Anarchy and power play: A breakdown of Libya's key political players

Libya is rarely covered in the mainstream news, but that doesn’t mean the North African country is stable with nothing to report on. Quite the opposite in fact. 

Five years after the start of social unrest and the NATO intervention that lead to the ousting and killing of Libyan president Muammar Gaddafi, Libya remains without a single government, embroiled in political divisions and violent infighting. Successive governments and parliaments have failed to secure a national consensus and prevent secessionist trends, especially between the west and east, leaving the country on the brink of anarchy. 

Here, we look at the current political situation in Libya, and unravel the complex web of political players, armed groups and militias vying for power.

 

 
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The Government of National Accord

The Government of National Accord: This UN-backed, Tripoli based, government was formed in 2015. It was intended to act as a “unity government” that would bring Libya’s conflicting factions together. However, so-far the GNA has struggled to gather support on the ground and its authority is unclear.

Libyan House of Representatives

The House of Representatives: Libya’s elected government took power on 4 August 2014, replacing the General National Congress. They have a stronghold in the east, and their parliament is based in Tobruk. The HoR has refused to back the GNA.

General National Congress

General National Congress: HoR’s rival government, lead by Khalifa Al Gawil.The Islamist government had a stronghold in the west, until it was displaced by the GNA in April this year. In October, Al Gawil staged an attempted coup against the GNA in Tripoli.

The Libyan National Army

The Libyan National Army: The LNA is based in the east and is aligned with the Tobruk government. It is led by Maj-Gen Khalifah Haftar, who was appointed army commander by the House of Representatives in March 2015. In September, the LNA gained momentum after seizing control of oil ports west of Benghazi from a GNA-aligned faction.

Libya Dawn

Libya Dawn: This group of pro-Islamist militias is broadly aligned with the GNA and has been fighting on-and-off with the Tobruk government since 2015. They control virtually all coastal cities, from Misrata to the border with Tunisia, and their Misrata fighters are currently at the forefront of efforts by pro-GNA forces to oust Daesh from Sirte.

Benghazi revolutionary shura council

Benghazi revolutionary shura council: A military coalition in Benghazi composed of Islamist and jihadist militia. Formed in June 2014, in response to the anti-Islamist operation led by Khalifa Haftar, they are the main group fighting the LNA and have claimed responsibility for several car bombings over recent weeks.

DAESH

Daesh: A major development on the ground in Libya in 2015 was the emergence of Daesh. Taking advantage of the conflict between the GNC and CoR, the extremist group gained control of several coastal cities, including Derna and Sirte. Daesh was driven out of most areas of Derna last year and pro-GNA forces are currently closing in on them in Sirte.

Tuareg militias of Ghat

Tuareg militias of Ghat: These ethnic tribal militias control desert areas in the southwest. The militias rose to prominence in the district of Ghat, which has a Tuareg majority. The Tuareg have had on-going, violent clashes with the Tebu ethnic group from southern Libya.

foreign fighters in Libya

Foreign forces: Regional and international players are also involved in Libya’s power struggle, with the US and its European allies supporting GNA to defeat Daesh in the battle of Sirte. The US has conducted airstrikes in the city and earlier this year France admitted that their Special Forces have been operating in Libya.

The Government of National Accord
Libyan House of Representatives
General National Congress
The Libyan National Army
Libya Dawn
Benghazi revolutionary shura council
DAESH
Tuareg militias of Ghat
foreign fighters in Libya
The Government of National Accord
The Government of National Accord: This UN-backed, Tripoli based, government was formed in 2015. It was intended to act as a “unity government” that would bring Libya’s conflicting factions together. However, so-far the GNA has struggled to gather support on the ground and its authority is unclear.
Libyan House of Representatives
The House of Representatives: Libya’s elected government took power on 4 August 2014, replacing the General National Congress. They have a stronghold in the east, and their parliament is based in Tobruk. The HoR has refused to back the GNA.
General National Congress
General National Congress: HoR’s rival government, lead by Khalifa Al Gawil.The Islamist government had a stronghold in the west, until it was displaced by the GNA in April this year. In October, Al Gawil staged an attempted coup against the GNA in Tripoli.
The Libyan National Army
The Libyan National Army: The LNA is based in the east and is aligned with the Tobruk government. It is led by Maj-Gen Khalifah Haftar, who was appointed army commander by the House of Representatives in March 2015. In September, the LNA gained momentum after seizing control of oil ports west of Benghazi from a GNA-aligned faction.
Libya Dawn
Libya Dawn: This group of pro-Islamist militias is broadly aligned with the GNA and has been fighting on-and-off with the Tobruk government since 2015. They control virtually all coastal cities, from Misrata to the border with Tunisia, and their Misrata fighters are currently at the forefront of efforts by pro-GNA forces to oust Daesh from Sirte.
Benghazi revolutionary shura council
Benghazi revolutionary shura council: A military coalition in Benghazi composed of Islamist and jihadist militia. Formed in June 2014, in response to the anti-Islamist operation led by Khalifa Haftar, they are the main group fighting the LNA and have claimed responsibility for several car bombings over recent weeks.
DAESH
Daesh: A major development on the ground in Libya in 2015 was the emergence of Daesh. Taking advantage of the conflict between the GNC and CoR, the extremist group gained control of several coastal cities, including Derna and Sirte. Daesh was driven out of most areas of Derna last year and pro-GNA forces are currently closing in on them in Sirte.
Tuareg militias of Ghat
Tuareg militias of Ghat: These ethnic tribal militias control desert areas in the southwest. The militias rose to prominence in the district of Ghat, which has a Tuareg majority. The Tuareg have had on-going, violent clashes with the Tebu ethnic group from southern Libya.
foreign fighters in Libya
Foreign forces: Regional and international players are also involved in Libya’s power struggle, with the US and its European allies supporting GNA to defeat Daesh in the battle of Sirte. The US has conducted airstrikes in the city and earlier this year France admitted that their Special Forces have been operating in Libya.