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Following the deposing of Gadhafi in 2011, two opposing factions have been vying for power, redrawing internal boarders:
• New General National Congress (GNC, Tripoli based Government)
• House of Representatives (Tobruk based Government)
A number of steps to unite Libya under a single democratically elected government have been taken. The first brought together the two governments to sign the Libyan Political Agreement (LPA) in December 2015, which put in place an interim Tripoli based Government, the Government of National Accord (GNA). This was a UN led initiative spearheaded by United Nations Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), previous envoy Martin Kobler. In December 2016 Martin Kobler addressed the UNSC with an underlying message that the implementation the LPA had made little significant progress.
The GNA, recognised by the UN as the single legitimate power has struggled to be recognised internally as the leading government as well as asserting control over Libya. The House of Representatives has twice voted against the progressive measures for the GNA, withdrawn its recognition of the GNA and key GNA votes have struggled to meet quorum.
A number of negotiations took place in 2017 between the Chairman of the GNA, Fayez al-Serraj and Khalifa Haftar, commander of the Libyan National Army (LNA) who is allied with the House of Representatives and vouched to be the next strong man of Libya. Two were held in Cairo, with the intent of finding consensus on a number of key points within the LPA and again in Abu Dhabi in May. Little progress was made, but it was agreed that a joint committee would be formed to review amendments to the LPA. The two met again in France in July 2017 with the meeting chaired by French President Macaron. Both sides committed to work toward elections in Spring 2018 and to a ceasefire stating, “We commit to a ceasefire and to refrain from any use of armed force for any purpose that does not strictly constitute counter-terrorism”.
In January 2018, Saif Al-Islam, son of former dictator, Muammar Gaddafi, announced his intention of running for President. Local reports suggest he has significant support from a number of tribes in the country, but the international community is naturally not keen on his return, given the potential for civil unrest and public anger.
The suggestion in Libya is that the current peace negotiations have reached a dead end, with Khalifa Haftar’s hopes of being elected into power apparently faltering. His position has become more entrenched in recent weeks, and he dismissed the news about a potential bid by Gaddafi. More worryingly, Haftar told media sources that: “Libya is not ready yet for democracy,” adding that the upcoming elections in the country must bring a solution to the current bloodshed, but, “if the situation and the chaos that is going on now continue after the elections, then we will say enough is enough and take action”. Haftar has little belief in Sarraj’s ability to effectively rule from Tripoli, stating, “Sarraj needs more seriousness in order to have the upper hand on the ground in the Libyan capital,” Haftar explained. “On many occasions, I tried to push him to take decisive actions, but he did not,” he said, adding that he told Sarraj to be more strict about the “situation in Tripoli since it was run by terrorists and militias”.
Haftar has met with a number of powerful Russian diplomats. Russia has aimed to capitalise on the power vacuum, with the intent to re-instating its Libyan military and economic links it held with Gadaffi. Russia has grown to become a key ally of Haftar, along with Egypt and Saudi-Arabia.
Political unity advancement has been hampered by an Islamic State (IS) foothold in Sirte and contention over the Libyan Oil Crescent, where the majority of Libya’s oil reserves are collated.
Oil exports remain Libya’s primary revenue stream. The ownership of the National Oil Corporation (NOC), a State-owned company has been contested between the two governments with a 2017 being dominated by so called ‘illegal exports’. Oil production rose from .3 million Bpd in 2016 to around 1m Bpd in 2017 which helped lower the country’s financial deficit by 48%, according to figures released by the Central Bank of Libya on Jan. 6th. However, the expenditure of oil revenue is a serious matter of contention, with little being funnelled into national infrastructure projects, as the majority seems to largely be spent on civil salaries and subsidising.
The continuing production stream is crucial to the country’s economic recovery. To that end, the Libyan National Oil Company (NOC), announced on Jan. 8th that it was calling for the reopening of the Ras Lanuf crude oil refinery, after the NOC won two arbitration cases against the Libyan Emirati Refinery Company (LERCO) and Trasta, the owner and operator of the refinery. It is hoped that the refinery will come back on line in the second half of 2018.
There is a high threat of terrorism throughout Libya, particularly directed to foreign nationals. Caliphate IS’s foothold in Sirte has been largely successful destroyed by the GNA army supported by the USAF, US Marine Corps, UK SAS and SBS, culminating in December 2016.
The IS occupation of Sirte has left the city in an unstable position, with lasting impacts surrounding infrastructure, security, residence’s displacement and radicalisation.
While weakened, IS has been largely displaced to more remote areas of Libya. Local media sources have reported IS presence to the south, east and west of Sirte, with a number of false roadblocks being set up, impersonating local security personnel. The USAF has continued intelligence led targeted airstrikes on IS targets through Libya.
Libya has been a key departure point from Sub-Saharan migrants en-route to Europe. Levels of migration from Libya reached their peak in 2016. According the UNHCR roughly 10,000 currently make the journey per month. Organised crime has taken advantage of this lucrative business. Sabratha was a critical departure point in 2017 for migrants. A controversial initiative spearheaded by the EU with Libyan co-operation to deny departure to migrants and return those at sea to Libya has seen a reduction in migrant numbers. The majority of migrant crossing are in non-sea worthy vessels, often inflatable boats which are overcrowded.
Libya remains a fragile and conflict affected State. All travel to Libya is advised against by the UK FCO, as it is considered to be a high threat environment. Libya’s recovering economy does provide opportunities for commercial interaction and possible future investment, which may attract persons to the country. The fast changing political, military and militia landscape requires any individual to have in depth risk assessments conducted and stay up to date and continuous updating on affairs.
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