The noise emerging from Libya’s capital doesn’t bode well for the future of the war-ravaged yet oil-rich country. With factions and tribes fighting over power, the needs of normal people seem to be ignored entirely.
Speaking to people in Libya about Libya is a treacherous enterprise, because you inevitably get sucked into the eternal game of power between the elites of this vast country on the Mediterranean. While all international observers are pretty clear about the need to get an established and recognized government in place to allow for progress on all fronts, nobody seems to hold the key to get this process going.
Following the demise of the old dictator, Muammar Ghaddafi, the country descended into violent strive between east and west, with shifting allegiances and international supporters. In recent years, the main global players involved in the armed struggle were Turkey and its allies on the side of the central government (internationally recognized) and Russia, with General Haftar coming fairly close to capturing the capital, before the Turkish military hardware and battle-hardened fighters from Syria stopped his advance.
Two Governments, None Too Powerful
Today, the eternal squabbling is continuing, but at least mostly in a non-violent context. At the moment, Libya again has two governments, one under Abdul Hamid Dbaiba, the other under Fathi Bashaga. Dbaiba has been there longer and was meant to oversee elections on December 24, 2021. They never happened and instead parliament kicked the old government out and voted in Bashaga on February 10, 2022.
Only for Dbaiba to refuse to leave and announcing that elections were going to be held in June. Both Dbaiba and Bashaga seem to enjoy a significant degree of support among the various influence groups. But neither is strong enough to overcome the opposition from the other groups.
Corruption and Violence
The experts interviewed suggest that at least there is no violence on a major scale taking place and that Bashaga doesn’t seem keen on conflict. But it also appears fairly naïve to expect general elections to be free and fair in an environment of tribal allegiances, international influence-taking and corruption that is hampering any progress.
What is particularly worrying in this context are the frequent reports about human rights violations voiced in particular by international groups such as Amnesty International. The frequency of the reports suggest that armed groups in various regions are allowed to roam free and to exert their power over those who dare to voice their opinion.
History of War
The international NGOs, which have no vested interest in getting any particular group in power, are vocal in their criticism about the lack of basic freedoms. Because in this situation, free and fair elections are nigh on impossible to hold.
Of course, with the extreme violence in mind that Libya has seen (starting with the bloody revolution and the killing of Ghaddafi), it doesn’t come as a big surprise that democracy seems a remote concept yet.
So the question remains, how the country might possibly emerge from this squabbling and fighting – because the population is definitely yearning for a return to normalcy, a guarantee of basic human rights and peace. If one had hoped for a solution spurned on by a group of international guarantors, the situation with the war in Ukraine will have put a question mark over those. Russia is pitched against not only the West, which has the U.S., Italy and France present in Tripoli, but also Turkey, which is also a powerbroker. Getting those international players to agree on any deal seems utterly remote. Maybe it will have to become a matter for the Gulf states and regional power Egypt instead?