Looking for a way out in Libya

Libyan militia fighters taking a break from street combat
Since 2011, local militias like these have been the real power on the Libyan streets, not an assortment of foreign-sponsored governments seeking to reunify the country (source: dpa)
  • Local militias have become a “cartel” controlling Libya’s administration and economy
  • Foreign peace efforts have taken a top-down approach through empty state institutions
  • Until this strategy changes, attempts to use elections to unify the country will fail

At the end of August, Tripoli was shaken by another round of street fighting. Militias fought pitched battles in the southern suburbs, using tanks, heavy artillery and rockets. At least 61 people were killed and more than 150 injured. The authorities put all hospitals and private clinics on alert to deal with the casualties. The guards at Ain Zair prison in southeast Tripoli fled for their lives, leading to a breakout of 400 prisoners. The Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA), backed by the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), declared a state of emergency – which was ignored by all sides.

This outbreak can be viewed as part of the maneuvering ahead of parliamentary and presidential elections planned for December – a step agreed between Libya’s two main political factions to unite the country and end a seven-year civil war. Many local groups are not eager to give up their weapons and influence, and will go to any lengths to block or delay the electoral process.

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