Libya seems to be sinking into civil war again: forces under the control of the Cyrenaica strongman General Khalifa Haftar have launched a military strike on Tripoli. The capital is held at the moment by militias supporting the Government of National Accord led by Fayez al-Sarraj with UN backing.
On April 14th the ‘National Conference’, a much-vaunted event in Libya’s political calendar and arguably over three years in the making, was due to begin. The brain child of the UN’s latest special-representative to the troubled country, Dr. Ghassan Salamé, it was designed to break the political stagnation entrenching since the last UN initiative the ‘Libyan Political Agreement’ (LPA) had been signed in 2015. The LPA birthed a transitional system of governance that was dead-on-delivery with rival institutions unwilling to cooperate.
The campaign carried out by the government of eastern Libya and by military forces associated with it (the Libyan National Army or LNA) since 2014 has been mainly finalized towards capturing Benghazi and Derna from the local municipalities. By July 2017 Benghazi was captured, or, to quote eastern Libyan pundits, "liberated" (although, contrary to the LNA reports, the situation in the city is still far from stable), and the siege of Derna began.
Libya is walking a tight rope. Dozens of stakeholders jockey for power and opportunists spoil political progress, making for an uncertain trajectory in the conflict. The fourth United Nations Special Envoy Ghassan Salamè is dwindling in popularity but could make a lasting impact if any of his initiatives are realized.
The “Libyan Political Agreement” (LPA) is the somehow controversial outcome of the month-long, United Nations-sponsored negotiations between various Libyan stakeholders in Skhirat, Morocco. It was signed on December 17, 2015 and endorsed by the United Nations Security Council a few days later. The LPA is the foundation of the current stabilization efforts led by UN Special Representative Ghassan Salamé, strongly supported by Italy, France, UK, the U.S. and many other nations.