It has now been over five years since Libya, once the richest nation in Africa, started its spiralling collapse into chaos. After the ousting of Muammar Gaddafi bringing an end to his 42-year rule, the internationally recognised government struggles to achieve legitimacy and unity among the people of Libya remains a distant dream. An atmosphere of resignation has been permeating the clashing factions, parties, and ISIS. The political vacuum has fostered ISIS influence and caused instability in Libya which has in turn promoted migration.
On World Refugee Week, the Next Century Foundation and the Initiatives of Change hosted a conference “Migration Crisis” regarding the Middle East and North Africa. Whilst international attention has been diverted towards Syria’s crisis, it is important for us to not overlook sensitive humanitarian calamities in other countries, such as Libya.
Due to the violence that has come with a lack of government centralisation, Libya runs the risk of creating new internally displaced persons (IDP). Meanwhile, only small numbers of Libyans are currently migrating to Europe, however numbers could rise. People in Libya fear becoming refugees. The current atmosphere also discourages those who have emigrated to want to come back. These are important people needed for the reconstruction of Libya – a new Libya outside of Gaddafi’s rule.
Former UK Ambassador to Libya, Sir Vincent Fean, remarked that the tribes still maintain a strong degree of influence in the nation. However, whilst the tribes can be a short-term unifier for the nation, they may not be a durable long-term institutional solution for Libya. Despite being large, the tribal system is not applicable everywhere. Tripoli, for example, is disconnected from it and rejects tribal involvement.
Although the tribal system may not be a unifying force for the Libyan government, perhaps the anti-ISIS effort could be a catalysing force between the people in order to unite the nation for good.