Libya: Five Years of Chaos, (Video) - Tunisia Live Libya: Five Years of Chaos, (Video) - Tunisia Live
Libya: Five Years of Chaos, (Video)


Libya: Five Years of Chaos, (Video)


Sirte after the battle to oust Gaddafi. Image source: The Atlantic

Libya’s dictator, Muammar Gaddafi, was deposed and killed in October 2011 marking the end of a bitter eight-month revolution.

The country has been in chaos ever since.

The World Bank marked the fifth anniversary of his ousting with a stark warning: the economy is now approaching collapse;

Five years earlier, Libya had everything going for it, with the largest oil reserves in Africa and $158 billion in the bank to share among a population of six million.

The feeling back then was – what could go wrong?

As it turned out, everything.

The first free elections were held, for a General National Congress, (GNC) in July 2012

Turnout was sky-high, but the result was a messy parliament of unstable coalitions.

Lawlessness and religious violence increased as tribal militias militias formed during the revolution stuck around, carving out their own fiefdoms and fighting turf wars in Tripoli.

That September, the US consulate in Benghazi was stormed by Ansar Sharia and ambassador Chris Stevens and three staffers killed.

Meanwhile, in the GNC, things went from bad to worse.

The ruling coalition, dominated by Islamist parties, purged Gaddafi officials from office and the country convulsed in recriminations.

A promised constitution never materialized.

In eastern Libya a former general, Khalifa Haftar, formed Operation Dignity, an alliance of the army and nationalist militias to battle Islamist militias in Benghazi.

June 2014 saw new elections for a fresh parliament, the House of Representatives, in the hope of a fresh start.

It didn’t get one.

The Islamist and Misratan led militia that had led the GNC suffered heavy electoral losses and in response formed Libya Dawn, a coalition of militias that took control of the capital and forced the Operation Dignity dominated House of Representatives to decamp to Tobruk

Triggering a low-level civil war.

In Tripoli, Libya Dawn politicians re-formed the GNC, and Libya found itself with two rival governments fighting it out.

But not for long: Soon there were three.

Islamic State, (or Daesh) grew, establishing themselves between the two factions and forming a stronghold at the coastal town of Sirte

The chaos quickly jumped borders. Libyan weapons began turning up among militant fighters in Egypt’s Sinaia, while Libya-trained militants struck at Tunisia tourist spots of Bardo and Sousse in 2015.

In February this year the US air force returned to Libya’s skies with its deadliest attack since NATO bombed Gaddafi, smashing the main Daesh training camp at Sabratha in western Libya.

Soon after, Daesh allied with discontented residents in the Tunisian border town of Ben Guerdane, attempting to establish a new Tunisian caliphate, before being repulsed by security forces.

The international community, whose bombs had brought the rebels victory in 2011, stepped in again, through the UN.

The UN’s Libya Political Agreement, unveiled in December 2015 was rejected by both the House of Representatives and the GNC, one of the few things the warring parliaments could agree on.

No matter; the UN went ahead and sponsored the creation of yet another new government, the Government of National Accord (GNA), created by an unelected UN-supervised commission.

Democracy? Not likely.

However, though the GNA failed to win public support or win over the eastern HOR, it did manage to displace Tripoli’s GNC.

Critically, it also failed to create its own security force, which left it entirely at the mercy of Tripoli’s militias.

It did, however, ally with the powerful Libya Dawn Misratan militia to launch Operation Banyan al-Marsous in May with the aim of liberating Sirte from Daesh.

Six months on, and despite three months of US air strikes, the Sirte battle grinds on.

With the UN backed government and the Misratans focused on Sirte, Haftar’s forces seized the Sirte basin and, with it, most of Libya’s oil

Meanwhile, the old GNC in Tripoli, (remember them?) launched a coup, taking over and occupying a hotel in central Tripoli, which they still do.

Amid the chaos, the wheels have come off the economy, Tripoli is beset by power cuts, water cuts, cash shortages (both Tripoli and Tobruk print separate currencies), galloping inflation, kidnappings, assassinations and nightly militia battles. And all sides think the big one is still to come – the battle between Libya Dawn and Operation Dignity for the Sirte Basin and the all important oil industry that will determine who wins the war.

However, through it all Libyans have somehow retained their wry sense of humor: A popular joke in Tripoli is that the one thing Libya isn’t short of is government – they have three.


Youssef graduated from ISAMM where he has studied Communication and Multimedia. He's been active within the FTCA since 2010, taking part in the festival and directing two short films, one of which is animated. Youssef is interested in music, cinema, theater, video games, photography and movie-making.