Less than three years ago, on October 23, 2011, Libyans celebrated the country’s liberation from long-time dictator Moammar Gadhafi. A broad coalition of groups composed of people from all walks of life banded together, disregarding regional, religious, tribal, ethnic and political differences to rid the nation of a brutal regime. After months of fighting and the loss of too many lives, a bright new future finally seemed within reach of the people of Libya.
Unfortunately, it would not be that easy: rival groups that had united to defeat a common enemy soon turned on each other, and began to fight in earnest to further their narrow agendas. Still, despite the upheaval, the country seemed to be moving forward, holding general elections in July 2012, and another one in June 2014 for a new House of Representatives that was seated in August.
Since May, the three-year-long upward spiral of violence escalated. In Benghazi, assassinations and attacks on government forces continued in the wake of of former Libyan National Army commander Khalifa Heftar’s attacks on Islamic extremists, which he then declared part of a broader campaign against all Islamists in Libya, whom he likened to “flesh-eating microbes” in a May 20 interview. In mid-July, rival militias began a battle for control of Tripoli International Airport. After five weeks of fighting, hundreds of deaths and millions of dollars’ worth of damage to Libya’s infrastructure, the “Operation Dawn” affiliates gained control of the airport. These Operation Dawn affiliates, then proceeded to declare a new government, a move denounced by the country’s official government. And the fighting continues.
In a joint statement, the governments of the United States, France, Germany, Britain and Italy strongly condemned “the escalation of fighting and violence in and around Tripoli, Benghazi, and across Libya.”
The five countries called on all parties in Libya, including the government and all militias, to accept an immediate ceasefire, engage constructively in the democratic process, and to stop all activities that risk undermining it. “We support the efforts of the UN Support Mission in Libya in this regard,” said the statement.
“We call on Libya’s interim government and the elected House of Representatives to adopt inclusive policies that benefit all Libyans and to build a government that meets the Libya people’s needs for security, reconciliation, and prosperity. We encourage the Constitutional Drafting Assembly to immediately pursue the drafting of a document that enshrines and protects the rights of all Libyans. Further, we encourage the international community to support Libya’s elected institutions.”