Key Challenges in Putting an End to Libya's Chaos

France is hosting a rare meeting on Tuesday between Libya's U.N.-backed Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj and military strongman Khalifa Haftar who backs a rival administration in the east.

The French government hopes the meeting will help clinch a political agreement to end years of chaos that has gripped Libya since a 2011 uprising toppled and killed longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

Here are some of the key challenges facing Libya, also bedeviled by jihadism and people smuggling.

- Establishing one central government -

Oil-rich Libya has been deeply divided since the 2011 uprising, with a myriad militias holding territory and rival administrations vying for their allegiance in often bloody confrontations.

The U.N.-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) set up base in the capital Tripoli at the end of March 2016 but is struggling to assert its authority across the country.

It controls most of the west but in the east a rival administration backed by military strongman Haftar holds sway.

Control of the vast desert south is divided between various ethnic and tribal militias, which have nominal alliances with one or other of the rival administrations but which regularly switch allegiances.

The key challenge to restoring stability in Libya is to set up a unified central government with a single army and police force. 

- Unifying rival militias -

Fighters who battled to topple the Gadhafi regime splintered into feuding militias which now number in the hundreds and follow different political and religious lines.

Some of the armed groups are aligned with one or other of the rival administrations. Others are little more than criminal gangs.

Since 2011, successive Libyan administrations have failed to disarm the militias and efforts to integrate them into a national army or police have foundered.

"We are harvesting the fruits of these mistakes," Sarraj said in a July 15 televised speech, admitting that the lack of security was the thorniest issue facing Libya.

Haftar's self-styled Libyan National Army -- backed by Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Russia -- announced earlier this month that it had captured all of second city Benghazi after a three-year campaign against jihadists.

The powerful militias of third city Misrata, east of Tripoli, were the  backbone of a pro-GNA coalition which fought and routed the Islamic State group in the coastal city of Sirte in December 2016.

It was a key victory that saw the jihadists, who seized Gadhafi's hometown more than a year earlier, defeated but not totally wiped out of Libya.

Western intelligence services fear the Islamic State group is capitalizing on the chaos to set up bases in Libya as they are chased from their former strongholds in Iraq and Syria.

The creation of a unified army could also help Libya stem people smuggling.

Libya has become the main springboard for migrants from sub-Saharan African to reach Europe by sailing to Italy in often flimsy and overloaded boats.

Since January, more than 100,000 migrants have made the perilous voyage, with around 85,000 arriving in Italy, and more than 2,300 drowned in the attempt, the International Organization for Migration says.

- Relaunching the economy -

With estimated oil reserves of 48 billion barrels, Libya produced 1.6 million barrels per day before the uprising that toppled Gadhafi's regime.

By the end of 2014, the conflict forced the majority of oil fields and terminals to close as warring parties battled for control of Africa's largest crude reserves, costing Libya more than $130 billion in losses.

No oil was exported from Libya's main ports until September 2016 with the reopening of the Ras Lanuf terminal in the country's so-called oil crescent.

Since then production has topped 760,000 bpd and is expected to reach 1.25 million bpd by the end of 2017, according to Libya's National Oil Corporation.

Libya's once vibrant and heavily subsidized economy has been shattered since the end of the revolution.

According to the World Bank, the GDP fell by 2.5 percent in 2016, reaching less than half of its pre-2011 value, while unemployment has risen sharply.

Repairing the economy is the biggest demand of for ordinary Libyans who struggles daily with power and water cuts, a cash crisis, currency devaluations and intermittent violence.

"Living conditions are below zero," shopper Sabri al-Bouechi said in a market in an eastern suburb of Tripoli.

Insecurity means women refrain from going out after dark and even in the day car-jackings are common.

Source: Agence France Presse

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