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Briefing on new approaches to the peace process in Libya

IPSS organized a briefing session discussing the conflict dynamics in Libya, the role of the AU and regional stakeholders and the modalities for the AU to sustainably contribute to the Libyan peace process.


24 October 2018

On 17 October 2018, IPSS organized a briefing session on the topic “New Approaches to the Peace Process in Libya: What New Role for the African Union?”. The session was moderated by Ms. Michelle Ndiaye, Director of the Africa Peace and Security Programme at IPSS and Head of the Tana Forum Secretariat. The featured panellists included Professor Emeritus Mohammed Salih, Professor of Politics of Development at the Institute of Social Studies, The Hague and The Department of Political Science, the University of Leiden, The Netherlands; Dr. Thorsten Clausing, Head, Political Section, European Union (EU) Delegation to the African Union; and Dr. Ndubuisi Christian Ani, Researcher under the Peace and Security Research Programme at the Institute for Security Studies.


Ms. Ndiaye welcomed the participants and acknowledged that Libya’s conflict dynamic falls under the category of an intractable conflict due to the lack of agreement on practical and feasible solutions. How do we “silence the guns” in Libya in the next two years? she questioned. The first segment of the discussion covered the conflict dynamics in Libya and the role of the AU and regional stakeholders in the Libyan peace process. The second segment explored the modalities for the AU to sustainably contribute to the peace process in Libya.


Prof. Salih recognized the progress that had been made in Libya to date, notably the elected house of representatives having taken charge of its responsibilities, the national army having made alliances to maintain peace and order in areas it controls, and an increased capacity of the national army to address some of the current security issues in Tripoli. These all show signs that the national army of Libya is asserting itself progressively.


Dr. Clausing noted that considering that the Libyan crisis falls within the mandate of both the AU and UN processes, the EU is committed to supporting both institutions in ensuring peace. Moreover, the EU is taking action through support to AU programmes on migration, which has both direct and indirect implications on Libya.


Dr. Ani mentioned that the war against terrorism has further complicated the Libyan crisis. Countries like the UAE and Egypt, among others, support actors in opposition to the national government, causing two parallel centres of power. The AU process is limited because its relationships with all actors of the conflict are varied and there is also no strong regional economic community in the region that can sustainably feed into the AU’s peace process. In addition, the AU does not have a mediating support unit.


The participants at the briefing session raised key topics of discussion, particularly:

  • The 42-year rule by Gaddafi and whether it was truly stable due to the outcome of the two civil wars after his downfall;
  • The role of external actors in instigating the crisis today;
  • The limits of the responsibility to protect? How do we decide and who decides?
  • The role of the media especially Al Jazeera, as well as the role of member states like Qatar and France.


Questions raised throughout the briefing session included:

  • Is the AU process favourable?
  • How is the UN peace process in relationship to national actors perceived?
  • How do we draw lessons from the case study of Libya?
  • Does the AU have the capacity to prevent/respond to some of the things happening on the continent or is it a learning institution?
  • How does the AU diversify its approach on military and non-military interventions and gain more international support?
  • How does the AU involve ordinary people in Libya to bring about peace, and how do institutions like IPSS guide the AU towards such an inclusion?


In conclusion, there was a consensus that a strong AU peace process in Libya is critical for sustainable peace in Libya and Africa. There was unanimous recognition that there is no need to overhaul a peace process that is making satisfactory strides. At the same time, the AU can enhance its efforts by continuing to use the lessons drawn from their interventions in other African countries in tackling the changing dynamics. The AU has to develop its own capacity on mediation and develop a concrete intervention roadmap beyond the ad-hoc consultative meetings. A national reconciliation dialogue should be implemented in partnership with the international community in order to rally all critical actors and commit to sustainable peace in Libya.