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Why the Current Conflict in Libya Needs Attention

Written by Patrice Crosbourne

May 31, 2019

It is no secret that the North African state of Libya has faced immense instability in recent years. Lately, there has been increasing concern that the new wave of conflict in its capital of Tripoli could trigger not only a humanitarian crisis, but also a new wave of migration.


In 2011 we witnessed the Arab Spring, which were revolutions that swept through the likes of Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain and Libya. The turning point in the Libyan revolution was the violence that protesters had faced when protesting outside of the Benghazi courthouse. What’s more, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1970. This condemned the excessive use of force Libya used against its civilians.

Ultimately Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s lack of cooperation led to military intervention through Resolution 1973. This saw for calls for an immediate ceasefire, no-fly zone and airstrikes on key target locations. This conflict lasted a period of eight months, finally ceasing with the toppling and death of Gaddafi in October 2011. Although many saw the elections after the ousting of Gaddafi as a new beginning for Libya, the reality was that the country quickly plunged back into civil war. This was due to a power struggle that saw many militias and armed groups vying for power.


Libya is currently a split country. Power lies with both the internationally recognised government Government of National Accord (GNA) residing in the nation’s capital of Tripoli and General Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) in the eastern half of Libya. On April 4th, 2019, Haftar launched an offensive on the city of Tripoli claiming it was a means of ousting of undetected terrorist groups.

Critics of Haftar claim this is no more than an attempt to depose the internationally recognised government from the capital. With the launch of a counter mission from the GNA, there is increased concern over how this conflict endangers the peace processes put in place. Although there is currently an arms embargo placed on Libya, commentators speculate that all sides have received arms from foreign actors who support their cause. This current conflict not only further fuels chaos and instability, but also threatens to ignite another large-scale civil war.


Since the start of the offensive, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) have estimated that over 562 people have died, over 2855 wounded and over 78,225 have been displaced. The population have had to endure shelling of civilian suburbs, and water supply for 2.5 million residents being cut off. Libya has also experienced continuous economic decline as the conflict has affected production levels in its $80 billion oil industry.

Additionally, it has been estimated that over 3,600 migrants and refugees are being held in facilities in conflict-affected areas of Tripoli. Concerns from humanitarian organisations on the safety of those detained are justifiable. This is especially when we consider the recent attack on The Qasr bin Ghashir detention centre, which resulted in 12 injuries and two deaths. Antonio Tajani, President of the European Parliament has warned that the instability could “risk generating a new migratory crisis, with increased flows heading mainly towards Italy and other Mediterranean countries.” Italy has called for the EU to create a contingency plan for this mass movement as a means to be better prepared for such an outcome.


The International community faces challenges in agreeing on a unified response to the recent developments occurring In Libya. One of the key issues is that though the UN Security Council denounces the violence, they are unable to reach common ground on how to formally deal with this matter. Ceasefire bids backed by the UK, France and Germany have been opposed by Russia and the USA. Though a ceasefire is urgently necessary, it is only a temporary fix to a much larger issue. What is needed is a long-term peaceful solution that allows for the country to become both politically and economically stable.

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