EVER since the 2011 fall of Libyan strongman Muammar Qadhafi in protests fuelled by the Arab Spring, the North African country has not seen stability. In fact, the fate of Libya in many ways mirrors that of Syria, even though Syrian ruler Bashar al-Assad continues to cling to power whereas Qadhafi met a gruesome end. In both cases, foreign intervention designed to remove an autocratic ruler has, instead, caused even more chaos and the collapse of the state. In Libya’s case, there were signs of hope last week when the Government of National Accord, the UN-recognised set-up based in the capital Tripoli, announced a ceasefire. However, the truce has swiftly been rejected by the Libyan National Army, an armed group led by warlord Khalifa Haftar that controls large parts of the country’s east. An LNA spokesman on Sunday referred to the ceasefire as a “marketing stunt”.
Unfortunately, similar to the Syrian situation, the differences between Libyan groups and tribes have been exacerbated by external meddling. In Libya’s case, the GNA is supported by Turkey and Qatar, while the rebel LNA has the support of Egypt, Russia and the UAE. Needless to say, these external players are using Libya as a battlefield to settle scores, while the Libyan factions are amenable to receiving arms, funds and fighters from foreign backers. This, as in Syria where the Western-Arab states joined forces to try and oust Mr Assad, who is backed by Iran and Russia, has been a recipe for disaster. It illustrates the fallacy of nation-building programmes and the so-called responsibility to protect, which was invoked by the West in both Syria and Libya. Qadhafi, much like the Syrian leader, was no model democrat. In fact he was a ruthless dictator who brooked no dissent. Yet his forced removal by Nato has arguably created more problems for ordinary Libyans. Now, instead of creating more chaos, all foreign forces must work to make the ceasefire in Libya succeed, so that the once functional state can be rebuilt.
Published in Dawn, August 26th, 2020