After decades of heated conflicts and years of civil war, a historic ceasefire agreement is emerging as a new hope for Libya. The agreement signed on Friday after five days of intense 5+5 Libyan Joint Military Commission (JMC) meeting in Geneva is pinning Libya’s hope for the end of the long-drawn conflict.
But what has caused this elongated conflict in Libya in the first place? and how can the ceasefire agreement be the beginning of the end of this conflict?
What have caused decades of conflicts in Libya?
In order to understand the current conflicts and the importance of the ceasefire agreement; we need to know the 2011 Arab Spring the event that kick-started everything.
The fall of Muammer Gaddafi
For more than forty years Libya lived under the dictatorship of Muammar Gaddafi. Under the jurisdiction of Colonel Gaddafi, Libyan’s freedom of speech was subdued, the police were corrupt and brutal. Though being picturised as “perhaps the most exemplary contemporary case of the politics of charismatic leadership” by Raymond A. Hinnbeusch for his national achievements; his support to the ‘Arab Spring’ sparked rage amongst Libyans against the ruler.
On 17 February 2011, a huge protest busted out against Gaddafi’s government. Gaddafi ordered the army to open fire on protestors in Benghazi, in the incident hundreds of protestors were killed. The brutality of the army was dissented by many politicians who left the party after the massacre. The protest expanded across the country and soon transformed into rebellion and civil war; on which Gaddafi announced the rebel will be “hunted down the street by street, house by house and wardrobe by wardrobe“.
Soon the protest catches the world’s eye, the UN Security Council ceased Gaddafi’s property and restricted him from travelling. But the civil war went on; NATO intruded with a bomb blast on some military site in Libya but collaterally damaging the civil residences. Later in September 2011, the UN recognised took the administration of the country; in the following October Gaddafi was killed.
Instead of binding Libya as one, death of Gaddafi shattered it in different parts; with those once united against Gaddafi started turning against each other. NATO after the military intervention left for the country to fall back together.
In July 2012 elections, two political parties, National Force Alliance and Justice & Construction Party together formed General National Congress (GNC); GNC was elected to govern the country; whose first goal was to establish a unified constitution for the entire country. But the difference of opinion between the two parties created huge problems which ended up worsening the political and economical condition of Libya.
In 2014, the second civil war erupted after GNC voted to extend their term of governance. Operation Dignity lead by Haftar (commander of the Libyan Army) pressurised the government; finally, new elections were held which elected new House of Representative (HoR), but everybody didn’t agree with the elections.
GNC voted itself to remain in power with Tripoli as capital and the elected HoR moved to Tabuk in the east and thus the country is divided into two the east and the west.
How does present-day Libya look like?
Today, GNC has transformed into Government of National Accord (GNA) also known as the Tripoli administration; GNA is the UN-recognised government of Libya and is led by Suraj. Rival is the Tobruk government which is lead by Haftar and holds the Libyan National Army (LNA).
Both the political parties have international support; GNA having the support of Italy, Qatar and a huge artillery support from Turkey whereas the East having support from Russia, Egypt, the UAE, Saudi Arabi and uncertainly of France. The country is now flooded with weapons and drones leaving Libya in a very disordered state.
The open-ended civil war has led Libya into a severe economic crisis, with a shortage of medical facilities and medicines whilst the pandemic. Militant groups have gone out of government’s control leading to the kidnapping and murder for ransom common in the country. In the appalling living condition of have cause thousand of people to dislodge within and outside Libya and about 1.3 million people severe need for humanitarian assistance, says the UN.
Migrants and refugee are usually kept in detention camps and some in unofficial prison by armed force with unhygienic food and water. Human Rights Watchdogs report that forced labour and physical abuse of the detainees is a common thing in these places.
Why is ceasefire deal binds hope of poor Libyans?
5+5 Military Commission is a committee consisting of 5 military officers from both GNA and LNA. The committee aiming to resolve the problems and establish peace in the country held its first talk in Geneva on 3 February 2020.
“There is no military solution for the conflict in Libya. This ceasefire agreement is a critical step. There is much hard work ahead – UN Secretary-General”
Both the rival side on Friday signed an agreement for “a permanent ceasefire in all areas of Libya”. Stephanie Williams, Acting Special Representative, the UN says, “The road was long and difficult at times, but your patriotism has been your guide all the time, and you have succeeded in concluding an agreement for a successful and lasting ceasefire.” The UN Secretary-General António Guterres praised the agreements saying it “a fundamental step toward peace and stability in Libya”
This agreement is expected to be a stepping stone is ending all the suffering and bloodshed in Libya. This is a hope of political solution of the conflict, falling economy and most important the humanitarian situation in the country.