Libya. At least 37 people died and around 90 were injured by two car bombs near a mosque in Libya’s second largest city of Benghazi in January. A few weeks later, at least 150 people were injured and at least one person died in two more bomb attacks aimed at a mosque in the same city.
In February, UN envoy in Libya Ghassan Salamé said during a press conference that he hoped elections could be held in Libya by the end of the year. However, the plans seemed to increase the turmoil in the country. In May, the National Electoral Commission headquarters in Tripoli was destroyed in an attack taken by the Islamic State (IS) terror group. At least twelve people died, most of whom were employed in the Electoral Commission’s office.
In the same month, at least 30 people were killed and 120 injured in fighting in the city of Sabha. The unrest began in February and stood between two groups, which according to the Reuters news agency were linked to the country’s two rival political camps in the east and west respectively.
At the end of May, four of Libya’s most important leaders agreed to hold presidential and parliamentary elections on December 10. The four leaders were the Prime Minister of the Unity Government in Tripoli, Fayez al-Sarraj, General Khalifa Haftar with power in eastern Libya and the leaders of the two rival parliaments in the western and eastern parts of the country, respectively. The hope was that Libya, which has had two, sometimes three, rival governments since 2014, could unite and stabilize.
Unfortunately, some militia groups in western Libya were under-represented at the meeting. These were doubtful of the talks they thought would benefit General Haftar. The meeting was held during a peace conference in Paris.
In June, General Khalifa Haftar and his army captured the city of Derna from the Libyan National Army (LNA) from a coalition of local militia and Islamist extremists. It was the last place in eastern Libya that LNA had no control over.
In August, a court sentenced 45 militants to the death penalty for opening fire on protesters in Tripoli during the uprising against Muammar al-Khadaffi in 2011. According to the AFP news agency, the number of death sentences was probably the highest in the country since the regime was overthrown.
According to Countryaah.com, Tripoli is the capital city of Libya, a country located in Northern Africa. Struggles between different militia groups in and around Tripoli escalated in September. The clashes were the most serious in several years. They began in the southern suburbs of the capital and then spread to central parts of Tripoli.
Since the situation became too dangerous, police and security forces abandoned several migration camps in Tripoli’s southern suburbs. In the camps, hundreds of migrants were left locked up without food or water.
In addition, a riot broke out at a prison on the outskirts of Tripoli and 400 prisoners managed to escape.
The country’s health ministry stated at the end of September that at least 115 people had died and around 400 were injured in the fighting since the beginning of August.
After several broken ceasefires, the unity government in Tripoli asked the UN to release the policy and instead focus on basic security. They wanted the United Nations action UNSMIL, which is a special political effort, to be transformed into an effort to support Libya’s security and stability, according to TT News Agency. Then, UN envoy Ghassan Salamé said in a statement that the unrest in Tripoli meant that the planned elections in December could not be carried out until next year.
At the same time, migration flows continued through Libya towards Europe, albeit on a smaller scale than last year. Media reported in May that the number of refugees arriving by boat to Italy from Libya had decreased by 80% since the summer of 2017. The decline occurred, among other things, after Italy, where 700,000 refugees and migrants arrived since 2013, signed an EU-backed agreement with Libya on preventing boats with migrants from leaving the coast of Libya.
Further statistics showed that 20 of the government’s 53 migrant camps had been closed as the number of migrants detained in them had dropped from 27,000 to just over 5,000 since May 2017. This is stated by Mohammed Bishr, who is leading Libya’s measures against illegal migration. The reason was that thousands of migrants were returned to their home countries by the International Migration Organization IOM, among others.
At the same time, many migrants were held in human smugglers’ camps. According to representatives of the migrants, they are raped and tortured by smugglers, who also squeeze them for money.
More than 100 East Africans fled from one of the camps in May. The camp was located near the town of Bani Walid which has developed into a center for human trafficking in migrants. During the flight, East Africans were shot at by smugglers and several were taken to hospitals.
In June, an EU summit was held where migration was discussed. Prior to the meeting, several proposals were made for asylum camps in and outside the EU. Among the proposed asylum camp countries was Libya. However, Libya’s Deputy Prime Minister Ahmed Malteeq rejected that idea. On the other hand, he, together with Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, launched a proposal to place asylum camps in countries south of Libya.
A report from the UN refugee agency UNHCR in September stated that the proportion of migrants who died on the so-called central route between Libya and Italy had increased. During the first seven months of the year, 1 in 18 died, compared with 1 in 42 in the same period in 2017.
The Gaddafi regime (1969–2011)
A group of younger officers led by Muammar al-Gaddafi took power at a military coup on September 1, 1969. The country’s head of state, King Idris, was overseas and remained in exile. Crown Prince Hassan al-Aida renounced the right to the throne, and the monarchy was abolished.
The coup came after several years of strengthening national feeling and pan-Arabism. The rise of Arab self-esteem was reinforced by officers abolishing the monarchy in Egypt and Iraq, while increasing the confrontation with Israel and its Western supporters. This regional backdrop interacted with the Libyan king’s provocative politics and conservative attitudes, as well as widespread corruption.
The coup makers created a Revolutionary Command Council (RCC) with Gaddafi as the front figure and de facto head of state, although he never took the title of president. He saw the takeover of power as a pervasive revolution, not a coup. Although the new leaders led a largely secular – and partly socialist – oriented, policy, Gaddafi allowed Islam a central position in the revolution.
The coup makers, a group of young officers, were Arab nationalists. Gaddafi was strongly inspired by Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser and the free officers who seized power and abolished the kingdom there in 1952.
Initially, the Libyan officers had no clear ideological or political direction, but led an experimental domestic policy and a radical foreign policy. Gaddafi leaned against Nasser, announcing that Libya’s revolution and the country’s resources were at the disposal of Egypt and pan-Arabism. Following the takeover of Egypt, Egypt sent security forces to Libya, essentially in response to any counter-coups.
Libya’s pan-Arabian course remained the guiding principle for foreign policy until the turn of the century. From the beginning, it was essential to dismantle foreign military bases in Libya, as part of the fight against Western imperialism.
National unity was another political priority, after Libya was united into one state as late as 1963. A cultural revolution was an important part of the Libyan experiment, focusing on the combination of Arab nationalism and Islamic values. As part of this, Western symbols were removed and Arabic language mandatory used; the Latin alphabet was banned.
A new constitution came into force in 1969. RCC then formally became the top political leadership. Political oppression was reflected, among other things, by a ban on free party formation and a free press. The regime itself established the Arab Socialist Union as a state party in 1971. In 1973, Gaddafi launched a so-called popular revolution; a cultural revolution from below that should lead to popular government. The RCC, and Gaddafi himself, still retained real power.
The military apparatus was expanded, eventually with support from the Soviet Union. After the revolution, Egypt sent military advisers, and later also came from eastern European countries to train the security police, Mukhabarat. Libya gave arms to Egypt in connection with the October war in 1973 and sent a smaller force in support of Egypt, but did not participate in the war. Military training was introduced in the school and armed militias were established.
Gaddafi’s political and social experiment was based on an ambition to create a new governance, a third way, as an alternative to Western capitalism and atheistic communism. The goal was a society without a centralized state, and the socialist Libyan-Arab Jamahiriya (government) was proclaimed in 1977: a political community with consultation rather than representation. He also emphasized community in the Arab world, later in Africa. This was followed by several attempts to integrate Libya with other Arab states.
In the early 1980s, a system of people committees was introduced at workplaces and in educational institutions, in villages and districts. Local popular congresses were also established. A National People’s Congress should be the supreme body instead of a parliament. The real power remained with Gaddafi, including through revolutionary committees loyal to him and given extensive authority to follow up his policies.
In 1970, the foreign military bases – the US Wheelus outside Tripoli and the UK in Kyrenaika (El Adem and Tobruk) – were wound up.
Libya under Gaddafi did not have parties, did not hold elections, nor did he have a national assembly, government or head of state in the western sense.