Support for Libya's unity government is 'eroding', says analyst

Libyans survey the damage after an explosion at  a checkpoint between Tripoli and Misrata on 24 November, 2015.
Libyans survey the damage after an explosion at a checkpoint between Tripoli and Misrata on 24 November, 2015. Reuters/Stringer

As France said it plans to call on Monday for sanctions against Libyan ministers who "obstruct" the creation of a unity government, RFI spoke to experts who said that support and hope for it is diminishing.


Audio report

Libya has had rival parliaments since 2014 when an Islamist-led militia alliance took over the capital Tripoli and the internationally-recognized government fled to the city of Tobruk.

A potential list was proposed in January, but the parliament in Tobruk rejected it.

"The unity government is on shaky grounds" said Claudia Gazzini, the lead Libya analyst at Crisis Group. "Support in the country is eroding while other alternative political tracts are emerging so there are competing initiatives to the UN one."

Libyans are desperate for a solution as rival militias vie for power in the country. In the meantime, the Islamic State armed group has also gained ground and influence, which poses a serious security risk to Libya’s neighbors, including Europe, just across the Mediterranean.

Western countries agree that military action is needed to remove IS from Libya, but they want the ok of a national unity government before intervening.

The French foreign minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said Friday that he will propose imposing EU sanctions on any Libyan official who obstructs the formation of the unity government.

"In terms of the repertoire available to the international community for trying entice the main factions to sit together and agree on something, what the French are doing is among the most useful ones", said Alina Rocha Menocal, a senior research fellow in the International Development leadership program at the University of Birmingham. "Though it’s not entirely clear if it’ll help, it certainly will influence".

Libya became the hot topic at the end of the week after US President Barack Obama gave a surprisingly frank interview with American magazine The Atlantic, criticising the British and French-led bombing campaign that led to the fall of the regime of former Libyan leader Moamer Khadafi in Libya in 2011.

Obama said that the UK and France had not properly followed up after the action, claiming that British Prime Minister David Cameron had become “distracted”.

In the years since the revolution, Libya’s political transition has been anything but smooth and the international community has struggled to know what course of action to take.

"I wouldn’t say that it is one country’s fault in particular," Rocha Menocal told RFI. “I certainly think that there should have been much more collective thinking about what happens when you get rid of an undesirable dictator because it is not automatically going to be good. A transformation will follow, but we don’t know if it will be good or bad, especially if we don’t have a clear sense of what kinds of factions and forces are on the ground, fighting for power”.

For Gazzini, however, the international community needs to have a more holistic view of everything that needs to be done in Libya.

"It is important to target the radical groups in the country and push for a government of national unity, but the country is also on the verge of an economic collapse", she said.

She told RFI that the foreign currency reserves in the Libyan National Bank are plummeting at record speeds.

"There is no better recipe than an economic crisis to make terrorists or radical groups stronger", she added.

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