Libya still in the mire as an­other an­niver­sary passes

Manila Times - - OPINION - AFP

TRIPOLI: Libya’s tran­si­tion has been bogged down by in­se­cu­rity and chaos, leav­ing the coun­try look­ing like a “failed state” six years af­ter the NATO-backed up­ris­ing that ended

“We got rid of one dic­ta­tor only to see 10,000 oth­ers take his place,” said Fatma al-Zawi, a Tripoli house­wife, be­moan­ing the mul­ti­tude of war­lords and mili­tias which have run the North African coun­try since the armed re­volt which erupted in mid-Fe­bru­ary 2011.

Or­di­nary Libyans are show­ing lit­tle en­thu­si­asm for the an­niver­sary, which the au­thor­i­ties plan to mark on Thurs­day with cul­tural and sport­ing events in Mar­tyrs’

Liv­ing con­di­tions have de­te­ri­o­rated badly through a com­bi­na­tion of in­se­cu­rity, power cuts, wa­ter short­ages, a cash crunch and the plung­ing value of the Libyan di­nar.

Libya’s ex­ec­u­tive and leg­isla­tive ri­val­ries be­tween po­lit­i­cal move­ments, ide­olo­gies and tribes.

“The pro­tag­o­nists have not un­der­stood that no sin­gle ide­o­log­i­cal branch or po­lit­i­cal or tribal clan can gov­ern the coun­try on its Khechana, di­rec­tor of the Mediter­ranean Cen­tre for Libyan Stud­ies in Tunis.

“This is why the coun­try is not ready for ‘clas­sic’ demo­cratic com­pe­ti­tion” through elec­tions, he said.

In the ab­sence of a strong reg­u­lar army, the oil-rich coun­try with long, por­ous bor­ders has turned into rich ter­rain for smug­glers of arms and peo­ple from sub-Sa­ha­ran Africa des­per­ate to reach Europe via per­ilous Mediter­ranean cross­ings.

Ji­hadists fill void

Also step­ping into the void have been ji­hadists, es­pe­cially the Is­lamic State group which has seized swathes of Libya, al­though it was ex­pelled in De­cem­ber from its bas­tion of Sirte, a city on the Mediter­ranean.

Hopes for a re­cov­ery and re­turn to an era of se­cu­rity raised by a Gov­ern­ment of Na­tional Ac­cord (GNA), set up un­der a De­cem­ber 2015 agree­ment bro­kered by the United Na­tions and signed in Morocco, proved short-lived.

It set up shop in Tripoli in March 2016 but has failed to ex­tend its au­thor­ity, even in the cap­i­tal which is con­trolled by dozens of mili­tias of shifting al­le­giances.

The au­thor­ity of the GNA headed by Fayez al-Sar­raj is chal­lenged by a ri­val ad­min­is­tra­tion in east Libya, much of which is un­der the con­trol of armed forces com­manded by con­tro­ver­sial Field Mar­shal Khal­ifa Haf­tar.

The gen­eral in his 70s was over­looked in the Morocco ac­cord but has re­turned to the fore­front with his forces’ cap­ture of four oil ter­mi­nals in the east from which most of Libya’s life­line oil is ex­ported.

Haf­tar, a sworn foe of Is­lamist mil­i­tants, is ac­cused by de­trac­tors of aim­ing to es­tab­lish a new mil­i­tary dic­ta­tor­ship and has so far failed to woo West­ern sup­port.

But a rap­proche­ment with Rus­sia and the back­ing he en­joys from re­gional states such as Egypt and the United Arab Emi­rates are prompt­ing the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity to re­view its po­si­tion.

The UN envoy to Libya, Martin Kobler, said last week that talks had made progress on “pos­si­ble amend­ments” to the De­cem­ber 2015 agree­ment, and no­tably on a fu­ture role for the mil­i­tary strong­man.

Prospects of ‘failed state’

But an­a­lysts re­main scep­ti­cal over the prospects for Libya to avoid be­com­ing a “failed state”.

“It’s now been six years that the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity is try­ing to im­pose a demo­cratic, united gov­ern­ment when there is noth­ing on which they can build it,” said Fed­er­ica Saini Fasan­otti, an an­a­lyst with the Washington-based Brook­ings In­sti­tu­tion.

“Libyans must de­cide whether their coun­try will be­come a new So­ma­lia, or steer it in a dif­fer­ent di­rec­tion,” she said.

Fasan­otti stressed that “not a sin­gle re­motely uni­fy­ing po­lit­i­cal leader has emerged for the coun­try”.

Clau­dia Gazz­ini of the In­ter­na­tional Cri­sis Group was also down­beat, rul­ing out any ma­jor po­lit­i­cal or mil­i­tary set­tle­ment in 2017.

“Whether or not this state of sus­pended an­i­ma­tion marks the be­gin­ning of Libya as a ‘failed state’ de­pends pri­mar­ily on its eco­nomic stand­ing,” she said.

“The risk of a fur­ther de­te­ri­o­ra­tion of the coun­try’s econ­omy is real de­spite the uptick in oil pro­duc­tion,” which has climbed to 700,000 bar­rels per day, was her bleak as­sess­ment.

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