In Libya, everyone is now paying the price for not resolving the presence of armed militias there. One bullet fired, and the situation can devolve into a blood bath or a major disaster that may lead at any moment to a civil war in which all parties and many innocent and defenceless people lose.
The violent clashes that occurred a few days ago raised fears of a broader escalation, especially in light of the severe political division in the country. Therefore, Arab and western countries called for dialogue and de-escalation. These recent clashes come within the framework of the ongoing competition between the dismissed Dbeibeh government and the Bashagha government, which was appointed by the Libyan Parliament last February.
The Dbeibeh government is based in the capital, Tripoli, while the Bashaga government is based in the city of Sirte (450 kilometres east of the capital), and has been trying since last May to enter Tripoli to carry out its duties from there, however, it is being barred by the Dbeibeh government, which insists that it will hand over power only to its elected government.
In recent days, the main armed groups supporting both sides of the political conflict have repeatedly amassed their forces around and within Tripoli, with large convoys of military vehicles patrolling the city and threatening to use force to achieve their goals.
Libyans joke about their situation because of the bitterness of their reality, because they live on the richest piece of land in Africa, and yet still lack all semblance of security and stability.
Despite the passage of six decades since the beginning of oil and gas extraction, their situation has not changed, as their country has the highest proven oil reserves in Africa and the ninth in the world with 41.5 billion barrels, and the fifth largest proven natural gas reserves in Africa estimated at 1.4 trillion cubic metres. All this while its population still receives poor services and suffers from poor infrastructure, despite the thousands of billions of dollars that the state has received from energy sales over 60 years.
Unfortunately, the crises in Libya are not from within. A few months ago, former UN envoy to Libya Stephanie Williams was on the verge of achieving what six international envoys who had preceded her in the position failed to achieve, leading the country to presidential and parliamentary elections. However, she left the position without succeeding in untangling the complex Libyan crisis, which is difficult to solve, and this coincided with the extension of the mandate of the international mission to Libya an additional three months amid great anticipation for the new name that will win the position of head of the mission to finally mediate a solution to the crisis.
The differences regarding the proposed period for extending the work of the UN mission in Libya revealed once again the extent to which the Libyan crisis and its file — which has been managed by the UN for a decade — were affected by the Russian-western conflict, which was deepened by the Ukrainian crisis and could spoil all international efforts to get Libya out of its rut through comprehensive elections.
Libya is now paying the price of not disbanding these militias and armed groups. The data on the ground indicates that Tripoli is heading towards a comprehensive war, as it is expected that the cycle of clashes will increase to include the area of what is known as Greater Tripoli, while the forces supporting the outgoing government seek to push the counter forces out of the capital.
The sparks flying from what is happening in Tripoli may at some point turn into fires encompassing all areas controlled by armed militias. The most dangerous thing is that these areas contain almost more than half of Libya’s civilian population, who will become mere hostages of whoever possesses the power, whomever they may be.
* Hatem Sadek is a Professor at Helwan University