Following extensive lobbying by the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) chief Ghassan Salame, on July 9-10 respectively both factions the Government of National Accord (GNA) and the Libya National Army (LNA) agreed to a ceasefire amid the holiday of Eid al-Adha. Both the work of Salame and subsequently the agreement for a ceasefire was widely lauded by the international community and many people thought that this might represent the first sign of light after a long and dark tunnel, represented by the at least 1,000 deaths since April.
The UN released a statement on July 14 congratulating the goodwill of the parts and claiming a “significant reduction of violence” amid the truce, despite the fact that a car bomb near a shopping mall in Benghazi killed thee UN staff members less than 24 hours after the beginning of the truce. Indeed, numerous other instances of violence took place in the following days, including intermittent fighting in Tripoli’s suburbs of Wadi Rabia and the Salahaddin area as well as grad rocket attacks against Mitiga Airport, Libya’s only operational terminal.
While UNSMIL intentions are positive and attempt to bring stability to the Libyan people, unfortunately, their ambitions and plans are far detached from the reality on the ground. That the organisation released the August 14 statement sends a worrying message to the international community and more importantly to the warring factions, as if the international community understands their efforts to de-escalate the violence while no paying attention to the violations. Yes, some might argue that the statement did emphasise and condemned the violations, however, that should have been the main focus of the statement, as neither of the parts adhered to the truce, let alone showed any glimpse of hope that the Eid truce could be turned into a long ceasefire.
Despite the UN’s multiple efforts, unfortunately, UNSMIL is not strong enough as to brokerage a permanent ceasefire in the Libyan conflict, as it lacks the leverage and real international backing to force the different factions into the negotiation table. Moreover, that the own UN-recognised government, the GNA relies heavily on a plethora of militias from different backgrounds and interests for its security, illustrates the weak security infrastructure in the country. Often these militias have fought each other over influence. As such, theoretically, even if Salame achieves a ceasefire with the LNA, who guarantees that the militias that united to fight Haftar will not turn to each other over influence in Tripoli once again?
Additionally, it remains unclear whether the international backers, public and covert of each of the warring factions have any intention of abiding by a potential ceasefire, and would not lure their affiliates to continue the fighting. In this sense, not only a lot of intertwined interests are in play in Libya domestically but also at an international level, thus making a lasting ceasefire a far-fetched concept as of today.