Libya: Libya April Update


April 12, 2024: Turkish Airlines resumed scheduled flights to Libya at Tripoli in late March 2024. Turkish flight service stopped in 2015 because of growing violence in the country. Resumption of scheduled airline operations makes it possible for Libyan and foreign businesses to operate efficiently. Currently Turkish Airlines provides three flights a week, on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays, between Istanbul and Tripoli. This schedule is designed to be convenient for commercial travelers. Flights take place at the recently refurbished Mitiga International Airport in Tripoli.

Besides Turkey, Russia also benefits from the new air service. Turkey and Russia have both been involved in Libyan affairs for years. Unfortunately, Turkey and Russia could not agree on what was best for Libya and each adopted their own relationship with Libya.

Russia had no past experience in Libya while Turkey did. While the past Turkish relationship was that of a foreign conqueror, over the last few years the Turks had turned that into an advantage. Turkey continues to maintain Syrian mercenary military forces in Libya and those will until 2026 or later. The Turks block efforts to hold national elections and bring an end to twelve years of civil war.

This began in 2020 when the Turks had sent enough troops to rescue the GNA (Government of National Accord), a failed UN and Moslem Brotherhood backed government. The GNA failed to attract a national following and was still confronted by a Libyan military leader, General Haftar, who formed the LNA (Libyan National Army). This is a force of trained and disciplined Libyan soldiers in eastern Libya with a capital in Tobruk. Haftar was doing what UN diplomacy and threats could not. The LNA has been around since 2015, when it was formed in eastern Libya and proceeded to eliminate rivals, especially Islamic radical groups, throughout the country. In early 2019 all that the GNA had left was Tripoli, the traditional capital and to the east the coastal city of Misrata with its port facilities and functional airport. Both cities are dominated by dozens of rival militias, many of them seeking an Islamic government but mainly looking out for themselves. The LNA went after Tripoli in early 2019, from two sides and slowly pushed back the desperate militias, who would lose their independence and lucrative criminal enterprises if the LNA succeeded. The UN condemned the LNA and ignored Turkey shipping in weapons and military advisors to assist the GNA. By the end of 2019 Turkey was threatening to, and did, send in combat troops and warships to blockade Libyan ports. This Turkish support violated the UN arms embargo on Libya, as did the military support Russia, Egypt, the UAE (United Arab Emirates) and a few other countries provided to the LNA. The LNA agreed to a ceasefire and national elections. The Turks and their thousands of mercenaries are still there and prepared to stay indefinitely.

Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and possibly France have reportedly aided Haftar’s forces, while Qatar has supported Tripoli’s forces and Italy has supported the Tripoli faction politically. The involvement of these foreign countries makes it hard for those Libyans who want a genuine Libyan solution to prevail. If a unity government were to emerge, such foreign forces undoubtedly would come under greater scrutiny and face political pressure to leave. Hence, the presence of these foreign forces helps to perpetuate the country’s political divisions.

If all this were not bad enough, in September 2023 there was an unexpected flood when a large storm filled Libyan reservoirs with more water than two dams could handle. The dams collapsed and caused a flood of water that raced to the sea and killed over eight thousand and left neatly 50,000 homeless. The two dams were allegedly built to withstand the stress that caused them to collapse. Questions were asked and it was discovered that money the government was supposed to spend on maintaining the dams was diverted to other uses by corrupt officials who stole much of the dam support funds. None of the political factions would accept responsibility for these problems or even support an investigation. That included expediting the issuance of death certificates so family members could claim survivor pensions after the loss of family members.

The government Prosecutor’s Office began a criminal investigation into the dam disaster, and eight officials were eventually arrested but no prosecutions followed. Meanwhile, foreign NGOs (Non-government Organizations) supplied shelter, clean water, food, and medical treatment for hundreds of thousands of Libyans. Libya is a country with a small population and large oil income. Libya also has a culture of corruption. Those who can steal government funds do so and leave Libya for a country where they can enjoy their stolen wealth and cannot be extradited in the future and prosecuted.

This downward spiral began in 2011 when the decades-long Muammar Gaddafi dictatorship was overthrown, and no stable national government emerged to replace the dictatorship. Two separate governments soon appeared but spent most of their time fighting the other government and seeking to control some of the oil production. Money from oil sales keeps this civil war going and there is no end in sight. Meanwhile, most Libyans are living in poverty. To make matters worse, local, and Italian criminal gangs have organized a lucrative business to serve foreign migrants who want to get to Europe and pay for transportation. A lot of migrants reach the coast without money to pay for passage and are stranded. The two Libyan governments arrange for the African migrants to return to the country they came from. Otherwise, these stranded migrants would starve, be arrested, or killed for stealing to survive.




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