On 17 February 2011, Libya experienced what was dubbed the Day of Anger, which gave way to a wave of demonstrations, protests and clashes, framed in what were called the Arab Spring, and aimed at overthrowing the Gaddafi regime, the government of the Great Jamahiriya. The uprisings were successful in that sense, not only did Gaddafi's regime fall, but the Libyan leader was executed at the end of that year in one of the last strongholds of his supporters in the town of Sirte.
However, Gaddafi's fall did not bring the longed-for democracy or an improvement in the economic situation that the young and not-so-young people who took to the streets of Tripoli and other Libyan cities were demanding. Libya was plunged into an instability that none of the political attempts in the following years were able to reverse. The struggle for power between the different factions that emerged after the fall of Gaddafi deepened the fracture of a country that is now practically split in half, with a southern region that is on its own.
Libya went to the polls in 2014, with the idea that the results of the vote would be accepted by an embattled society and political class. This was not the case, and a new phase of the war began that has remained entrenched to this day. One of its protagonists, Khalifa Haftar, has militarily led one of the two factions, with his Libyan National Army, the LNA, to the gates of Tripoli in 2019 in what looked as if the situation in Libya would be stabilised through the use of arms.
As on previous occasions, this did not turn out to be the case. Haftar's push, with political Islamism on the other side of the chessboard, in Tripoli, as a target, was decisive for actors with a strong interest in the coming to power of figures close to the Muslim Brotherhood, such as Turkey, to come into play. Others that had just ousted the Muslim Brotherhood from power, such as Egypt, also came into play.
This was the beginning of a struggle that, while civilian in character, was heavily weighted with external support. Turkey provided military support to Fayez al-Sarraj's GNA, a UN-imposed figure who, when he arrived, barely had the Libyan capital under his control and who, in order to increase his control, had to rely on Islamist militias from Misrata. Ankara also took it upon itself to supplement the GNA's side with mercenaries from the Syrian conflict, another scenario like Libya's in which the Arab Spring turned into an agonising decade.
On the other side, Haftar's forces had Russian and Emirati support, as well as that of Egypt and other countries in the area that see Turkey's attitude as a growing risk. There has also been erratic and diffuse political support from France, as well as more clearly from other countries such as Greece, both of which see Turkey's role in the conflict as a problem to be taken into account.
Meanwhile, Libyan society, despite having significant oil reserves, has had to suffer the devastation of years of war, with major supply problems, power and transport cuts, and a steady degradation of the economic situation in which they live. The Abu Dhabi they aspired to become thanks to their energy resources was a utopia. Or at least it was until a few weeks ago.
The two sides in the conflict, three if you count the southern tribes, have made progress in negotiations over the past few months to reach a transitional agreement to end the decade of chaos and war. Optimism during the early stages was contained. Stéphanie Williams, the person in charge of facilitating the successive meetings between representatives from different spheres and with different objectives, was the umpteenth UN envoy for Libya, so nothing seemed to suggest that she would be more successful than her predecessors. The last, Lebanon's Ghassan Salamé, resigned for health reasons.
However, the meetings that have been taking place in Morocco, Switzerland, Egypt and other countries have been taking small but important steps that have led to the point where Libya finds itself today: with a ceasefire in force and largely respected, with a group of experts drafting the country's future constitution, and with a prime minister and transitional Presidency Council, recently elected from representatives of the different regions, with the aim of leading the country towards elections that will take place, if all goes according to plan, on 24 December.
All of the external actors with influence in the country's drift, and the representatives of the internal factions that were disputing control of Libya, have shown their support for the election of those in charge of leading this new stage of transition, something which, this time, has raised optimism not only in the international community but also in a Libyan society which, in the words of Stéphanie Williams, "is exhausted". However, the aforementioned new Libyan leaders, with Abdul Hamid Dbeibah and Mohamed Younes Menfi at the head, must choose a new executive that must be representative and inclusive, in order to be approved by the parliaments in Tripoli and Tobruk.
Aguila Salé, president of the Tobruk House of Representatives, and one of the frontrunners to chair the Presidency Council, has discussed with representatives of the Cyrenaica region the need to support the new government, which is due to be presented in the coming days. He also warned that Libya should not rush into drafting the new constitution, as it must be supported by the majority of the Libyan people.
Menfi met with Saleh over the weekend in Al-Bayda, his third visit to the region in just a few days, which has also taken him to Benghazi and Tobruk, in a clear gesture of reconciliation between the two warring factions. He also met with Khalifa Haftar, as one of the main issues to be implemented is the unification of the Libyan forces, something for which the LNA has shown its total willingness.
The president of the Transitional Council, Younes Menfi, also received representatives of the Touareg tribes of the south, from the Fezzan area, who expressed their full support for the Transitional Council, in which they are represented by Musa al-Koni, and for Prime Minister Dbeibah.
Two clear examples that the situation is moving in the right direction are the visit of an Egyptian delegation, which met with Libyan authorities to discuss security cooperation issues, and the intention to reopen the Egyptian embassy in Tripoli. The visit is the first of its kind since 2014, a sign that Libya's future appears to be brightening. Meanwhile, Dbeibah has met with Malta's ambassador to Libya, also to discuss the reopening of its embassy in the Tripoli capital, along with a consulate in the city of Benghazi.
Libya thus celebrates the tenth anniversary of the fall of Gaddafi with a more hopeful future than ever, with the possibility that the country's unification and stability will allow it to rebuild the country thanks to its energy wealth, an element whose control has always been a source of dispute, and which has even been coveted by the terrorist presence that for several years of this decade also played an important role in the conflict.