A senior US diplomat has warned that Libyans have lost faith that the political class, allied militias and mercenaries are ready to end the theft of the country’s wealth, after some of the worst violence in Tripoli in years.
More than 32 people were killed and 150 wounded in clashes in the capital last week between militias allied to rival Prime Ministers Abdel Hamid Dabaiba and Fathi Bashagha.
The national unity government headed by Dabaiba, which he ran since last year and which controls the western part of the country, has been based in Tripoli since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi’s regime in 2011, while Bashagha has run the eastern part of the country since March. With the support of the powerful military commander Khalifa Haftar.
Militia allied with Bashagha, including a brigade led by a wealthy gangster named Haitham al-Tajouri, entered Tripoli to attempt to overthrow the Dabaiba government, but were soundly defeated.
Jeffrey DiLaurentis, senior adviser to the US mission to the United Nations, gave a bleak assessment of Libya’s prospects at a meeting of the UN Security Council on Monday.
He said Libyans “lose hope that their country will be free of corruption and foreign influence, that the armed forces can be united, and that foreign fighters, troops and mercenaries will be withdrawn. They are deprived of basic public services while powerful cutting deals to distribute oil and gas revenues according to their own interests, nor Especially for the militias controlled by the different factions, which steals the wealth of the Libyan people.”
The UN debate provided some new ideas, except for the Security Council’s call to urgently approve a new UN special envoy to Libya. Libya has lacked an envoy since November due to political divisions. Senegalese diplomat Abdallah Bathili was proposed, but some Libyans prevented him from doing so because they feared it would not be effective.
The Security Council also heard that the UN Panel of Experts had designated Turkey as one of the countries in flagrant violation of the UN arms embargo.
Tariq al-Majrisi, an expert on Libya at the European Council on Foreign Relations think-tank, said last week’s violence was the first time heavy weapons and artillery were used in central Tripoli during the current crisis. “The result makes Dabaiba stronger for the time being, but it only underscores the need for a political process that is still absent,” he added.
UN-sponsored national elections – a real possibility a year ago and seen as the only way to give political leaders and institutions a new mandate – look further away than ever.
The national elections were due to take place on December 24 last year, but disagreements over their constitutional basis and who was eligible to run led to them being postponed indefinitely, creating a dangerous vacuum that has been filled by a renewed military battle for power. Many politicians oppose holding elections, because defeat threatens to deprive them of access to power, nepotism, and resources.
Dabaiba, who was appointed by a UN-sponsored body in February 2021 as interim prime minister, said he would not leave before the vote took place, effectively establishing himself in power. He claimed that his government was subjected to a planned aggression at the beginning of the week from inside and outside.
The House of Representatives, which was recognized by the House of Representatives in Tobruk, as prime minister in February, blamed corruption on the part of Dabaiba for the continued strength of militias in Tripoli. “It was Dabaiba who used state resources to support armed groups,” he said.
Haftar, the leader of the self-proclaimed Libyan National Army in the east, has expressed his dismay at the setback for Bashagha, a relatively recent ally. Apparently unwilling to accept the opposite, he called for saving Libya, but did not specify how this could be achieved.
Bashagha denied involvement in the weekend’s violence, but militia groups supporting him were repulsed three times in an attempt to enter Tripoli.
Karim Mazran, of the Atlantic Council, described Libyan militias as “criminal organizations entirely devoted to power and money, seizing resources at any cost. It is wrong to think of these as political ideological organizations, but instead mafia organizations with a vested interest in preventing the development of a functioning state.” “.
The fighting also has short-term geopolitical ramifications. Giorgia Meloni, the far-right candidate in the Italian elections, has used the violence of Tripoli to reissue her call for an EU-led mission to impose a naval blockade across North Africa and prevent migrants from reaching the Italian coast.
In the first six months of this year, 27,633 refugees and migrants arrived in Italy by sea, compared to 20,532 in the same period in 2021, according to figures from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
The appointment of a strong and balanced new special envoy is seen as crucial to Libya’s next phase. Stephanie Williams who was the representative of the Secretary-General, but not the envoy of the Security Council, was immersed in Libyan politics. Williams, an American, tried to disgrace the political classes in Tripoli and the East to hold elections, and support a new, younger political class.
It almost secured its goal by securing a nationwide ceasefire agreement in October 2020, the adoption of the political roadmap by the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum in November 2020, and progress between East and West on the constitutional framework for elections.
But less progress has been made in meeting the planned deadline for the removal of foreign forces, or the level of conciliation required to hold national elections.