The stability of Libya is facing heightened jeopardy due to recent clashes among militias, coupled with the upheaval in neighboring Sudan and Niger, which could potentially spill over into the oil-rich North African nation, warned the United Nations’ special envoy on Tuesday.
Abdoulaye Bathily addressed the U.N. Security Council, underscoring that the prevailing political divisions in Libya “are fraught with risks of violence and disintegration for countries.” He appealed to the rival factions within the country to resolve all issues related to upcoming elections, a critical step that has been delayed for a significant duration, reports the AP.
“It is fundamental to restore Libya’s stability, to preserve regional security,” he emphasized. “Without an inclusive political agreement that paves the way for peaceful, inclusive and transparent elections across Libya, the situation will worsen and cause further suffering to the Libyan people.”
Libya’s descent into chaos stemmed from the NATO-backed uprising that ousted and killed long-standing dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011. This turmoil led to a division of the nation, with competing administrations in the east and west supported by rogue militias and foreign entities.
The current political crisis revolves around the failure to conduct elections as planned on December 24, 2021, and Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah’s refusal to step down from his position leading the transitional government in Tripoli. In response, the parliament based in Libya’s eastern region appointed a rival prime minister, Fathy Bashagha, though he was suspended in May. The influential commander Khalifa Hifter maintains control in the eastern part of the country.
Bathily expressed optimism that ongoing discussions aimed at amending election laws to address gaps, inconsistencies, and technical hurdles can be concluded in the coming weeks. The U.N. is actively collaborating with all parties to secure a comprehensive political agreement concerning matters related to a new government, ensuring security, and creating a level playing field for all election candidates.
Although unable to pinpoint an exact date, Bathily conveyed optimism that the envisioned 2023 elections could become a reality.
Regarding recent events, Bathily informed the council about the fragile state of stability in Tripoli, disrupted by intense armed clashes between rival militias on August 14-15. These clashes reportedly resulted in at least 55 deaths and over 100 injuries, including an unspecified number of civilians.
Furthermore, Bathily highlighted clashes this month between “armed elements” based in southern Libya and government forces in Chad’s neighboring Tibesti region, further empathizing the potential ramifications of Libya’s political divisions.
U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield condemned the militia clashes in Tripoli, expressing concern that the instability in Sudan and Niger could potentially escalate into broader violence. She noted the readiness of the Libyan people to seek compromise and stability.
Thomas-Greenfield also stated that the United States would persist in exposing the adverse impact of the Wagner Group in Libya and across Africa. She highlighted the Russian mercenary group’s activities in Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, and Sudan, stressing their ambition to expand influence in Africa, disregarding Libya’s territorial integrity.
While acknowledging the presence of Wagner mercenaries in Libya, Bathily confirmed that the U.N. lacks precise information regarding their numbers and equipment.
Bathily conveyed his earlier optimism about Sudan, Chad, and Niger withdrawing their fighters and mercenaries from Libya after his visits in late March. However, he noted that fighting resumed between rival military leaders in Sudan and the ousting of Niger’s president by the head of the presidential guard last month.
Bathily underscored that Libya’s border with Sudan has opened the movement of armed groups, mercenaries, and criminal elements involved in illegal migration, mining, drug trafficking, and other unlawful activities. Despite this, there hasn’t been a significant influx of Sudanese refugees into Libya.
Concerning Niger, Bathily stated that the country, like other nations in the Sahel region, has been impacted by the Libyan crisis. Some Nigeriens have joined Libyan mercenaries, while armed elements within Niger remain active along the border. He cautioned that any disintegration of the Niger army would have profound repercussions for both Niger and Libya.