Since the fall of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, Libya has been in the throes of a political vacuum that has left the country divided and mired in conflict. The schism between the country’s two main political factions, Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) which is led by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj and the Tobruk-based House of Representatives (HoR) led by Chariman Aguila Saleh Issa, has impaired reconstruction and allowed ISIS and other militant groups to fester.
Although numerous attempts have been made to unify the two governments – and Indeed, the GNA itself, codified in the Skhirat Agreement of December 2015, was such an attempt at unification – peace and national unity has eluded the country, overshadowed by conflicts and crises elsewhere.
It would appear that the efforts to reach political reconciliation have since renewed. On February, Tunisia issued the Tunis Declaration, signed by Algeria and Egypt, to coordinate efforts to reach a political solution in Libya. During subsequent meetings, the foreign ministers of the three countries have agreed to a three-point road map. The first point involves the amendment of the Skhirat Agreement in order to realign the GNA and the HoR. The next step involves a comprehensive national conference with the participation of all parties. The third is to have elections by the end of next summer.
They will have their work cut-out for them. The Misrata Militias which back the GNA have repeatedly clashed with the Libyan National Army (LNA) that backs the HoR. These clashes have culminated in the LNA taking over Libya’s main oil terminals in Ras Lanouf earlier in 2017. Furthermore, lagging reconstruction and continued lawlessness in some parts of the country has resulted in rapidly-deteriorating humanitarian conditions and may hamper political reconciliation or fuel extremist groups. This is evident by the repeated appearances of ISIS militants around Sirte and Benghazi despite the militants having lost Sirte about a year ago.
Despite the grim outlook, there are promising signs as well. Across Libya, civil society groups have been taking the initiative to help the country’s most vulnerable and disenfranchised. Such efforts have allowed Sirte, for instance, to slowly recover. Meanwhile, numerous meetings are underway to help Libya’s many tribes reconcile and cooperate with the central authorities. With perseverance, Libya may find itself rise above the instability of the past six years.