Cameroon Tribune (Yaoundé)

17 August 2014

Libya: Edging Towards the Precipice

The security and humanitarian situation in Libya last week took a nose dive as fighting between rival militias almost shut down the country, obliging thousands of foreigners to leave. With diplomatic missions having shut down, their staff and UN personnel evacuated, Libyans have virtually been abandoned to themselves.

Parliament's Feeble Effort

The newly elected Parliament or Congress on August 13, 2014, voted to disband the country's militia brigades and called on the United Nations to protect civilians in an effort to end the worst fighting between armed factions since the 2011 fall of Muammar Gaddafi. Lawmakers appeared to be trying to strip the former rebel fighters of the legitimacy they enjoyed under the previous Parliament and government ministries.

UN Hamstrung, Mass Exodus

Nothing much is expected of the UN, given that Western powers which were in the forefront of the campaign to unseat Gadaffi are not interested in sending in troops to restore order. As a result, the United Nations mission in Libya, UNSMIL, is seeking a ceasefire between Zintan and Misrata militias, which have been at the centre of bloody clashes in the capital, Tripoli, for over a month now.

Perhaps the greatest blow to Libya of late has been the massive pullout of diplomats and expatriates, including humanitarian workers. Understandably, foreigners could no longer stomach the growing violence and insecurity. The vacuum created by their absence means the authorities are virtually on their own in trying to cope with a situation that was already bad enough.

Damaged Infrastructure, War Lords

The massive North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, NATO air campaign against Gadaffi in 2011 and the ensuing bloody fighting left the country's infrastructure in tatters. But recent fighting among rival militias has wrecked additional havoc, putting the country's main airports out of use. Consequently, most aliens who recently fled the beleaguered nation had to do so by ship or road through neighbouring Tunisia.

Libya today 'boasts' several militias - some with a national outlook, while others focus on their local fiefdoms. But the overall aim of the armed groups is to wield increasing influence, make money and undermine any attempt to return to a strong central government and functional institutions. In effect, militia leaders are war lords controlling almost every aspect of public life in their carved out territories.

Stalled Transition

The political instability - at least three Prime Ministers have been forced out of office - added to the insecurity and dislocation of the country, only mean that Libya is still a long way off from concluding its transition to a stable democracy. For now, it is the unchallenged reign of the war lords.

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