nonetheless, most observers agree the prospects for democratic transition in Tunisia are much better than they are for Egypt or Libya. Indeed, some have come to see the contrasting trajectories among post-Arab uprising countries such as Tunisia, Libya and Egypt as inevitable.…  Seguir leyendo »

Libyan rebels gather on the outskirts al-Agila. (Nasser Nasser/AP)

For too long, the economic drivers of Libya’s conflict have received insufficient attention. But this may be about to change. Ghassan Salamé, the U.N. special envoy to Libya, has his sights set on targeting Libya’s “economy of predation.”

“I think this is the most important issue today in Libya,” he recently told Reuters. “It is, at least in my modest view, the heart of the matter in Libya.” He is right.

In Libya, networks of armed actors, corrupt business executives and politicians continue to find ways to make money through avenues such as the smuggling of fuel or people, the diversion of state resources and the growth of extremely profitable protection rackets.…  Seguir leyendo »