Abdoulaye Bathily, UN Special Representative for Libya and Head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), gives a press conference in Tripoli on 11 March 2023. Photo by MAHMUD TURKIA/AFP via Getty Images.

UN Special Representative to Libya Abdoulaye Bathily has resigned after 18 months in post, leaving behind a political process best described as moribund.

Most international policymakers seem to believe Libyan rivals must initiate the deal to break the current impasse. The UN has taken the view that progress is not possible without the approval of key powerbrokers and their international backers.

On the other hand, many Libyan actors believe the only realistic chance of breaking the status quo is through an internationally mandated process. After all, the last two ‘unity’ governments have been created through UN mediation – in 2015-16 and 2020-21 respectively – while an attempt to produce a government through Libyan institutions alone has served only to produce a parallel government and reintroduce administrative division.…  Seguir leyendo »

Rescue teams search through the rubble in the eastern city of Soussa, Libya on Sep. 21, following deadly flash floods. OZAN KOSE/AFP via Getty Images

On Sunday, Sept. 10, Libya suffered its worst natural disaster in living memory. In fact, more people died that day than in any battle of Libya’s wars of post-Qaddafi succession.

Starting in the early morning hours, heavy rains strafed the eastern city of Derna, causing two nearby dams to burst—flooding everything downstream. Two weeks later, the scale of the disaster has come into more precise focus: The Libyan Red Crescent reports more than 11,000 people are dead; 10,000 people are still missing; and 30,000 are now homeless. Aerial footage of the city reveals utter devastation—replete with floating corpses and bereft families.…  Seguir leyendo »

A man surveys the damage in Derna, Libya, on Sept. 12. Esam Omran Al-Fetori/Reuters

This week, the worst storm in recent memory pounded the Green Mountains in eastern Libya with rain, pushing two poorly maintained, half-century-old dams to their limit. Just before 3 a.m. on Sept. 11, the first dam collapsed. An enormous wall of water surged into a riverbed that bisects the coastal city of Derna. It stalled briefly at the second dam eight miles downstream and then scooped that and everything else up in its path, tossing the debris into the sea. By dawn, a third of the city was gone, leaving thousands missing. The minimum number of dead is likely to be at least 10,000 but could be double that, local officials say.…  Seguir leyendo »


En Libia las fracturas en la autoridad nacional se han convertido en una constante en medio de un conflicto fluido. Las prácticas adoptadas desde 2011 para el reconocimiento internacional de sus gobiernos se han enfrentado a dilemas que emanan de tres dicotomías: reconocimiento internacional vs. interno; legitimidad vs. eficacia; y coherencia vs. inclusividad en la mediación en el conflicto y las negociaciones de paz.


Doce años después de que prendiera la mecha de la revolución y se produjera la intervención militar internacional que derrocó el régimen de Muamar el Gadafi en 2011, lejos de ver la luz al final del túnel, Libia se encuentra inmersa en una agitación constante y una guerra civil intermitente.…  Seguir leyendo »

Shura neighbourhood, Kufra. Photo by local photographer.

The Libyan city of Kufra is an important trade hub for goods crossing its borders with Sudan and Chad. Since 2011, human smuggling has come to play a complex role in Kufra’s economic development and overall stability, providing counter-intuitive findings for international policymakers.

Communal disputes

Kufra’s population comprises two main groups: Arabs and Tebus. The Arab community in Kufra numbers around 55,000 people – of which approximately 42,000 are from the Zway community, and 5,000 from non-Zway tribes – while the indigenous Tebu community consists of around 8,000 people.

Longstanding rifts exist both between and within these communities. While Kufra’s communities were united in their support of the overthrow of the Gaddafi regime in 2011, they have not agreed on what should come next.…  Seguir leyendo »

Just days before Christmas in 1988, Pan Am Flight 103 flying from London to New York blew up over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing 270 people – including 190 Americans. Thirty-five victims were Syracuse University students going home for the holidays after studying abroad. It was the most lethal terrorist attack against American civilians until the September 11 attacks of 2001.

On Sunday, the US Department of Justice announced it had taken custody of a Libyan man, Abu Agila Mohammad Mas’ud Kheir Al-Marimi, who is alleged to have been involved in making the bomb that blew up the passenger jet. The DOJ described him as a former senior intelligence officer in the regime of Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi.…  Seguir leyendo »

View of a dust storm across the Sahara Desert, September, 2014. Stocktrek/Getty Images

In a cramped, fluorescent-lit office in Tripoli up several flights of stairs, a middle-aged official and his staff labor on what is perhaps the most important work for future generations of Libyans. It’s a command center of sorts: flashing computer monitors on desks, cables everywhere, and satellite maps on the wall marked with great swirls and arrows. The battle isn’t against a military opponent, like the innumerable armed groups and their political backers who have been fighting for power and economic spoils in this oil-rich state since the ouster of Muammar Qadhafi during the NATO-backed revolution of 2011. The scourge is far more insidious, and the country’s bickering elites seem woefully unprepared to tackle it.…  Seguir leyendo »

Abdoulaye Bathily (C), UN Special Representative for Libya and Head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), arrives for an election simulation meeting in Tripoli on 5 November 2022. Photo by MAHMUD TURKIA/AFP via Getty Images.

Abdoulaye Bathily was appointed UN Special Representative to Libya in September, the eighth UN representative to attempt to negotiate a way out of Libya’s governance crisis since 2011. He faces steep challenges. The political situation in Libya remains at an impasse, with the re-emergence of rival governments and heightening factionalism. Internationally, Bathily inherits a UN mission that has been subject to significant turnover and capacity challenges, a deeply divided Security Council, and various agendas put forward by interested states.

‘There appears to be broad agreement that Libya’s institutions are facing a serious legitimacy crisis’, Bathily told the UN Security Council on 15 November.…  Seguir leyendo »

The progress Libya made toward stability in 2021 has all but vanished. Then, an interim leader unified two competing cabinets, and rival factions agreed to schedule parliamentary and presidential elections that would eventually lead to the formation of a new elected government. But the elections were cancelled at the last minute and now the country is once again stuck in a standoff between two rival executives, one based in the western city of Tripoli and the other currently operating from the coastal city of Sirt in central Libya, with no consensus on the way forward.

The feud has not relapsed into an outright conflict, as thus far both camps and their respective foreign sponsors (some of whom have recently achieved their own rapprochements) appear reluctant to resume fighting.…  Seguir leyendo »

Vehicles of forces loyal to Libya's Tripoli-based Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibah are parked along the waterfront in the capital on 17 May 2022, hours after forces of the rival Tobruk-based government withdrew. Photo: MAHMUD TURKIA/AFP via Getty Images.

The failure to hold scheduled elections in December 2021 derailed Libya’s political roadmap, heightening animosity between the Government of National Unity (GNU) – the country’s first unified government since 2014 – and the House of Representatives, its chronically divided parliament. The House of Representatives appointed a new government in February, the Government of National Stability (GNS), and says that the GNU must go. The GNU, however, says it will only leave following elections.

This impasse has dragged on, but reached a flash point on the evening of 16 May, as the designated prime minister of the GNS, Fathi Bashagha, entered Tripoli in an attempt to assume office and operate from the capital.…  Seguir leyendo »

Libya's security forces parade at the Martyrs' Square in the capital Tripoli on February 17, 2022, as Libyans commemorate the 11th anniversary of the uprising that toppled longtime strongman Muammar Kadhafi. Mahmud Turkia / AFP

Libya is at a perilous crossroads – again. On 1 March, the country’s Tobruk-based parliament, the House of Representatives, voted to endorse a new interim government headed by former Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha, giving it the greenlight to take over from the sitting prime minister, Abdulhamid Dabaiba. The vote’s proponents insist that the procedure was sound, but factions in the capital Tripoli say it was fraudulent. The latter reject the new cabinet and oppose appointing a new executive entirely. As the camps square off, omens of renewed fighting are visible for the first time since an October 2020 ceasefire ended six years of political feuds and intermittent conflict.…  Seguir leyendo »

Que la próxima elección en Libia valga la pena

El 24 de diciembre los libios irán a las urnas para la primera ronda de una elección presidencial que se gesta desde hace años. La votación llega después de décadas de dictadura, guerra civil y, más recientemente, un período de incertidumbre exasperante. Pero para que los resultados gocen de amplia aceptación, los votantes tienen que poder tomar una decisión informada en el cuarto oscuro.

Es posible que eso no ocurra: el calendario electoral comprimido ofrece poco tiempo a los libios para conocer a los más de 70 candidatos. El período de campaña se redujo a dos semanas por la presencia de fuerzas extranjeras en el país y temor a que vuelva el conflicto.…  Seguir leyendo »

Migrantes rescatados en el Mediterráneo a bordo del Geo Barents.Ed Ou (The Outlaw Ocean Project)

En julio de 2018, el Asso 28, un barco de suministro de petróleo italiano que cruzaba el Mediterráneo, se encontró con una balsa de goma que llevaba un centenar de migrantes desesperados. En su intento de realizar el peligroso viaje desde Libia hasta Europa, los migrantes habían llegado a aguas internacionales cuando el buque los rescató, y su capitán optó por llevarlos no a un puerto seguro en Europa, como requiere la legislación, sino de vuelta a un gulag de centros de detención de migrantes en Libia, donde Naciones Unidas y otras entidades han documentado torturas sistemáticas, violaciones, extorsiones, trabajo forzado y muertes.…  Seguir leyendo »

Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, left, son of the former Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi, registers to run in upcoming presidential elections in Sebha, south of Tripoli, Libya. (Libyan Electoral Commission Handout/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi, son of the late Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi, registered on Sunday as a presidential candidate for Libya’s elections scheduled for Dec. 24, complicating an already precarious situation. These elections were originally designed to complete a post-conflict transition that began a year ago, when a U.N.-picked body of 75 Libyan political figures set the December date.

This year, as a key prerequisite for the vote, that body formed a new Government of National Unity — an interim executive designed to unify the country’s then-two rival administrations. Since then, an international consensus has emerged that Libya’s elections should take place.…  Seguir leyendo »

A UN official shows the ballot box to participants of the UN-hosted Libyan Political Dialogue Forum in Geneva, 5 February 2021. UNSMIL

Against All Odds, Libya’s Peace Process Makes Substantial Progress

On 5 February, Libyan delegates attending UN-hosted political talks in Geneva nominated a new unified interim executive for their country, which has been split in two regions, each administered separately, since 2014. They chose eastern Libya’s Mohamed Mnefi to head a new three-person Presidency Council and a businessman from Misrata in western Libya, Abdulhamid Dabaiba, as prime minister-designate. If confirmed, this executive would serve until elections in late 2021. The Mnefi-Dabaiba list won by a slim majority in a race with other heavyweights including the eastern parliament’s speaker, Aghela Saleh, and the Tripoli government’s interior minister, Fathi Bashaga.…  Seguir leyendo »

President of Libya's interim government Mohammad Younes Menfi (L) meets warlord Khalifa Haftar (R) in Benghazi, Libya on 11 February 2021. Photo by Khalifa Haftar Forces Press Office/Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images.

On 5 February, the UN-assembled Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF) appointed a new interim government. Intended to see the country through until elections scheduled for 24 December 2021, the appointment of the Government of National Unity (GNU) ostensibly breaks the political deadlock of the past five years. But what can the GNU achieve? And how should the international community respond?

A limited mandate and low expectations

February 2021 conjures images of the same period in 2016, when the unity government produced by UN-mediated talks, the Government of National Accord (GNA), was unable to overcome the institutional divides that had emerged in 2014. …  Seguir leyendo »

Participants attend the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum in Tunis, on 9 November 2020. REUTERS / Zoubeir Souissi

Fragile Progress toward a Unity Government for Libya

Despite a reported breakthrough in mid-January, there are still many steps to take before an interim unity government can emerge in Libya. The country has been divided in two, between two parallel governments and military coalitions that have been intermittently at war, since 2014. Participants in the 75-member forum that the UN assembled to bring the two back together agreed on an internal voting mechanism for appointing top officials. But the complicated voting process could easily trigger further disputes. Moreover, rival Libyan factions disagree on who should lead the country and are only paying lip service to transparency in voting.…  Seguir leyendo »

Libyan military graduates loyal to the UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) take part in a parade marking their graduation, a result of a military training agreement with Turkey, at the Omar Mukhtar camp on 21 November 2020. Mahmud TURKIA / AFP

Foreign Actors Drive Military Build-up amid Deadlocked Political Talks

A tenuous ceasefire continues to hold in Libya between forces allied to the Tripoli-based government and their rivals in the east. Yet there is reason to worry that the five-month hiatus in the conflict could end abruptly. The 23 October ceasefire agreement silenced the guns but otherwise is a dead letter: both sides have backtracked on fulfilling its terms and instead continue to build up their military forces. Another concern is the failure to find a political way forward. The UN’s attempt to revive dialogue and appoint a new Presidency Council and prime minister to head a unity government has floundered.…  Seguir leyendo »

UN acting envoy to Libya Stephanie Williams speaks at the opening of the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum hosted in Gammarth on the outskirts of the Tunisian capital, with the attendance of Tunisian President Kais Saied (C), on 9 November 2020. FETHI BELAID / AFP

Negotiations Run Aground, Threatening Political and Economic Stalemate

A fragile ceasefire signed in October is holding in Libya, and thus far renewed conflict has been averted. But tensions remain high, especially as the year is about to end with no substantial progress in political and economic negotiations that were supposed to pave the way for reunifying a country that has been divided in two, with rival governments and parallel financial and military institutions, since 2014. UN-mediated talks to appoint a unity government are faltering, as delegates have so far failed to agree on how to choose candidates for senior positions. A temporary deal on oil revenues in September enabled the resumption of production and exports and helped de-escalate military tensions in central Libya.…  Seguir leyendo »

The Wart for Libyan Oil. Illustration by Greg Groesch/The Washington Times

At the dawn of the 20th century, America was feeling brash and bold. Having just defeated Spain in a war that ranged from Cuba to the Philippines, it was clear that we were an emerging power. But what was that going to mean?

The 19th century idea of “Manifest Destiny,” which required that, by some sort of divine right, we should rule the Western Hemisphere had faded, but — as the Philippines showed — the temptation of American colonialism was strong.

In that context, John Hay wrote a letter to a friend. Hay began his government career as private secretary to Abraham Lincoln and at the time he wrote the letter was U.S.…  Seguir leyendo »