Libyan Truce Signed, But Difficult Talks Lay Ahead

On October 23rd 2020, Libya’s warring groups signed a permanent ceasefire agreement, potentially bringing an end to the civil war that has plagued the nation for 6 years. The agreement between the internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) and the eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA), sees both groups agreeing to withdraw from the front lines, begin demobilizing their armed groups, and integrating these people into the state. Brokered by the United Nations, the ceasefire begins immediately. Crucially, the deal also demands that all foreign fighters leave the nation within three months – foreign mercenaries make up a significant portion of the fighting force. However, it remains to be seen whether this ceasefire will hold.

On the ground, the Libyan people are hopeful, but uncertain, about the prospects for permanent peace. Hassan Mahmud al-Obeydi, a 40-year-old secondary school teacher from the city of Benghazi, expressed his concern to Al Jazeera. “We’ve seen a lot of deals in the past. What’s important is the implementation.” Al-Obedyi went on to discuss the disunity caused by the civil war: “The war caused terrible social divisions. Work is needed immediately, right now, to rebuild and to heal the deep wounds in Libyan society.” Those interviewed by Reuters expressed similar sentiments. Ahmed Ali, also of Benghazi, expressed his concerns that the deal may not be effectively policed: “If there is no force or mechanism to apply this on the ground… this deal will only be ink on paper.” Meanwhile, Kamal al-Mazoughi, a 53-year-old businessman interviewed in Tripoli, said, “We all want to end the war and destruction. But personally I don’t trust those in power.” While hopeful for the future, the Libyan people are cognizant that forging lasting peace will require serious work, and international enforcement could be necessary.

Regardless, Friday’s agreement marks a significant milestone. Peace talks were due to start in 2019, but an LNA campaign was launched as United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres arrived in the country. This campaign was defeated by the GNA in June of this year, and since then, the frontlines of the civil war had stabilized near the coastal city of Sirte. There had been a great degree of risk that the conflict could have escalated into a wider regional war during this time, as Egypt – one of the main backers of the LNA – had threatened to intervene directly. Thankfully, this has not occurred – had Egypt done so, it seems likely that Turkey (one of the GNA’s major backers) would have been drawn deeper into the conflict, sparking a possible regional war and seeing further destruction for the Libyan people.

Libya stands on the precipice of stability and peace for the first time since 2014. With peace talks scheduled to begin in Tunisia early next month, the goal is for national elections to be held in the near future. However, before this can be done, both groups will need to reach agreement on historically difficult issues and overcome widespread mistrust, exacerbated by years of conflict. However, this deal could result in permanent peace, particular as it will be aided by a UN plan to restart the Libyan economy – international analysts note that the various factions involved in the conflict share concerns over the nation’s economic prospects, which has likely influenced the desire for peace talks. Should these peace talks succeed, Libya should finally see a period of peace. For the people of Libya, that is a future worth hoping for.