Peace in Libya must rest in Libyan hands

A domestic political process should replace foreign interference if the country is to have a stable future

A Libyans stand on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea in the capital Tripoli on January 26, 2021. / AFP / Mahmud TURKIA
Powered by automated translation

In 2011, after the Arab uprisings reached Libya, the nation turned away from the iron-fisted and eccentric rule of Muammar Qaddafi to become a country with great hopes but few rules.

There is nothing positive to say about the tyrannical leadership of the nation's former dictator. But his total grip on power in the country for decades and the suddenness of his departure, through popular protest and Nato intervention, created a vacuum that was soon filled by a variety of malign forces. Some originated domestically, but many came from abroad. Despite the fact that the military intervention in Libya was sanctioned by the UN, no international forces were posted to protect the country after the collapse of Qaddafi's regime.

Libyans watched as smugglers overran their country, trafficking guns, narcotics and, most tragically, people. Victims of these gangs, particularly migrants attempting to reach Europe, are vulnerable to all forms of abuse and live in appalling conditions, adding to the trauma of their already dangerous journey. Meanwhile, militias that emerged in the fight against Qaddafi became powerful players, getting salaries directly from Libya’s state budget.

Extremist groups flourish in the chaos. As ISIS's presence in Syria and Iraq waned, parts of the organisation regrouped in Libya. With no national security services to battle it, ISIS lives on in the nation largely undisturbed.

(FILES) In this file photo taken on November 01, 2020 fighters fire salutatory rounds in the air during the funeral of General Wanis Bukhamada, commander of the "Saiqa" (Special Forces) of the self-proclaimed Libyan National Army (LNA) loyal to strongman Khalifa Haftar, in the eastern city of Benghazi. The United States on January 28, 2021 called for the immediate withdrawal of Russian and Turkish forces from Libya, after a deadline for them to leave was ignored. / AFP / Abdullah DOMA
Fighting has blighted Libya for years. AFP

This threatens neighbouring states. Egypt, for example, shares a border with the country that extends over 1000 kilometres, making it extraordinarily difficult to secure. Terrorists targeting Europe continue to use Libya as a base for training and organising attacks.

The moral ambitions of Libya’s uprising were poisoned early on. Islamists quickly found a place in the Government of National Accord. Another factions were found in the rival Libyan National Army.

Egypt shares a border with the country that extends over 1000 kilometres, making it extraordinarily difficult to secure

Now, the UAE along with other powers is calling for a peaceful settlement through renewed diplomatic efforts and political solutions. Lana Nusseibeh, the UAE's Permanent Representative to the UN, recently backed a Security Council call for all foreign forces to withdraw from Libya.

With so many different players involved, settling on a route to peace is not easy. Ms Nusseibeh's statement advocates securing and maintaining a ceasefire as the surest first step. She also called for the implementation of conclusions reached in last year's Berlin conference.

At that conference, 12 nations and a host of international bodies gathered to agree on a framework for stability in Libya. Its conclusions included an acknowledgement that there could never be a military solution to the crisis, the necessity of maintaining an arms embargo and the need for robust monitoring of the situation in the country.

The conference also reaffirmed the importance of a domestically led political process, something that would empower the group most marginalised by the conflict: the Libyan people. Yesterday, Libyan delegates met once again in Geneva, in an effort to choose a new executive body to help bring the country to elections next December. A stable transition of power would benefit Libyans and the world greatly.

Without international recognition that Libyan affairs rest foremost in Libyan hands, citizens of the country – 10 years on from the tyranny of Muammar Qaddafi – will be locked in the different tyranny of a failed state.