IN her recent statement on Libya to the UN Security Council, the Prosecutor of the International Court (ICC), Fatou Bensouda, spoke of the ‘challenging situation’ in the country. ‘In short, the situation continues to deteriorate and innocent civilians continue to bear the brunt of the fighting between the warring factions vying for control of Libyan territory.
‘The current state of affairs, in which civilians are victimised, is completely unacceptable. As stated in my Office’s 12th report to this Council, multiple conflicts across Libya consume the country, and parties to this conflict allegedly continue to commit serious crimes.’
She noted that the Council had ‘repeatedly condemned crimes allegedly committed’ by various groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil), Ansar Al-Sharia ‘and other parties to the conflict in Libya.’
Bensouda added, ‘The number of internally displaced persons in Libya is believed to be almost 350,000. The persistent instability and armed conflict prevents my Office from conducting investigations within Libyan territory, in relation to both existing and potential new cases.’
One of the groups that has been wreaking havoc in Libya is being led by renegade General Khalifa Haftar, who is opposed to the African Union-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli. Gen Haftar has had a chequered military career over the last 40 years, falling in and out of favour with the late Colonel Muammar Gaddafi and collaborating with US intelligence agencies working against the late Libyan leader.
After Gaddafi was removed from office and murdered in 20l1, Gen Haftar, who had joined the uprising, disappeared from the limelight, only for him to re-emerge in 2014 with a call for Libyans to rise against the interim parliament.
Many Libyans, though, did not take him seriously because of his previous links with Gaddafi and the US. Nevertheless, he was able to muster a force that has been destabilising the GNA. Given that he lacks support from Libyans, Gen Haftar has turned to rebels in Darfur in Sudan to aid him in his quest to topple the GNA.
According to the Sudanese Media Centre (SMC), two Darfuri rebel groups, the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), have been providing fighters to help Gen Haftar forces carry out their al-karama operations in Libya’s oil-rich region. A dissident from JEM, Al-Raheema Ismail, told the SMC that the group was allowing its fighters to operate with Gen Haftar in Libya where atrocities have been committed.
In February this year it was reported that 30 SLM elements were killed during clashes in Kufta in southern Libya. The Sudanese army and Libyan officials have accused Darfuri rebels of waves of armed robbery and attacks on civilians in other parts of Libya – crimes that ICC Prosecutor Bensouda has been alluding to.
Added to these are human trafficking and the illegal movement of migrants from Africa to Europe. ‘Libya is a major hub for the illegal migration trade,’ Bensouda told the Security Council.
In December 2011, the SLM and JEM were declared by the Great Lakes Conference in Uganda to be the biggest threat to peace and stability in the region. Regional leaders said that the two rebel groups should be strongly resisted by African governments and the international community.
Even more sinister is the role Chadian forces are playing in compounding the chaos in Libya. Eyebrows were raised in certain quarters when on September 13 Gen Haftar visited N’Djamena as a guest of President Idriss Deby, who is the current chairman of the AU, which is backing the GNA in Libya. Chadian troops are said to have also aided the forces of Gen Haftar who has been accused of providing funds to pay five months’ salary arrears of members of the Chadian armed forces.
Deby and Gen Haftar know each other well, with the latter having been captured in 1987 with 300 of his men by the Chadian army during the Chadian-Libyan war over the Aouzou strip. Rather than intervene on behalf of the captured Libyan soldiers, Gaddafi disowned them and this led to Gen Haftar waging a campaign to remove Gaddafi from power. Now, Libya, it would seem, is on the verge of another major breakdown of law and order, as the renegade Gen Haftar battles for supreme power in the country with the aid of his Darfuri rebel allies.
The British parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee noted recently, ‘Regional actors have destabilised Libya and are fuelling internal conflict by exporting weapons and ammunition to proxy militias in contravention of the United Nations arms embargo.’