Asharq Al-awsat English Middle-east and International News and Opinion from Asharq Al-awsat Newspaper

Libya's War-Weary Citizens Voice Fears Over Future

Libya's War-Weary Citizens Voice Fears Over Future

Thursday, 6 February, 2020 - 15:30
A shopping street in the old quarter of the capital Tripoli | AFP
Asharq Al-Awsat

After 10 months of fighting that has torn their country apart, exhausted Libyans voice deep fears and say their fate is no longer in their own hands.

The oil-rich North African country has been mired in chaos since a 2011 NATO-backed uprising that killed longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi, with two rival administrations vying for power.

The conflict deepened last April when military strongman Khalifa Haftar, who controls much of Libya's south and east, launched an assault to seize Tripoli, the base of the UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA).

A fragile ceasefire, brokered by Moscow and Ankara, was established on January 12. And at an international summit in Berlin a week later, world leaders agreed to end all foreign interference in Libya and to uphold a weapons embargo.

But on the streets of Libya, war-weary citizens are increasingly hopeless, telling AFP that their resource-rich country has become a plaything of foreign powers.

The fighting has drawn in a range of foreign combatants.

Mohammad al-Barouni, a student from Tripoli, charged that foreign players had been sending weapons and fighters into Libya "without fear or shame".

"After 10 months of fighting... the capital and its suburbs have become a den of mercenaries where arms are flooding in, in broad daylight", he said.

- 'Great battle' -

Nouri Bengharsa, a civil servant, complained that "since the fall of Gaddafi, Libyans have allowed foreigners to meddle in their affairs, and now they can't get rid of them".

Libyan politicians were partly to blame because they are "incapable of dialogue in their own country," he said while shopping in a vegetable market in Janzour, west of the capital.

"Yet they run to foreign capitals where they have specific agendas dictated to them."

The UN Security Council has been plagued by divisions over Libya and has been unable to adopt any resolution on the conflict for the past 10 months.

Despite the ceasefire and the commitments made in Berlin, the military escalation has intensified.

- 'Too late' -

The UN's Libya envoy Ghassan Salame last week accused "unscrupulous" foreign actors -- without specifying who -- of continuing to meddle in Libya's conflict, in violation of the Berlin commitments.

Warring parties "have continued to receive a sizeable amount of advanced equipment, fighters and advisors from foreign sponsors", he told the Security Council, warning that such moves "threaten to precipitate a new and much more dangerous conflagration".

Representatives on both sides of the conflict were meeting in Geneva this week in a UN-sponsored joint military commission. They agreed on the principle of turning their shaky truce into a lasting ceasefire, Salame said.

The UN envoy said the two sides would meet again for talks on economic cooperation, in Cairo on February 9, and could hold political talks on resolving the conflict in Geneva in two weeks' time.

Ibtissam al-Mezoughi, a retired public servant and mother of four, voiced deep skepticism about the ongoing diplomacy in faraway capitals.

Whether meetings are held in "Berlin or Geneva, it's not a question of ending the war, but of putting the finishing touches on international actors' areas of influence", she said.

"The Libyans have lost control. It's too late", she said, voicing fear that her country, now divided into zones of foreign influence, was becoming "another Syria".

Editor Picks