Five years after the fall of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, the country still remains trapped in a spiral of deteriorating security, economic crisis, and political deadlock. But will things look up in the future?
TIME CODE: 00:00_05:00
Narration: Five years after the fall of Colonel Moammar Gadhafi, the Libyan dictator ...
The country’s still stuck in a spiral of deteriorating security and political deadlock. Trust in the nation’s fragile government institutions has fallen to an all-time low as political elites, unable to agree on even a governmental structure, deploy armed militias to control territory and economic assets. At the same time, the country has two rival parliaments and three governments- the latest one formed in UN-brokered talks with the aim of replacing the other two. But this initiative is still on the rocks.
An additional challenge comes from Daesh, a terrorist group that is gaining a foothold in the country. Some security analysts describe Libya as an arms bazaar, flooded with weapons looted from Gaddafi's arsenal - making an ideal playground for bellicose groups. Libya that once had one of the highest standards of living in Africa with free healthcare and free education is now facing a financial crisis Oil production has nearly screeched to a halt, banks are skint and hospitals out of medical supplies. The country is beset with chaos and threatened with an uncertain future.
SOUNDBITE [English] Dr. Syed Jaffar Hussain, WHO Representative for Libya: “We have acute shortages of life saving medicines, all across Libya, it’s not one particular place, hospitals, clinics, everywhere. We have more than 40 percent health facilities being closed down, dysfunctional for various reasons.”
Narration: The lingering fighting has displaced more than 400,000 people at home. And due to its proximity to Europe, the country has been used as a passageway for Libyan refugees and refugees from other North African and sub-Saharan African countries. By 2015, half a million people had sailed by boat from Libya to Europe. According to Frontex, the European border agency, 9,600 migrants made the journey using this route in March 2016- four times as many as during the same period in 2015. It’s said that Daesh is now working together with migrant smugglers in Libya, particularly in Sabrata, a fact that has raised the alarm for Europe and the rest of the West.
SOUNDBITE [French] migrant: “We knew it was dangerous but is a one way trip, there is no coming back... When you go back to Libya, you can't escape it. The only escape is the sea: go to Europe, or die.”
Narration: But with a strong central government practically non-existent, there is no way to avoid the evils of anarchy and lawlessness. Since mid-2014, Libya has been divided by an east vs. west civil war, with the government of the Operation Dignity coalition in the east and the government of the Libya Dawn alliance in the west; and a territory occupied by Daesh terrorists in between, while most of the country is controlled by local militias, which follow decisions made by these governments.
In East and Central LibyaGeneral Khalifa Haftar, an important player in the country’s politics, leads the so-called Libyan National Army (LNA), which is made up of former army units and militias loyal to them. It has the backing of the Tobruk-based government.
On the other side, Libya Dawn, which controlled much of the west, including Misrata and Tripoli, has split up into various brigades with differing loyalties. The group seized Tripoli in August 2014 and was led by fighters from Misrata, the city which took pride in putting up great resistance against Col Gaddafi's forces.
Both the Dignity and Dawn governments claim to have fought Daesh but so far only half-heartedly. This has enabled the terrorist group, which reportedly has 3,000 members in the area, to establish a foothold in the country. They have been attacking Libyan oil facilities and have kidnapped several foreign oil workers.
TIME CODE: 05:00_10:00
Narration: The group’s territory in and around the city of Sirte, the birthplace of Gaddafi, is providing a safe haven for terrorist militants to train, fund and plan attacks across the Mediterranean. In April 2015, its terrorist members killed more than 30 migrant workers, most of them Ethiopian Christians.
Against such a backdrop, the international community is now placing its hopes in a third government to make decisions for the whole country: the so-called National Unity Government, brokered by the UN. If not accepted in the end, the UN plan could actually deepen the country's divisions and local warlords and Daesh supporters would be the ones to profit.
The roots of the current chaos date back to 2011 when Gadhafi reacted predictably to the Libyan popular uprising by sending in snipers, artillery and cluster bombs. To prevent a long and brutal civil war that could claim countless civilian lives, the international community decided to take immediate action in Libya. The primary aim of the intervention approved by the UN Security Council wasnot to changeregimebut to provide protection to the civilians from Gadhafi's troops.
SOUNDBITE [English] Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Secretary General at NATO: “NATO welcomes the resolution from the UN Security Council. This resolution sends a strong and clear message from the entire international community to the Gadhafi regime: stop your brutal and systematic violence against the people of Libya immediately.”
Narration: However, with the benefit of hindsight, it’s quite clear that the United States, Britain, France and Italy all aimed at a regime change. The NATO mission ended shortly after Gadhafi's murder on Oct. 20, 2011. It was then the West committed its biggest mistake. In an interview with Fox News in April this year, US President Barack Obama admitted that the failure to prepare for the aftermath of Col Gaddafi's overthrow was the "worst mistake" of his presidency. Obama partly blamed then-UK Prime Minister David Cameron for "the mess", saying he had not done enough to support the North African nation.
SOUNDBITE [English] Hafsa Kara-Mustapha, Political Analyst: “Well it’s never a good idea when the UK sends troops anywhere in the Arab world. We saw it in Iraq, it was the wrong idea to go into Iraq, it led to the chaos that we now know, it was a wrong idea for the UK to get involved in the ouster of Gaddafi back in 2011 and that is what caused the chaos that is happening today.”
Narration: UN Special Representative Martin Kobler of Germany says: "It was a mistake for us to have abandoned the country after the 2011 intervention. When you make the decision to intervene militarily, you also have to support the country afterwards."
The transitional government that was appointed after the ouster of Gadhafi didn't have the power to disarm the local militias. The number of self-proclaimed revolutionaries promptly ballooned from around 30,000 to 250,000 and soon, weapons took precedence over politics. Meanwhile, Western countries left the country high and dry allowing the fundamental conflict between the east and the west to be a political albatross around the neck of the country. It was only after the November 2015 terrorist attacks on Paris that the international community increased pressure on the warring parties to come to an agreement.
SOUNDBITE [English] John Kerry, Secretary of state, The United States Secretary of State: “We came here today, members of the Libya Support Group, neighbors of Libya, international organizations, because we cannot allow the status quo in Libya to continue. It is dangerous for the viability of Libya, it is dangerous for Libyans and now, because of the increase in the presence of Daesh purposefully migrating there, it is dangerous for everyone.”
Narration: Though the unity government has won backing in Tripoli, things don't look good in the east. The parliament in Tobruk is widely expected to reject the unity government's cabinet list while General Haftar, the military leader in the east, is also being difficult. Moreover, Libyan politicians and clans will have to accept the new government, which is not very expected. A consensus among militias also seems elusive; based in different cities fighting their own battles, they are ideologically divided - some are militant or moderate, others secessionists or monarchists and yet others liberals, making a confusing mishmash of opposition groups.
After decades of authoritarian rule, it seems that the country has little understanding of democracy, unable to forge compromises and build a new state based on the rule of law while foreign intervention has made things more complicated. The 2011 uprising unleashed hopes for a nation that had been under the thumb of a military dictator for more than four decades. So far, all those hopes have been dashed. But will things look up in the future? In the near future?