Libya: monthly report April 2024

UN-brokered negotiations among the main Libyan actors suffered a new setback with the resignation of UN Special Representative Abdoulaye Bathily. The Senegalese diplomat, who had taken over the post from Jan Kubis in 2022, relinquished further attempts to reach a compromise between the rival entities of Tripoli and Benghazi-Tobruk to hold free elections. During his last briefing to the UN Security Council, Bathily denounced the “stubborn resistance, unreasonable expectations, and indifference to the interests of the Libyan people” displayed by the Libyan parties. Bathily will be succeeded by Stephanie Khoury, who had been named Deputy Special Representative for Political Affairs just last March. Meanwhile, Russia entrenches itself in eastern Libya. According to Libyan sources, Russian troops took control of the Brak-al-Shabti military base, previously garrisoned by the now-disbanded Wagner Group. The new force is part of the newly created “Africa Corps”, answering directly to the Russian ministry of Defense. The former Wagner mercenaries have reportedly been transferred to Russian bases in the Sahel as the first Russian troops enter Niger. Another changing of the guard occurred in Al-Jufrah, which hosts a key Russian base in central Libya. In the same days, observers reported the arrival in Tobruk of five loads of Russian military equipment. Earlier this month, moreover, a Russian warship from the Syrian base of Tartus lay anchor in Tobruk. Russia’s military support of the eastern-based Government of National Stability (GNS) is mirrored by the Kremlin’s overtures to House of Representatives speaker Aguila Saleh, who received an official invitation to Moscow. Saleh, who chairs the Tobruk-based Parliament, was invited by the federal Duma, who had already welcomed him in 2017 and 2020.

Italy steps up its cooperation with Libya, as the Musaid-Ras Jedir highway project clears its preparatory phase. According to the Authority overseeing the project, its overall cost has diminished by 30 million to the threshold of 357 million euro. The project, already enshrined in the 2008 Italy-Libya treaty, aims to link the Ras Jedir trade route on the Libyan-Tunisian border with Musaid at the frontiers of Egypt. Meanwhile, Italian company Danieli inked a deal with the Libyan Iron and Steel Company to produce two million tonnes of iron through a new reduction plant. The facility will be 51% owned by Danieli and will serve both the domestic Libyan market and foreign importers, especially the industrial heartland of northern Italy. Worrying news for the country’s precarious stability, meanwhile, as the Kufra refugee crisis worsens. GNS prime minister Osama Hammad visited the border town in south-eastern Cyrenaica, which faces a massive influx of migrants fleeing civil strife in Sudan. According to the latest estimates, the refugees may now number fifty thousand, many of whom suffer from serious health issues. Tensions also persist at the Ras Jedir border crossing between Tunisia and GNU-controlled western Libya, where Berber militias from the nearby town of Zuwara are protesting Tripoli’s attempts to bring trade flows under government control.

Finally, the Libyan National Oil Corporation announced the discovery of a large gas deposit in Al-Lahib, near the Gulf of Sirte, which could reportedly produce up to 470.000 cubic feet of gas and 626 oil barrels per day. The discovery might prove a useful boon to CEO Farhat Bengdara, who took the helm at NOC following troubled negotiations between Tripoli and Benghazi’s rival governments. Libya sits upon the greatest hydrocarbon reserves in Africa and is strategically positioned for access to European markets but has suffered from dwindling exports due to persisting instability and deteriorating infrastructure. Bengdara, who seeks to attract foreign investment back to the sector and recently championed a controversial gas deal with Emirati company ADNOC, is also advantaged by the firing of Oil minister Mohamed Aoun, who is currently being investigated for corruption and ranked as a key opposer of Bengdara. Aoun is succeeded by his former deputy Khalifa Abdul Sadiq, who is expected to unfreeze key projects and streamline ties between NOC and the ministry.

Download the April 2024 report

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