Political progress in Libya, but lawlessness and violence threaten process

by | Apr 17, 2018 | Industry News, Info

The UN envoy for Libya, Ghassan Salame, reported to the UN Security Council in October 2017 on the ongoing reconciliation process between Libya’s competing General National Congress and the House of Representatives. Mr. Salame said that the two parties were “close to a consensus” on amendments to the 2015 Libya Political Agreement, which fell apart due to divisions within the GNC as well as a vote of no confidence from the House of Representatives in 2016.

Fractured security situation

The emergence of and reliance on militias during the Libyan 2011 uprising and continuing on through the Libyan Civil War has severely complicated not only the security situation in the country, but will also impact on the political peace process going forward.  Taking advantage of the power vacuum caused by the absence of a national army and security agency, these militias have become increasingly empowered to intervene in political and social affairs in the absence of effective governance.

They have also become increasingly involved in illegal activities, such as human trafficking, the illegal arms trade, narcotics and precious metal smuggling.  In many cases it is undesirable to integrate these groups into a national military force, if that were even politically feasible.  Instead, these factions are likely to continue in their current roles, and their rivalries with other militias will threaten the already sensitive LPA negotiations.

Opposition to ISIS not likely to unify for long

One of the potential points of agreement between the GNC and HoR is putting a priority on fighting the Islamic State presence in Libya.  Though IS has not been able to restore its position to the favourable state it was in early 2016, when it succeeded in taking control of Sirte and a significant amount of the surrounding countryside, and carried multiple attacks against oil facilities in Sirte and Zueitina, it has nevertheless remained a persistent threat in the central coastal region, due in no small part to the conflict between the Libyan governments.

Due to its location, Sirte sits on the eastern fringes of GNC control, who liberated the city from ISIS with the help of US airstrikes in March 2016.  However, a year later the HoR-aligned Libyan National Army launched an offensive which gave them control of both Ras Lanuf and Sidra ports, giving them effective control over petroleum exports from their facilities, though the National Army has since allowed the National Oil Company to export from Ras Lanuf.

Control over these facilities is likely to be considered a higher strategic priority than the fight against ISIS unless the group looks set to retake the city, and even in the event that the local militias are able to coordinate an offensive against the group, the competition for control of resources will resume the moment that threat subsides.  Ideally, a politically neutral force should take over the security of the oil facilities, to be operated by the Libyan National Oil Company, but finding a force that is acceptable to both the GNC and HoR is highly unlikely under current conditions.

Marc Simms is an occasional blogger for Proelium Law LLP. Marc holds a MLitt in Terrorism Studies and a Masters in International Relations, both from St Andrews. His particular interests are in emerging international security issues, unconventional warfare and terrorism.


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