In its unfinished transition process from the dictatorship of Muammar Gadhafi to the democratic promises awaken by an Arab Spring now dead in the water, Libya seems caught in a vicious circle that constantly repeats itself. Healing a rift caused by a decade of civil war is certainly difficult and limited progress was registered on the 20th of August when the Central Bank of Libya (CBL) announced its reunification as a sovereign institution following an institutional split that mirrors the parallel authorities of the country.
The meeting between the Saddek Elkaber (governor of the CBL in Tripoli since 2013) and Marai Muftah Rahil al-Barasi (deputy governor based in Bayda) brought just the promise of an end to the regional divide from which the country is suffering since 2014, if only major issues such as the significant debt accumulated by the eastern branch of the CBL and the fate of the Russian-printed banknotes shipped to the eastern authorities are properly addressed.
Nevertheless, political hurdles remain a significant challenge and have the potential to derail a UN-sponsored peace process that increasingly sees elections as a distant prospect, favouring instead reconciliation and a unified executive able to replace a faltering Government of National Unity (GNU) and its rival Government of National Stability (GNS).
Clashes between rival militias in Tripoli that on the 14th – 16th August resulted in 45 dead and 146 injured, fully displayed Libya’s propensity to take one step forward and two steps back, especially when considering the rule of militias still dominating the scene in the war-thorn country. By pitting against each other two GNU-affiliated armed groups such as the 444th Brigade and the Special Deterrence Force (SDF), the clashes significantly undermined the credibility of GNU Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, visibly unable to rein in militias constantly vying for power and state control in his own turf.
Things went from bad to worse for Dbeibah after the Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen revealed he had a meeting with his GNU counterpart Najila al-Mangoush in Rome to discuss the potential for bilateral relations. As the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Tripoli inevitably backtracked after violent protests erupted in the capital and elsewhere in Libya, it became increasingly clear how Dbeibah became a victim of the normalisation process, possibly sanctioned by himself to remain in power by playing the Abraham Accords card and please Washington.
His attempts to deflect the blame, by suspending and then sacking Mangoush (forced to flee to Turkey for safety concerns), revealed the sensitiveness of the Palestinian cause in a regional environment not yet conducive for a formal recognition of Israel, also considering the cumbersome presence of anti-normalisation stalwart Algeria. It also reinforced the hand of General Khalifa Haftar, among the first Libyan actors to recognise the benefits of normalising ties with Israel, but now happy to leave Dbeibah extinguish the fire and contain the damage.
Associate Fellow for the Conflict, Security and Development Programme at the IISS and Maghreb Analyst for the NATO Defense College Foundation, he regularly publishes on issues such as political developments, security and terrorism in the North Africa region