AFRICAINTL CONFLICTSOPINION

Libya civil war and why you should pay attention?

By Travis Washington

The coronavirus pandemic has infected more than two million people across the globe. Unfortunately, war is still raging on. The Libyan Civil War is one war we all have to pay attention to. Before the Coronavirus, Germany started peace talks with Prime Minister Al-Sarraj and General Khalifa Haftar in Berlin Germany, because the goal is to avoid another Syria. The Berlin Conference was held on Jan. 19, 2020, as planned Al-Sarraj and Haftar were both present in Berlin, but neither of them participated directly in the talks, as both men refused to be in the same room. Twelve foreign leaders met at the Berlin Conference for Libyan peace negotiations. The United Nations, European Union, African Union, and the Arab League all support a ceasefire and an arms embargo. During the Berlin Peace Conference, Haftar sent his troops into South Tripoli to take control of the Tripoli International Airport and shut down oil exports. Therefore, he broke the rules of a ceasefire. Libya’s economy is halted because of Hafter. Libya is losing $78 million a day in revenue that can go towards the economy.

How did all this start? In 2011, a multi-state NATO-led coalition began a military intervention in Libya.  The fall of former Libyan Prime Minister Muammar Al-Gaddafi destabilized the country of Libya, leaving the Libyan people at the mercy of countries national interest and terrorists groups that want to take control of Libya’s vast oil wealth via proxy war. A proxy war is an armed conflict instigated by a major power that uses a third party (mercenaries, paramilitary groups, terrorists, etc.) to fight in their place. This has lead to nine years of suffering for the people of Libya. How bad has it gotten? Right now, in Libya, people are sold into SLAVERY in the open market. I would have never thought that in 2020 I would see open-market slave trade in my lifetime.

Who is General Haftar? He is known throughout the world as a warlord. Haftar is a former Libyan general that was disowned by Al-Gaddafi because he failed to defeat the French-backed Chadian forces during the “Land Cruiser War” in 1987. In 2011, Haftar returned to Libya and succeeded in overthrowing Al-Gaddafi. Haftar is the leader of the Libyan National Army; he controls two-thirds of the country and Libya’s main oil fields. He is receiving military support from foreign countries like the UAE, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, France, and Israel. During his military campaign over 50,000 Libyans have been displaced and hundreds have lost their lives. Haftar’s original goal was to defeat and expel all unnecessary foreign fighters in Libya. After crushing and expelling the foreign fighters, the general decided to push through the country until he takes control of Tripoli, the capital of Libya. By doing so, Haftar will have full control of Libya, and he has threatened to lead his troops into Algeria. He will target Tunisia and Lebanon next and will destabilize the North African region and lead to more deaths and a greater refugee crisis.

The current Libyan Prime Minister is Fayez al -Sarraj, the standing president of Libya Government of National Accord. Al -Sarraj has support from Turkey, Italy, and Qatar. The United Nations recognize him as Libya’s leader. Al -Sarraj supports a peace deal with Haftar.  Al -Sarraj said: “the main cause of the Libyan crisis is the hostile foreign interventions via proxy”. The Libyan people have suffered enough; thousands of Libyan refugees have fled across the border to Turkey and Italy. Turkey, which hosts the highest number of refugees in the world, spends $40 billion annually on refugee support for Syrian refugees.

Consequently, Turkey is a key ally of Al -Sarraj, who supports a diplomatic solution. However, if Haftar takes Tripoli, all diplomatic solutions will be taken off the table. Italy, which is heavily invested in the Libyan oil fields located in Tripoli and an ally of al -Sarraj also favors a diplomatic solution with Haftar.

The United States needs to play a more significant part in Libya in providing support for the GNA. We are the most powerful nation in the world, and as a global leader of democracy, we have to aid the GNA. The biggest reason to support the GNA is that they promise to end slavery throughout their country. Haftar can not be trusted; it has been reported that he will not seek a peace deal or a ceasefire; he will fight to the very end. The Middle East Monitor has reported if Haftar does not succeed, he will die. Haftar is a desperate man who will only destroy in his path. Haftar has committed crimes against humanity. The Middle East Monitor also reported Haftar’s army cut off the water supply to the people of Tripoli. Ministry of Interior of the GNA “warned that cutting off drinking water supplies by General Khalifa Haftar’s militias in the capital of Tripoli, amid the proliferation of the coronavirus pandemic, is seriously endangering the lives of children and families.” Haftar is not a man for the people.

The GNA has taken back major cities Sabratha and Surman, pushing back Haftar troops. GNA is slowly taking back territory and stabilizing Libya. I believe the GNA will win this war because of the support of Turkey and the United Nations.  If Warlord General Haftar wins, he will not stop with Libya. The battle will rage on, moving to Algeria and Tunisia, creating a refugee crisis, and slave traders will take advantage.  We have a coronavirus pandemic as well this is not the time for more countries to be destabilized.

Travis Washington is a two-time graduate of SIU, having received his Bachelor’s degree in University studies with a minor in Africana Studies and Speech Communication in 2017 and Master’s in Education Administration with a College Teaching Certificate in 2019. During his tenure at SIU, Travis was heavily involved in advocacy work and action in the community, with focus on voter registration and change in legislation. Currently he is trying to pass a law called the “ Hands Up Act”  

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