Libya to hold presidential elections on 24 Dec after a decade of civil war; a timeline since Gaddafi was ousted

Following the overthrow and killing of former dictator Muammar al-Gaddafi, oil-rich Libya spent most of the last decade split between rival governments — one based in the capital, Tripoli, and the other in the eastern part of the country

FP Staff November 18, 2021 07:36:59 IST
Libya to hold presidential elections on 24 Dec after a decade of civil war; a timeline since Gaddafi was ousted

Al-Islam, who was seen as the reformist face of Gadhafi's regime before the 2011 uprising, was released in June 2017 after more than five years of detention. AP

After a decade of war and division, Libya has made progress toward peace this year. Libya is set to hold presidential elections on 24 December, after years of UN-led attempts to usher in a more democratic future and bring the country's war to an end.

In March this year, a Government of National Unity (GNU) was formed to unify the warring Western-based Government of National Accord and the Eastern-based authorities supported by Gen. Khalifa Haftar, who commands forces known as the Libyan Arab Armed Forces (Libyan National Army).

Following the overthrow and killing of former dictator Muammar al-Gaddafi, oil-rich Libya spent most of the last decade split between rival governments — one based in the capital, Tripoli, and the other in the eastern part of the country.

The son of the late leader, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, has registered as a candidate in the country's first direct presidential election next month.

Saif was once the heir apparent to his father, but his support for a brutal crackdown on protesters 10 years ago tarnished his image.

Since that 2011 uprising, Libya has been riven by conflict.

Other candidates in the running are the warlord Khalifa Haftar - who previously led an insurgency from his eastern base against the UN-backed government in Tripoli, plus Prime Minister Abdulhamid al-Dbeibah and parliament speaker Aguila Saleh.

With eastern strongman Haftar now standing for president in next month's election, here is a timeline of the chaos that has gripped Libya since dictator Moamer Kadhafi was ousted a decade ago.

2011: Gaddafi killed

Encouraged by Arab Spring uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, protests erupt in Libya in February 2011.

The United States, France and Britain give military backing to what becomes an armed revolt in the North African country.

Gaddafi, in power for 42 years, flees the capital but rebels capture and kill him on 20 October.

In August 2012, the rebels hand power to a transitional authority, the General National Congress (GNC).

2012: Foreign missions targeted

US ambassador Chris Stevens and three American staff are killed in a September 11, 2012 attack on the consulate in Libya's second city, Benghazi. An Al-Qaeda-linked jihadist group is blamed.

A car bomb in April 2013 targets France's Tripoli embassy, wounding two French guards.

Most foreign diplomats leave the country.

2014-2016: Rival administrations

Eastern strongman Haftar launches an offensive in May 2014 against jihadist groups in Benghazi. He names his forces the Libyan National Army, and several senior officers from the east join him.

Legislative polls are held in June, producing a lower house of parliament -- the House of Representatives -- dominated by anti-Islamists.

But Islamist-led militias contest the results and storm Tripoli in August, restoring the GNC to power.

The internationally recognised House of Representatives takes refuge in the eastern city of Tobruk. A rival body equivalent of Libya's senate and formally known as the High Council of State is established in Tripoli in the west.

Libya thus finds itself with two administrations and two parliaments.

In December 2015, after months of talks, the rival parliaments sign an accord in Morocco establishing a Government of National Accord.

In March 2016, its chief Fayez al-Sarraj arrives in Tripoli to install the new administration, but Haftar refuses to recognise it.

2019: Haftar's offensives

Haftar announces the "total liberation" of Benghazi from jihadists in July 2017, after more than three years of fighting.

He is backed by neighbouring Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, later also forging ties with Russia.

In January 2019, Haftar launches an offensive into oil-rich southern Libya, seizing the region's capital, Sebha, and one of the country's main oil fields.

In April, he orders his troops to advance on Tripoli.

In June 2020, Tripoli's forces say they have overrun Haftar's last western toehold.

2020-2021: Talks and tensions

The rival administrations sign a "permanent" ceasefire agreement in October after UN-hosted talks in Geneva. The following month in Tunis they agree to hold parliamentary and presidential elections in December 2021.

Libyan delegates to the UN process approve a unity government headed by interim prime minister Abdulhamid Dbeibah in March, charging it with leading the country to the elections.

But the UN warns in July of a "stalemate" over political and security plans and Dbeibah's proposed budget.

Election wrangling

In October, the eastern-based parliament adopts a law governing the legislative elections, also ratifying a text governing the presidential poll that critics say favours Haftar.

Libya's senate in Tripoli contests both laws.

The parliament in Tobruk rubber stamps the presidential poll for December 24 but postpones the legislative elections to January.

On November 6, the presidential council suspends Foreign Minister Najla al-Mangoush for "administrative breaches".

Gaddafi Jnr and Haftar

Last weekend, world powers meeting in Paris urge Libyan leaders to stick to the election timetable and say foreign mercenaries should leave.

On Sunday, Gaddafi's son Seif al-Islam throws his hat into the ring for the presidential election, but this sparks elders from several cities to call for a boycott of the poll.

On Tuesday, Haftar confirms he too is standing.

With inputs from agencies

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