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How can Libya be stabilized again?

25.07.2019
Article from AFRIC Editorial
Libya used to be one of those countries in Africa that enjoyed peace, political stability, good medical facilities, and a stable economy amongst other things. But today, this once beautiful nation lies in ruins from fighting between rival governments and militia groups. Since the Arab spring of 2011 that saw the ouster and death of strongman Muammar Gaddafi, the North African country has never been the same.

The country that used to have one main government now has two rival governments competing over whom to control the country. The western-backed Government of National Accord, GNA, led by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj based in Tripoli and the Libyan National Army, LNA of Army Commander Khalifa Hafter based in Tobruk have been at loggerheads ever since with their various supporters fighting each other and continuing to destabilize the once peaceful nation.

Questions have been raised as to whether the country will go back to the way it used to be or stay the way is it presently. There have both been regional and international efforts to seek a lasting solution to the country’s crisis. Much of these efforts have until now not yielded any positive outcome and one begins to wonder if these efforts are not for the personal interests of the parties involved, especially the west.

The causes of Libya’s constant insecurity and highly chaotic transition period since the revolution of February 2011 are many. A huge part of the North African country’s instability we can say has been fuelled by external interference from regional and international players, which have been supporting opposing sides in the Libyan conflict both politically and militarily.

The crisis in Libya has affected the region as a whole, especially neighbouring countries, and has extended to the US and Europe. The ongoing conflict has witnessed a constant flow of migrants and refugees to Europe and the rise of terrorist groups, using Libya as a base. For the country to go back to the way it used to be or at least gain some level of stability, several issues need to be addressed as soon as possible.

  • Limiting Foreign Interference

Curbing external intervention promoting the conflict would be a rather good start in efforts towards bringing lasting peace to Libya. The ongoing conflict in the country has mostly been fuelled by the interference of external forces who have taken sides. For example, countries like the UAE and Egypt have been openly breaching international sanctions on arms, as confirmed by detailed reports from the United Nations Sanctions Committee’s (UNSC) panel of experts on Libya. Both countries have been supplying heavy arms to Commander Khalifa Haftar, who has taken over eastern Libya with his army. Cairo and Abu Dhabi have also provided him with military personnel and other military support including military air raids. Fingers have equally been pointed at states like Qatar and Turkey for providing political support for Haftar’s opponents in western Libya. Furthermore, European nations like Italy and France have as well been actively involved in the crisis.

The two states have been at loggerheads over who should dictate political developments in Libya. It is worth noting that these two nations led the campaign against strongman Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. However today, it is clearly seen that they are at odds over the North African country, which is continually undermining the country’s peace. In 2018, France, with the help of Egypt and the UAE hosted a summit on Libya, seeking to find ways that will help solve the conflict. Their main focus was to see into it that elections be held before the end of 2018. Italy opposed the French plan and hosted its own international conference on Libya in Rome in November. This rivalry between France and Italy is a clear example of how a lack of international harmony is delayingstability in Libya.

  • Passing a Constitution

There is bound to be lawlessness in any state that is not governed by a constitution. For Libya to gain stability once again, it needs to work on a new constitution to spell out exclusively how the country should be run in the future. The country has not revised its constitution since Gaddafi came to power in 1969. Many Libyans, who kicked against the French idea that elections be held by the end of 2018, have been demanding that a new constitution be voted on first. A 60-member body elected in 2014 has already drafted one and it needs to be approved by a two-thirds majority of votes in a nationwide referendum.It is the duty of the Libyan parliament, the House of Representatives (HOR) based in Tobruk, to pass a referendum law to guide the process. However, certain members of the HOR, already opposed to the draft constitution, have been obstructing the procedure. They keep pushing for the vote on a referendum law to be postponed, in the hope that it will eventually be dropped.

Earlier in February this year, the head of the Libyan High National Electoral Commission (HNEC), Emad Al-Sayeh, affirmed the commission’s readiness to hold the referendum on the constitution during the current year. He said some articles of the referendum law are pending amendments from the House of Representatives (HoR), indicating that the process is dependent on the government’s funding and providing security in the Libyan cities. But until now, no referendum has taken place to work on a new constitution, thereby leaving the country divided over who should rule. It is worth noting that a new constitution will bring a majority of Libyans together, thereby paving the way for a smooth political transition. With a new constitution in place, it will be easier then to organize presidential and parliamentary elections.

  • Seeking National Reconciliation

For any state that has been experiencing division within, there is need for reconciliation. Besides getting a new constitution, Libya equally needs an effective and functioning national reconciliation process which includes all political, military, regional, religious and tribal players involved in the conflict. For healing to take place, there is bound to be forgiveness, which is one of the most urgent things that Libya needs at the moment. A Libyan National Conference that was scheduled to take place in early 2019 has not yet been held due to incessant fighting and hostilities. The conference was to serve as a precursor for presidential and parliamentary elections.  Divisions across political and economic institutions in Libya over the last few years have been a major cause of instability and suffering for the general population. If the North African state is able to come up with one national authoritative government and bringing together the army, security agencies and all the sovereign economic institutions under one body, then it could experience some stability, thereby getting it ready  for a democratic electoral process.

  • Disbanding of Armed Militias

The constant proliferation of armed groups in Libya is also another reason why the North African country is finding it difficult to attain a certain level of stability. Since the death of Gaddafi, a good number of militia groups have sprung up with different interests (mostly for personal enrichment than political power) ranging from oil fields, airports just to name but these. As long as these militias continue with their operations, it will be a rather difficult task for Libya to regain relative calm and peace.

If all the above mentioned steps are put in place, then maybe Libya could go back to how it used to be before the fall of Muammar Gaddafi, or at least regain some level of stability. It is in the interest of all stakeholders in Libya for the country to be stabilised as soon as possible, and its unity and sovereignty preserved.

Article from AFRIC editorial

Photo credit: google images/ illustration

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