Almost seven years have now passed since the fall of Gaddafi’s regime, which has given rise to a situation of “organised chaos” in Libya. Leaders change, alliances change, but state institutions remain weak, confined to a small part of the region and sometimes divided between the Eastern and Western parts of the country, while sub-national affiliations continue to prevail over and prevent the rebuilding of a new legitimacy and national identity.
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.
On April 26, Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar's plane landed at Benina airport, which ended speculation about his very poor health or death after his hospitalization in Paris for two weeks. At 75, Marshal Haftar is considered the strongman of eastern Libya. He is at the head of the so-called Libyan National Army. This army is actually a group of militias rotating around a regular army nucleus representing a force of about 25,000 men. It is not a solid and coherent block. Each militia has its own agenda and its ambitions.
As negotiations between Libya’s primary political factions take place in Tunisia, leaders and international advisors are debating potential governing models for Libya. For now – amid deep disagreements about basic constitutional concerns – the process remains stalled.
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.
Notwithstanding the rhetoric about collaboration, international players' national interests have often prevailed in the approach to Libya. Such interferences, determined by diverse and conflicting agendas, contributed to further dividing the country and have made it more difficult to undertake a true process of national reconciliation.
On May 29, French President Emmanuel Macron has hosted a UN sponsored conference on Libya in Paris, aimed at securing elections and commitments to a joint political roadmap from its warring factions. The conference has brought together key Libyan players and representatives of two dozen countries and international organizations. Libya’s rival leaders have adopted a statement calling for presidential and parliamentary elections in December. However, some relevant problems could persist.
There are some good reasons, why the Libya Political Agreement (LPA) is in a dead-end road. Several things went wrong in negotiating and implementing the agreement from the very beginning. The delegates participating in the so-called “Libya Dialogue” in Geneva and Skhirat, Morocco, were not representative for the parties on the ground, in particular not for the powerful militias.