Previous Session: Libya Post-Qadhafi – Transition, Conflict, and Prospects for Peace, Friday, 14 October

Five years after the overthrow of Qadhafi in October 2011, Libya remains in a state of economic crisis, political instability, and deteriorating security. Politically, sub-national loyalties pit the newly foreign-backed Government of National Accord (GNA), against an Islamist dominated and Tripoli-based General National Congress (GNC), and the GNC’s 2014 successor Parliament, the Tobruk-based House of Representatives. The presence of armed militias also acting as countervailing political forces complicate Libya’s transition to stable democratic governance. Even more alarmingly, a power vacuum has allowed jihadists aligned with ISIS to establish a foothold in Sirte, Libya’s main oil producing area. In March 2016, following several months of having to convene in Tunis, the GNA arrived in Tripoli by sea on board a Libyan naval vessel, but has struggled to establish political legitimacy. Further steps stipulated under the UN-sponsored December 2015 Libyan Political Agreement, which created the GNA, have also faltered.

Libya is now characterised by economic indecision, stagnant oil exports, and a stubborn presence of violent religious extremism. Western air support has enabled GNA’s aligned militias to reduce the ISIS foothold in Sirte to an area comprising a single square kilometer. Yet only weeks before, General Khalifa Haftar, another power player with a base in eastern Libya, seized control of the oil facilities in the Gulf of Sirte in an effort to accrue bargaining power in future economic and security institutions. Libya now suffers from the most basic “oil curse”: a destructive and internationally destabilizing fight over resource wealth. Authority is fragmented between traditional power structures, government funded militias, and regional preferences. All militate against national unity and responsible government in post-Qadhafi Libya.

In this context, we ask:

–What are the internal Libyan implications of the recent military conflict in the Gulf of Sirte and what might it mean for peace or more violence?

–What is the current status of the long negotiated Libyan Political Agreement (LPA)? How likely is it to be successfully implemented, and what role can the international community play in this regard?

–What form might national governance take if it happens? Should Libya be considering a federal solution, formed around historical Cyrenaica (eastern region), Tripolitania (northwest), and Fezzan (southwest)?

Recommended readings:

Wolfgang Pusztai, “The End of a Country – the Break-up of Libya?” Italian Institute for International Political Studies Analysis No. 305 (September 2016)

United Nations Security Council, “Report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Support Mission in Libya,” (16 May 2016)

European Council on Foreign Relations, “A Quick Guide to Libya’s Main Players,”

Session will be held on Friday, 14 October in the Centre for Arab Islamic Studies Tutorial Room at 11am.


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