Dialogue needed for Libyan crisis instead of confrontation

Thursday, 2019-04-11 17:17:08
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Libyan National Army (LNA) members, commanded by Khalifa Haftar, head out of Benghazi to reinforce the troops advancing to Tripoli, in Benghazi, Libya April 7, 2019. (Reuters)
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NDO – Every effort by the United Nations to seek peace for Libya seems to have returned to its starting point as conflict erupted once again in the North African nation. More than eight years after the “Arab Spring”, Libya is still submerged in divisions and crises, and is once again at risk of being embroiled in a bloody civil war, threatening regional security.

Since the political upheaval to overthrow former leader Muammar al-Gaddafi in 2011, Libya has hardly undergone a day without gunfire. The country has fallen into a political split, with the existence of two governments which have their own armed forces. Although the Government of National Accord (GNA) has been established and backed by the UN, its position and power are not strong enough to maintain security control throughout the country. The self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA), loyal to General Khalifa Haftar, supports another government with its stronghold in the eastern region. Libya has been polarised with two governments possessing two separate forces, while many other armed groups are still operating sparsely in various areas. A divided Libya has become a “fertile ground” for terrorist and extremist organisations to operate, and loose management has also led the North African nation to become a “transit stop” for ships carrying illegal migrants across the Mediterranean to Europe.

The UN efforts in the roadmap of seeking peace for Libya, which have inherently faced numerous difficulties, are now at risk of collapsing completely. The situation in Libya escalated dangerously after Gen. Haftar launched a military campaign aimed at taking over the capital, Tripoli, together with its only working airport. Haftar’s attacks are threatening to push Libya into a new spiral of violence, possibly even the worst scenario since the outbreak of the civil war in 2011.

The GNA forces accused Haftar of “betrayal” and pledged to retaliate with “every effort”. The risk of conflict increased after the Prime Minister of the internationally recognised government in Libya issued a warning that it was “a war without victory”. Violence over the past few days has left nearly 50 people dead, hundreds of others wounded and thousands of people dislocated, triggering the risk of a serious humanitarian disaster if health service supplies become exhausted.

Given the particularly serious developments in Libya, the international community raised a warning about the tragic consequences, and called on the parties to cease fire and sit at the negotiating table. However, in reality, the conflicting parties in Libya have received backing from outside nations, stemming from their own interest calculations, so it is difficult and complicated for the problems to be solved through dialogue. That is also the reason why, for many years, the conflicting parties in Libya have not been able to reach a consensus in sharing interests to obtain a peace agreement. In the current situation, the African Union (AU) reiterated the need for a process implemented by Libya itself towards creating a new political regime in the war-torn North African country.

A political solution to the crisis in Libya supported by the UN includes organising a national dialogue conference and then holding elections. However, the current situation in the country is putting the UN-sponsored peace plan into a state of fragility. Although the UN special envoy to Libya, Ghassan Salame, affirmed that the Libyan National Conference will still take place as planned from April 14, but the conflict reality is hindering the efforts to organise peace dialogues. The risk of uncertainties in Libya has forced its neighbouring nations in the region to increase their forces in order to control the border and prevent the “fire of violence” from spreading on a wide scale.

The deep division between the political factions in a country with many tribes is one of the key issues leading to violence and confrontation in Libya. Despite the UN’s efforts to bring the conflicting parties to the negotiating table, conflicts of interest have made the situation more complicated and chaotic. A government of national accord has already been established, but Libya is still swept into a spiral of conflict and peace still remains a dream far beyond reach.